Photo: UNHCR

Persons in Need of Protection

Persons in need of protection receive an S-Permit. It allows them to stay temporarily in Switzerland.

The S-Permit is not a residence permit. It was introduced as a legal status in order to respond appropriately, quickly and pragmatically to mass flights of people. To date, Switzerland has not ever resorted to this S-Permit. The following explanations merely present the legal situation without any basis in practical experience.

Status granting procedure

The possibility of granting temporary protection and the subsequent legal status is anchored in the Asylum Act (Art. 4 and Art. 66ff. AsylA). Persons in need of protection can be granted protection “as long as they are exposed to a serious general danger” (Art. 4 AsylA). This action can be taken, for instance, if there is a war or civil war or situation of general violence in a country.

Criteria

The Federal Council shall decide whether and according to which criteria Switzerland will grant temporary protection to groups of persons in need of protection. Before doing so, it shall consult representatives of the cantons, the charitable organisations and additional non-governmental organisations (Art. 66 AsylA).

Simplified procedure

Persons concerned can file an application abroad, at the border or in Switzerland. In a simplified procedure, the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) then examines whether applicants belong to the group of persons in need of protection. If they meet the criteria, they are always granted temporary protection. If persecution relevant to refugee law is involved, they persons concerned are also granted asylum. If an application for recognition as a refugee already exists, it is stopped when temporary protection is granted. 

Limited possibilities for appeal

If the SEM refuses to grant protection, a person concerned can only appeal from abroad. A violation of the principle of family unity is the only admissible grounds for appeal (Art. 39, 68 and 69 AsylA). In all other cases, there is no possibility to appeal.

Temporary protection shall not be granted if the person in need of protection meets the criteria but has violated public security and order or is a serious threat to it (Art. 73 AsylA) or if reasons to revoke asylum exist (Art. 53 AsylA)

Right to stay in Switzerland

The granting of protection entitles a person to stay temporarily in Switzerland. It is not a residence permit. 

Residence permit

If the Federal Council has not yet revoked temporary protection after five years, the persons in need of protection shall receive a residence permit. However, it is limited in time and expires upon the revocation of temporary protection. Ten years after the granting of temporary protection, the cantons may grant persons in need of protection a permanent residence permit (also referred to as a settlement permit (Niederlassungsbewilligung) (Art. 74 para. 2 and 3 AsylA; Art. 45 und 46 AsylO 1).

Hearing

The temporary protection can end or be withdrawn as a result of revocation (Art. 78 AsylA), expiry (Art. 79 AsylA) or a new decision of the Federal Council (Art. 76 Abs. 1 AsylA). The persons concerned can voice their opinion on this decision. If indications of persecution are revealed, the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) shall conduct a hearing (Art. 76 para. 2 und 3 AsylA).

Return

The concept of the granting of temporary protection includes the return of the persons in need of protection to their country of origin or native country. If protection ends or is withdrawn, the persons in need of protection are obligated to leave Switzerland by a deadline set by SEM. 

Exceptions

The persons are not required to leave if there are indications of persecution or other obstacles to the enforcement of removal orders.  If the departure deadline is not met, the competent canton issues a deportation order (Art. 76 para. 4, Art. 10 para. 4 and Art. 46-48 AsylA; Art. 71 FNA). If obstacles to the enforcement of a removal order exist, the person is granted temporary admission (Art. 44 AsylA; Art. 83 FNA).

Request for recognition as a hardship case

Persons in need of protection whose temporary protection is ended or withdrawn can, under certain circumstances, also obtain a residence permit in Switzerland if they request recognition as a hardship case (Art. 30 para. 1 lit. b FNA).

Place of residence

The State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) assigns persons in need of protection to a canton. The cantonal authorities determine their place of residence and their accommodations (Art. 74 para. 1 AsylA; Art. 44 AsylO 1).

Contesting the decision on cantonal assignment

Persons in need of protection can contest their assignment to a given canton. They may only do so if the assignment violates the principle of family unity or would subject the persons concerned who are in need of protection or other persons to a serious threat. A cantonal assignment is only allowed to be changed on request and under the condition that both cantons involved agree (Art. 74 AsylA; Art. 22 and 44 AsylO 1).

Gainful employment and education

For the first three months after entry into Switzerland, persons in need of protection may not engage in gainful employment (Art. 75 para. 1 AsylA). Thereafter, they may engage in gainful employment if the employer submits a corresponding request and complies with the usual local wage and working conditions for the given industry (Art. 53 para. 1 Ordinance on Admission, Stay and Gainful Employment (OASGE), in French). Under these same conditions, persons in need of protection can also change jobs (Art. 64 para. 2 OASGE).

The Federal Council can set more favourable conditions for gainful employment for persons in need of protection (Art. 74 para. 2 AsylA).

Special charge

Persons in need of protection who have no residence permit and are gainfully employed must pay a special charge amounting to 10 per cent of their earned income in addition to regular taxes. The special charge ceases to apply after a maximum of ten years or if it reaches a total of CHF 15,000. It also ceases to apply if persons in need of protection obtain a residence permit or if they are recognised as refugees (Art. 86 AsylA; Art. 13 ff AsylO 2). 

Confiscation of assets

Persons in need of protection must disclose their assets. The authorities may confiscate such assets for the purposes of reimbursing the costs incurred in the procedure (Art. 87 AsylA).

Basic education

Children of persons in need of protection have the right to adequate and free basic education (Art. 19 Federal Constitution (FC)).

Welfare and health insurance

Persons in need of protection unable to maintain themselves from their own resources shall receive the necessary social benefits unless third parties are required to support them (Art. 81 AsylA). The social benefits should be rendered in kind as non-cash benefits, if possible. They are less than the social benefits given to the local recipients of social assistance (Art. 82 para. 3 AsylA). By contrast, persons in need of protection who have a residence permit receive the same social benefits as recognised refugees (Art. 88 para. 3 AsylA).

Limited choice of health insurance funds, physicians and hospitals

Persons in need of protection must be insured against illness (Art. 3 Health Insurance Act (HIA), in French). However, the cantons may limit the choice of insurers and of physicians and hospitals for persons in need of protection who have no residence permit (Art. 82a para. 2 to 5 AsylA).

Family reunification

Spouses or registered partners of persons in need of protection and their minor children shall be granted temporary protection if the family members have jointly applied for protection in Switzerland or if they wish to reunite in Switzerland after having been separated while fleeing. If the persons concerned are abroad, their entry into Switzerland will be approved (Art. 71 AsylA).

Integration measures

The professional, social and cultural integration of persons in need of protection shall be facilitated (Art. 82 para. 5 AsylA). Persons in need of protection have a right to benefit from the integration measures subsidised by the Confederation as long as they have a residence permit. The cantons are responsible for implementing the integration measures (Art. 18 Ordinance on the Integration of Foreign Nationals (OIFN) (in French); Art. 55 para. 2 FNA).

Click for further information on the integration programmes of the individual cantons (in French and German only).

Travel abroad

Persons in need of protection can apply with the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) for permission to travel to a third country. The application can be approved if for example

Withdrawal of the granting of protection

Persons in need of protection risk having the protection granted to them revoked if they stay for an extended period or repeatedly in their native country or country of origin (Art. 78 para. 1 lit. c AsylA).