Family reunification also depends on residence status.
A Swiss citizen has a claim to family reunification with spouse and biological children as well as stepchildren (the claim to reunification with children applies when made by only one parent if that parent has custody and can demonstrate an especially close relationship to the child). However, if is important to distinguish between family members from the EU and family members from a third country.
For family members from a EU member country, the spouse, children up to 21 years of age or who receive support as well as parents who receive support, may be reunified. The family is not required to live togehter. This right of family reunification (particularly up to age 21) also applies to Swiss nationals who are married to EU nationals or third-country nationals entitled to reside in an EU member country (art. 42.2 AuG).
If the family members come from a third country, there is a right of family reunification for children only until they are 18 years old. Family reunification only applies to the spouses and children (regardless of any support). Family reunification must occur within five years; unification for children over the age of twelve must occur within one year (starting from the time the family relationship begins) (Art. 47 AuG). Exceptions may be made on rare occasion in case of justified family-related circumstances.
Furthermore, the family is required live together. Exceptions are only made if objective, reasonable grounds for separate places of residence exist (e.g., occupation) or in case of temporary separation because of serious family problems and the marriage has not yet conclusively failed (art. 76 of the Swiss Regulations on Admission, Residence and Employment (VZAE).
Regarding dissolution of the family home (see also Separation/Divorce), the residence of the foreign partner and the children may be extended after a minimum duration of marriage of three years and a successful integration (however, there is no right to an extension). Residence may also be extended regardless of the duration of the family home if significant personal reasons, such as marital violence, exist and reintegration in the home country is at risk
Under the FZA, EU nationals generally have the right to bring their spouse, children whom they support and parents whom they support into Switzerland through family reunifacation. The Cantonal Authority is vested with the power to grant the pertinent residence permits. According to the FZA, the term "family member" applies to the spouse and any children up to age 21 or children receiving support and parents receiving support.
Third-country nationals with a B
Permit have no legal claim to subsequent immigration of family reunification. An application to this effect can, however, be filed with the responsible cantonal authorities. Requests are examined on a case-by-case basis (art. 96 AuG).
Third-country citizens with a C
Permit are entitled to reunify with their spouse and underage children, provided they can prove a main family relationship.
Decisive criteria include whether you have parental custody and whether you are in regular contact with the child.
Further information concerning regulations on family reunification is available in more detail from the Swiss Federal Office for Migration, BFM, or on www.bfm.admin.ch.
The legal provisions described above also apply to registered partnerships (art. 52 AuG).