I’m a US permanent resident and holder of US refugee travel document. I’m planning to travel to Germany (Germany doesn’t require a visa for holders of US refugee travel documents).

But I’m thinking if I fly to Germany and decide to go to Switzerland or Austria by car or train, can I do it without applying for a Switzerland visa?

  • Don't know how you get into Germany but both countries are part of the Schengen open border area. So in theory yes. But you do not mention Schengen in any part of the question so that leaves me with some doubt. Jan 22 at 21:00
  • That’s the problem because I don’t need a visa to enter to Germany with my travel passport. But Switzerland requires visa. Will I have any problem?
    – user142423
    Jan 22 at 22:18
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    @PaulPalmpje someone who is present in the Schengen area, who like Sta does not need a visa for some Schengen countries but needs a visa for others, is not supposed to visit the others without first obtaining a visa.
    – phoog
    Jan 22 at 22:34
  • How are you planning to travel into Switzerland? That will affect the likelihood of anyone checking your documents when you enter the country. If you cross on foot or on a local bus, there's essentially no chance of being stopped. If you fly, your documents will be checked. I have very occasionally seen ticket collectors ask to see passports on trains, typically (I think) for people who look or sound non-European. I've no experience driving. Jan 22 at 22:34
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    The answers show that Austria and Switzerland both require a visa. But it should be enough to get a single Schengen visit visa from either Switzerland or Austria, not both. You'd need to apply at the embassy of the country you intend to spend the most time in, and that visa will then allow entry to both Switzerland and Austria.
    – JakeDot
    Feb 3 at 10:48

2 Answers 2


You require a visa to visit Switzerland. Only travel document for refugees issued by an EU member state, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or the United Kingdom exempts the holder from visa requirement for short stays (<90 days within any 180-day period) in combination of a residence permit or other proof of residence.

See https://www.sem.admin.ch/dam/sem/en/data/rechtsgrundlagen/weisungen/visa/bfm/bfm-anh01-liste2-e.pdf.download.pdf/bfm-anh01-liste2-e.pdf.

While there is no systematic check between Germany and Switzerland, sporadic passport control (often in conjunction with customs control, which is allowed between the EU and Switzerland) does take place, especially when travelling by train or long-distance bus. Practically, you likely won't encounter too much problem, but you are still violating the law, and if caught, it may have consequences on your future visa applications or even visit to visa-exempt countries within the Schengen.

  • Thank you. I was thinking to go to Switzerland and Austria from Germany by renting a car. Will I have any problems with that?
    – user142423
    Jan 24 at 5:46
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    @Sta nobody can say for sure whether you'll have problems. You might be stopped at the border or in Switzerland. If you are, it might come to light that you are illegally present in Switzerland. What's the risk of this happening? It might be low, but you might not want to deal with the consequences. The best solution is to apply for a Swiss visa. If you don't have time, only you can decide whether it's worthwhile to risk going to Switzerland without one.
    – phoog
    Jan 24 at 12:39
  • You probably right, it’s better not to risk and go to Switzerland. And what about Austria?
    – user142423
    Jan 24 at 17:57
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    There are still border checks between Switzerland and Germany, though in my personal experience it tends to be the Germans doing the checking. As an example, in the Basel area, trams crossing from Switzerland to Germany nearly always have to stop for passport control. And the other day I was stopped at a small crossing on my bicycle(!) for passport control. I think in a car it's less likely but it would depend on the license plate.
    – Kyralessa
    Feb 3 at 10:49
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    One problem you may encounter when going by car is that you may be caught speeding. And then your presence in Switzerland will be revealed to the authorities... Feb 3 at 18:20

xngtng's answer is correct for visiting Switzerland but does not address the situation in Austria. According to wikipedia and the EU's Information on national derogations from the visa requirement, Austria does not grant a visa exemption for refugees or stateless people holding travel documents issued by the US (or any other non-Schengen country), so the same analysis otherwise applies as for Switzerland.

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