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A tour company prepared our visa papers for a trip of 7 days to Prague and Berlin and applied for a Schengen visa. We got a visa and sent copies to the tour company and they okayed everything.

While returning, at Zurich, the immigration officer said that we had visas for only 6 days and that we had overstayed for a day. The police took us to another room and told us that it was a crime. We were very very scared. We tried to explain to them that it wasn’t our mistake… we had submitted 7-day bookings to the visa office. It was an error.

  1. They asked us to sign a paper in which it was written in multiple languages that we are being informed that a legal proceeding has been started against us.
  2. They also gave us another paper and asked us to write why we overstayed and took our signatures. The paper contained some printed matter… but I was so scared I didn’t read anything.
  3. I think they made copies of our passports.
  4. I asked them what’s going to happen.. they said a judge would come and fine us 350 Swiss francs each.
  5. They said unless we sign they will not allow us to board a plane. It was only 20 minutes left for boarding.
  6. Finally we signed.
  7. Suddenly the policeman said you can go. Later you’ll have to pay.
  8. We boarded the plane.

My question is whether this is the normal protocol. When and how will they take the fine from us? Will my husband face difficulty for visa for his future European medical conferences?

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    What was your itinerary? Do you have copies of the visa application? (was their correct) -- In any case, you should have noticed the problem at arrival: the data of leaving or the day left should be noted, and so you had to contact the tour operator (so they can solve things, and ev. hey should pay fines [but "crime" is to you]). -- The behaviour seems strange, but maybe they sent a sign to the tour company (if they regularly do so) or to your country (if they do the same to EU citizens), and you were the unfortunate person. For last part: you should wait what the judge say. -- And read things Commented Oct 18, 2023 at 7:04
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    Sadly "visa consultants" are often pretty uniformed or are straight up scammers.
    – CMaster
    Commented Oct 18, 2023 at 9:38
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    Note for the record that, in respect of the immigration authorities, you are solely responsible for the contents of the visa application and making sure that the visa once received matches your requirements, and adhering to the conditions of the visa. What were your planned and actual dates of entry into and exit from Schengen, what dates were on the application, what dates AND duration were on the received visa?
    – jcaron
    Commented Oct 18, 2023 at 15:02
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    I'm sorry to hear that. Unfortunately visa rules can be quite absurd, as it's silly to issue a visa for just 6 days in the first place. See: travel.stackexchange.com/questions/97831/…
    – JonathanReez
    Commented Oct 18, 2023 at 18:03
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    My trip started on 9th and ended on 15th. That’s 7 days. And the booked ticket copies and reservations were attached on visa documents. They gave 6 days visa and 20 time period. Since we don’t travel international that often, we assumed 20 days is upper limit. And when we shared with the tour company they okayed it. Their mistake cost us a lot. It’s not about money alone. I’m traumatised by what happened at the airport. So much that I’m planning to seek therapy. I’m aghast how can they issue visa for 6 days when tickets are booked for 7 days?
    – Seema
    Commented Oct 19, 2023 at 2:34

3 Answers 3

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This is too important for a comment.

CONSULT AN IMMIGRATION LAWYER. You need professional help to get this sorted out. Yes, this will be expensive but if you screw this up further you may be refused entry into Schengen in the future.

Strangers on the Internet can't help you here. You need a trained professional to go over your exact details and advise you how to proceed. You cannot afford making another mistake here.

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    Just to clarify: an immigration lawyer in Switzerland, not in OP’s home country (unless they can find one which is provably good).
    – jcaron
    Commented Oct 18, 2023 at 14:56
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    Just want to emphasize for non-native English speakers here that there is not typo in @jcaron's reply. My non-native brain "auto-corrected" provably to probably, but they of course do mean that OP should find a lawyer who can prove that they are familiar with these matters and not someone who is "probably" good. Commented Oct 19, 2023 at 12:30
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    @jcaron provably good and admitted to practice law in Switzerland.
    – phoog
    Commented Oct 20, 2023 at 10:44
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In a comment, you ask

My question is whether this is routine procedure.

It sounds routine to me.

I’m also afraid that our names have been entered into data base. Will my husband who is a doctor face problems in getting visa for future European conferences?

My experience with Swiss authorities (though not with immigration) is that for minor infractions you pay your fine and that's the end of the matter. It's possible that they would impose an entry ban as well, but the magnitude of this violation is so small, even if you committed it knowingly, that I find it hard to imagine that a ban could be seen as proportionate, unless perhaps it were a very short one.

I would definitely advise you to keep your eyes open for an opportunity to present evidence in your favor, if you can obtain it:

  • do you have a copy of the visa application? Can you get a copy?

    • Did the application request six days' duration despite presenting a seven-day itinerary? In that case, it is an error of the tour operator/visa agent, but, as others have noted, you are technically responsible for their error, so the best you can hope for is some sympathy from the authorities. They might find that the consulate should have caught the error, which would be a mitigating factor in your favor, but I would not count on it.
    • If the application did in fact request seven instead of six days then the consulate clearly made an error. You or your agent should in theory have caught it when you received the visa, but it is more likely to mitigate any negative consequences.

I would not spend any money on an immigration lawyer until after receiving further information from the immigration authorities. There is certainly a chance that the prosecutor or analogous official in the immigration office might notice the facts of your visa and overstay and decide not to pursue it at all or at least impose a lesser punishment. It's good to be prepared for the worst, but you don't need to assume that the worst will necessarily happen.

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    In Geneva (Zurich may apply a stricter guideline), the cantonal prosecutor does not even open a procedure for simple overstays under 20 days (justice.ge.ch/media/2021-02/…). Swiss law also does not provide for entry bans in case of visa overstays (unless a removal order is issued), even if the overstay is recorded (which may affect subsequent applications, but this fact is unlikely to be changed by a lawyer).
    – xngtng
    Commented Oct 20, 2023 at 11:50
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    Zurich appears to be a lot more strict with respect to the tolerance, however, the fine is really the worst thing that can happen other than the one-day overstay record.
    – xngtng
    Commented Oct 20, 2023 at 11:58
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You are back in your home country. Swiss immigration may or may not try to find you there and impose the fine. They will definitely block any attemps to get another Schengen visa until this has been resolved to their satisfaction. Even after you paid the fine they may still block you from ever getting a visa again.

So if you don't plan to travel to Europe ever again you might get away with ignoring this but I wouldn't recommend it. If you want the option to travel to Europe again you need to sort this out and convince them that this wasn't intentional. You need an immigration lawyer to help you with that. And you need one who knows about the Swiss system, so presumably one in Switzerland. It is going to be expensive.

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    "and convince them that this wasn't your fault" Not sure about this part. Probably better to accept it was your fault (for not double checking the visa you got was the visa you needed). Blaming others doesn't build confidence this won't happen again.
    – linac
    Commented Oct 20, 2023 at 8:59
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    @linac There may be better ways to phrase this but essentially it is perfectly reasonable from their side to collect the fine and block any future visas for OP in the future. OP needs to convince them not to do that and argueing that it was not your fault may be helpful. The point is you probably need to do more than just pay the fine and to figure out what exactly the immigration lawyer is needed.
    – quarague
    Commented Oct 20, 2023 at 9:08
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    @quarague The problem is that it was their own fault. They didn’t check the dates on the visa they got – that is 100% their fault. They can explain that the visa was arranged by the tour company that also arranged their tickets, and that it was inexperience that led them to not check the dates themselves, but they cannot avoid the unfortunate fact that it is ultimately their own fault. Commented Oct 20, 2023 at 17:56
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    If convincing Swiss authorities of anything will do any good, it needs to be that their overstay was not intentional, and that they have learnt from this experience and will in future always make sure they do not repeat the mistake. Commented Oct 20, 2023 at 18:05
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    IANAL etc. but I would rephrase the above from "convince them it wasn't your fault" (they don't care) to "convince them it was not intentional" (which matters when deciding upon future visa requests)
    – Tom
    Commented Oct 21, 2023 at 8:08

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