Many of the 770,000 Swiss citizens living around the world, especially those who have businesses, face a difficult financial situation due to the coronavirus pandemic. There is a question mark whether they are entitled to state support.
The pandemic has forced many people to close their businesses, robbing them of their income. While expatriates are still trying to get financial assistance from the Swiss authorities or from the government of their country of residence, others have decided to return home.
From a legal perspective, there seems little hope that expatriates can claim loans from the Swiss government, which is approved assistance package for song CHF62 billion ($ 63.4 billion) since March 20 to help companies and employees overcome the crisis.
“The ordinance (….) is intended to provide timely financial assistance to a single company, limited partnership company or legal entity based in Switzerland,” wrote the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) in response to emails from Patrick Schneider.
The 42-year-old Swiss emigrated with his colleague to Colombia in 2018, where they opened a nail studio and tattoo room in the city of Cartagena. Both businesses with nine employees have been closed but fixed costs remain.
“We don’t know what to do because our income has dropped to zero,” Schneider said.
The SECO statement appears to confirm the assumption by Swiss Overseas Organization (OSA) that expatriates in principle do not qualify for financial assistance from the Swiss government aid package.
However, OSA said it was told that requests by Swiss Abroad residents for social benefits could be made at the local embassy until the end of April, provided there was no other choice.
Another open question is whether all foreign business owners who return home can apply for loans or whether the assistance is restricted to Swiss citizens who return from abroad forever.
A senior SECO official indicated that those who returned temporarily did not have legal rights to Covid-19 humanitarian assistance.
The number of immigrant Swiss expatriates seems to be very limited, experts say. But the situation might change if the economic downturn forced more members Swiss Abroad Community to reconsider their options.
As for Schneider based in Colombia, he has returned to Switzerland and has taken a temporary job. He said he would try to survive without financial assistance from the country before returning to Latin America.
He hopes he will be able to overcome the crisis by making enough money in Switzerland to send back to his employees in Colombia and to reopen his studio soon.
Schneider, a former sports journalist and art director, also considered new ideas. He plans to return to Colombia but with the idea of running an independent business that is not tied to a specific location.
Adapted from Germany / urs,
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