Photo: Bernd Konrad/Swiss Refugee Council

Legal Status

Persons who have lodged an application for asylum in Switzerland obtain a different legal status depending on the outcome of the asylum procedure. Foreign nationals are entitled to certain rights based on their status.

Persons are deemed asylum seekers if they have filed an application for asylum in Switzerland and are waiting for the authorities to issue a decision.

Asylum seekers are recognised as refugees if the Swiss authorities come to the conclusion that a person is being persecuted and subjected to threat to life and limb in his or her land of origin.

Recognised refugees are granted asylum unless there are grounds for denying asylum. If such grounds exist, the refugees are admitted temporarily. 

Persons with refugee status must be given a minimum of rights according to the Geneva Refugee Convention. These rights do not depend on a person’s status in Switzerland under Swiss law on foreign nationals. In Switzerland, the legal status of recognised refugees who have been granted asylum therefore differs from refugees who have been temporarily admitted. International law does not provide for this distinction. Persons obtain this “quasi status” of temporary admission if the authorities recognise that deportation is not permitted, not reasonable or not possible.

Persons are recognised as being in need of protection if they belong to a group of persons that is to be granted protection according to the Federal Council because it is subjected to serious, general danger in its country of origin. This is done for instance in the event of civil war in a group’s country of origin.

If a person’s application for asylum is finally rejected and nothing stands legally in the way of his or her deportation out of Switzerland, the person loses his asylum status or status under Swiss law regarding foreign nationals.

The different statuses