Information concerning the Asylum Procedure in Switzerland
Updated: August 27th, 2016; download here the pdf.
Switzerland is well known as depositary state of the Geneva Convention on Refugees and member of the European Convention for Human Rights but this does not mean anything. In the last 30 years the Asylum Act was revised more then a dozen times, making it more and more restrictive. The last revision was accepted through public referendum in June 2016 and will probably come into effect in 2019. The result is a never-ending list of articles and sub-articles which cannot all be taken into account in a summary like this. On this page, you find an overview, here you find the official flowchart of the asylum procedure in Switzerland, and here an info sheet in several languages, which is currently not up to date but will be updated soon. To check your individual chances and improve your rights we advice you to seek legal advice as soon as possible. You find a list of free advice-centers here and a list of further contacts here.
The core principle of the Convention on Refugees is that every single person has the right to ask for asylum in one of the signatory states, the request being considered in an individual way. In Switzerland, every policeman and border-guard has the duty to take notice of your request and organize your transfer to one of the nowadays seven open reception or procedure centers (except for the asylum applicants at an international airport in Switzerland). Pay attention: If you do not ask for asylum by at least saying „asylum“ to the police or border-guard, they can push you back to the country your coming from following the bilateral agreements Switzerland has with all its neighbouring and a lot of other countries!
You cannot choose to which reception center you will be brought and you do not have total freedom of movement. However, you will be allowed to go in and out of the centre at least once a day. In the centre, your personal data and fingerprints will be taken. You will be granted the N-permit which is given to asylum seekers and lasts until the decision on the application is made. You will have a first interview where you will also be asked which way you arrived in Switzerland. If you mention that you came to Switzerland through another European country, Switzerland can try to deport you back there based on Dublin III, even if your fingerprints have not been taken in this country. The interview will be made with translation in your language. Later there can be a second interview (not in Dublin cases), also with translation in your language. There will be a representative of an organization of the Swiss Refugee Council present to observe that your rights are respected. If you withdraw your application, it will be cancelled without a formal decision. If they discover that you came in through a Dublin- or a so-called safe third country (this are all EU- and EFTA-members), you will get a decision of inadmissibility, and they will ask this country to take you back. However, the Dublin procedure takes some time, and you have the right to appeal against it. This is important, especially if you are under 18 years old, if you have family in Switzerland with asylum-status or in the asylum procedure, or if the situation you have to live under in the other Dublin country violates your personal human rights. Please remark that you have only five working days to submit the appeal in these cases, so seek legal advice fast (see contacts)! This short deadline applies also if you made your application at an airport or if you come from a so-called safe country of origin.
After 90 days you should be sent to one of the 26 cantons (regions) of Switzerland. This time can be prolonged in extraordinary cases. You can not choose the canton, even though it has big impacts on the situation you will be living in until the decision of your asylum request is taken. The differences between the cantons is very big (from sleeping in a pallet in the underground to having your own room or, extraordinarily, even a flat). You are not allowed to work for at least three months, in some cantons and/or sectors even longer, and you do not have the right to participate in language courses or other so-called integration-programs until your case is decided positively. To survive, you will get a daily allowance of around 30 francs (app. 27 Euros) per person (this can vary in each canton) for accommodation, food, toiletries and household articles, clothing, pocket money, health insurance and care costs. This seems a lot but you have to consider that Switzerland is a very expensive country, one package of cigarette costing up to 8 francs (7.20 Euros), half a kilo of bread up to 4.50 francs (4 Euros). In some centres you can earn some little money by doing work such as cleaning or helping neighbouring farmers etc.
Negative decision and temporary admission
After a second interview, the State Secretary for Migration (SEM) will take a decision on your application. This can last long: We mostly made the experience that the better your chances are of receiving a positive answer, the longer it takes. If the decision is negative, this is the last minute you should seek legal advice: You will have 30 days to submit an appeal to the Federal Administrative Court (exceptions with shorter deadline see above). In a second step, the SEM examines whether your “removal” is lawful, reasonable and possible. If it is not, you will be admitted temporarily (F permit). In this case, you are not allowed to leave the country, you cannot do family reunification for at least 5 years, and you cannot profit from any integration-help, language courses included. You have the right to work if your employer can proof that he/she did not find any Swiss or other foreigner with a better permit to do that work. Your permit can elapse anytime if Switzerland considers your removal as lawful, reasonable and possible. We made the experience that it is very difficult to get a job with an F-permit. The social welfare with an F-permit is the same as the one for asylum seekers.
New accelerated procedure in test-phase
Please note that since February 2014, Switzerland is testing an accelerate procedure in Juch-Hof Zurich which will be introduced with the newest revision of the law in all of Switzerland presumably in 2019. In general, the whole procedure will be carried out in the test-center and will end with a negative decision on your asylum case, which you can appeal against within ten days (5 working days in case of inadmissibility decisions or safe country of origin / Dublin-decisions) or with a transfer to a canton where the normal procedure continues. From the beginning, you will have access to free legal advice on your asylum procedure and free legal representation. However, the legal advisor is not allowed to make an appeal if he/she does not consider that your case has a real chance to get a positive decision. Please check our contact-section in this case.
Positive decision and refugee-status
If you finally get a positive decision and are considered as a refugee you’ll get a residence (so called B) -permit which will be renewed every year and a refugee travel document in accordance to the Geneva Convention on Refugees which gives you the right to travel to other countries, but not to your country of origin (you would lose your refugee status if you would do so). Within Switzerland, you have freedom of movement and your spouse and minor children are also granted asylum and are allowed to enter Switzerland. You will have the right to participate to integration courses, language courses included, and you can work but need a work permit. You will receive the normal social welfare if you are not working or your wage is less then the so-called existential minimum. Social welfare is approximately 20% higher then the average you get as an asylum seeker.