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(First off I do realize that someone has already asked this question but there didn't seem to be a conclusive answer.)

My flight reaches Zurich on July 4th at 7:25 pm, and the Schengen visa's validity begins from July 5th. I hold an Indian passport (residing in SingaporE), I checked that I don't need a transit visa for Switzerland, so I think I may be able to wait at the airport till 12am... I have called my country's airport-who told me to call Immigration- who told me to call the airline-who told me to call Immigration again... They all have agreed that it will "probably" not be a problem but as a first time solo traveler, would love to hear someone's experience on this matter.

*EDIT: So as expected, I was able to stay in the transit hotel overnight and exit immigration the next morning. The only problem I had was while boarding the connecting flight from Muscat, where I showed them my emails from the embassy and the airport/transit hotel and they agreed to let me board. I chose an earlier flight because I was saving (overall) a pretty penny - Yes it was incredibly risky and no, I don't recommend it.

If you do find yourself in my situation though, be sure to confirm your plan with all parties - embassies, airlines, hotel etc. And keep ALL email printouts as proof to show in case of a problem.

  • Your main worry should be the that if airline will allow you to board or not, as there is about 4.5 hours gap between you reaching there and visa validity. In my personal experience, my flight START time was 11:30pm, visa valid after 30 minutes at 12 midnight, landing time on validity date 5am, KLM from Delhi obe time objected and allowed me only when I spoke to their supervisors. On a different occasion with same times, from DOHA KLM had no issues. So you might want to call airline also. – DavChana Jun 25 '16 at 6:13
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    Airport has nothing to say in this, Indian immigration has no stakes. Only airline is responsible if in case Zurich immigration or border control objects this. If airline asks you to check with others, tell them to give you boarding passes. Tell them that Indian immigration is all concerned that are you allowed to go out from India or not. On a separate occasion, I was traveling to Kenya from India, and Air India told me to get a NOC from Immigration, Immigration said bullshit, and said they dont care about destination visa, all they care if If my passport is mine and if I am allowed to exit. – DavChana Jun 25 '16 at 6:20
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    the real question is: why did you decide to take that flight? When you were given the visa you knew its starting time, so next time make sure to take a flight that arrives after that. And if you booked the flight before having the visa... just don't do that! – Bakuriu Jun 25 '16 at 13:40
  • Does anyone know what's going to happen to OP's luggage? As it won't be able to go through customs (I think) until OP crosses immigration. – mkennedy Jun 25 '16 at 17:56
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    This happened to me recently in Kazakhstan, but I arrived at 11pm so there was only an hour to wait. They would not let me through immigration before midnight, though they were perfectly friendly about it. My bag was waiting next to the carousel once they did let me through. I agree with @Davinder that the real concern is whether the airline issues you the boarding pass. Once you get there, it may be a bit of a mess, but I'm sure reason will prevail -- just be honest and apologetic. – Shane Jun 26 '16 at 4:52
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If your airline boards you (which will be the biggest hurdle), you can then wait till midnight passes (the date switches) before crossing immigration.

I don't think you can use the transit option as you are not actually in transit - that would be a false pretense.

In the end, it will all depend on the airline.

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You might be lucky with this, but it comes at a risk that Schengen authorities will not be happy about you arriving early even though you pass immigration only the next day.

Your first problem will be to convince the airline to let you board as has been pointed out in comments and by @BurhanKhalid.

If you do succeed, note that immigration in Zurich closes at 11 p.m. and opens at 6 a.m. the next morning. You will have to stay overnight in the transit area.
To do so you have two options

  • Sleep on chairs/etc. in the terminal. Sleeping in Airports says:

    Airport staff are generally tolerant of overnight travellers - though you should expect security or police to check your passport and tickets overnight.

And there you might get into a problem if they do find that you are not a transit passenger as you have no connecting boarding pass nor a valid Schengen visa.
So I rather recommend option two:

  • Sleep at the Zurich Airport Transit Hotel. I just emailed them and they have no problem with your situation. From their response it also seemed that this is not too uncommon of a request for them.

Another issue to consider: your check-in luggage. Unless a malicious soul tries to steal it (unlikely in Switzerland but I wouldn't pack diamonds), you can pick it up from lost&found the next morning.

You have already noticed that there is this very similar question about doing the same thing in Frankfurt airport. It is not a dupe however as immigration in Frankfurt is 24/7 as far as I know.

Finally, being a risk-adverse person when it comes to visa issues, I am not sure if I'd do this if I were in your shoes. There is a risk that Schengen people will not be happy about this and on the off-chance of this happening you are in deep trouble: you have a visa terms violation in your history. Funny enough we had a similar question for entering early by train into Russia and while you should fare better in Schengen area, do take warning by reading those stories.
What I would do to make sure is get an official statement from e.g. the Swiss embassy in your country that this is fine, not advice from random people on the internet.

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    Couldn't OP buy a ticket from Switzerland to a different country and then simply 'change his mind'? – JonathanReez Jun 25 '16 at 9:58
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    "I just emailed them and they have no problem with your situation." Wow. This is commitment. +1 – Turion Jun 25 '16 at 12:37
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    @Turion +1 should go to them as they were fast at responding. But have a look to the answer of @ Crazydre who went to speak to aiport police and give him a +1 like I did :) – mts Jun 25 '16 at 12:43
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    @mts Russia is not a similar question because trains crossing a border are somehow missing a transit area like international airports have. It is impossible to cross a border in a train without a visa - it is totally possible to land in an airport and leave again on 2 international flights without needing a visa. In pretty much all civilized countries - except the US. – TomTom Jun 26 '16 at 6:53
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    @mts Thanks for the suggestion. I did email the Swiss embassy and funnily enough they asked me to google further information on the Transit Hotel. I emailed the Hotel as well - like you said, they don't have a problem either. What's interesting is that no one has explicitly said "Yes, that's allowed" - instead I've gotten "you don't need a transit visa/look up the information/confirm with so-and-so"...I suppose they don't want to have their words thrown back at them in case of a situation. I've decided to reserve a room for the night, hopefully will be able to claim my luggage the next day. – Sarita -.- Jun 27 '16 at 9:12
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I live in Zurich, and the transit area is open 24/7 - also there's a transit hotel (which isn't cheap, but not super-expensive either) where you could sleep.

Note that if arriving in the satellite building (which you will if flying from India or Singapore) you'll have to take the underground train to the main building (follow the signs for the exit), then go up the escalator leading to immigration. You'll see the immigration booths, but to your right there's a long airside corridor. Walk along it, take another escalator up, clear a security check, and take yet another escalator up. On the left-hand side there's another set of immigration booths, but keep walking straight and you'll be at the hotel.

In other words, the hotel is located right next to immigration.

I just spoke to the airport police (who perform immigration control) and they said your situation is acceptable. So if anything, your airline might deny you boarding.

I think you should print out this site to show airline staff that you can transit overnight https://www.zurich-airport.com/passengers-and-visitors/airport-services-en/layover-and-lounges/transit-hotel-bedrooms#_ga=1.261231245.147144027.1466852025

  • Wow, thanks a lot for speaking to the guard! I will probably end up staying at the transit hotel overnight. A part of me does want to try and clear immigration anyway - maybe they'll let it slide?- But I probably won't risk it- lest I look like I'm trying to sneak by...As for the airline they do seem willing to let me board when I called them, so hopefully that shouldn't be a problem. – Sarita -.- Jun 27 '16 at 9:18
  • You can try - as I said there are two sets of Immigration desks: one after heading up the escalator from the undeground Train, and one the next to the Hotel. Approach a desk whenever there are no queues and ask - the worst Thing that can happen is you have to wait before being able to pass – Crazydre Jun 27 '16 at 13:21
  • I sometimes go through Immigration even when not going anywhere, to do some plane spotting. They're usually relaxed (though not very cheerful) - and having an ID Card from Sweden I can walk back and forth with no issues (sometimes they ask where I'm going to/flying from, then I just pick a random city, and it's never been a problem) – Crazydre Jun 27 '16 at 13:25
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I think you could buy a cheapest throwaway ticket from Zurich to any country outside of Schengen on the same or next day, and claim that you will transfer to this flight via airside.

After landing you will be let into waiting area for transit passengers, and then you can decide that you actually don't want to go there (possible refunding some money, entering the EU on the next day when visa is valid). Only works with reasonably large airports.

Airline has no reason to deny your boarding in this case. You have an onward ticket and they don't need to worry about hauling you back. Luggage collection may become problematic for you, however, since it's after passport check.

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