Residence permits rightly refused

The Federal Administrative Court has upheld the refusal to approve the granting of residence permits to a former high-ranking Venezuelan official and his family. The court considers that the applicant represents a threat to public order and safety in Switzerland and may harm the country's reputation and international relations.

Photo: Keystone

In 2016, a Venezuelan national applied for residence permits for himself, his wife, and their son through the Cantonal Office of Population and Migration of the Canton of Geneva (Office cantonal de la population et des migrations du canton de Genève, or OCPM). The OCPM pronounced itself in favour of granting these residence permits, taking into account the fiscal interest of the Canton. The State Secretariat for Migration (SEM), to which the case had been referred to for approval, refused to grant the requested permits. The applicants appealed against this decision to the Federal Administrative Court (FAC) in May 2019.

Suspicions of corruption and money laundering
The former high-ranking Venezuelan official, presumed innocent, is the subject of ongoing legal proceedings in several countries regarding corruption and money laundering. Details of these proceedings have been relayed by numerous articles published in Swiss newspapers and the international media. A report produced by the Federal Office of Police (fedpol), which recommended to refuse the requested residence permits, indicates that the appellant had been the focus of several requests for information from foreign prosecuting authorities in connection with money laundering investigations. Furthermore, the United States has filed a request for extradition with the applicant's current country of residence.

Authorities' discretionary powers
In the case at hand, the FAC held that the SEM had not abused its broad discretionary powers. The SEM duly considered public interest, as well as the personal circumstances and level of integration of the foreign national. While there is a cantonal financial interest, the applicant's presence could jeopardise public order and safety. Nor is it in Switzerland's interest to accept on its territory persons accused of corruption and money laundering at the risk of tarnishing its reputation or even harming its international relations. Moreover, the family cannot claim to have any strong ties or special personal attachment to Switzerland.

For these reasons, the FAC ruled that the SEM had relied on concerns that are sufficiently tangible and compelling to deny the granting of residence permits to the Venezuelan family and therefore rejected their appeal. This judgment is final and may not be appealed to the Federal Supreme Court.

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