Photo: Bernd Konrad/Swiss Refugee Council

Recognised Refugees (Granting of Asylum)

Every refugee granted asylum receives a residence permit (B-Permit).

The Geneva Refugee Convention stipulates that recognised refugees must receive a minimum of rights. This provision also applies to persons who are granted asylum. Refugees granted asylum in Switzerland enjoy a legal status more advantageous in some respects than that of temporarily admitted refugees. This is especially true regarding regulations pertaining to their stay and family reunification.

Regulation of stay

Refugees granted asylum obtain a residence permit (Art. 60 para. 1 AsylA). They do not have a right to a settlement permit. Provisions of foreign nationals law apply to settlement permits (C-Permit). A C-Permit can be granted at the earliest after five years in the event of excellent integration. They are normally not granted until after a stay of at least 10 years (Art. 34 FNA).

Place of residence

For refugees granted asylum, the canton to which they were already assigned continues to be the canton responsible for them (Art. 60 para. 2 AsylA). They are free to choose their place of residence within the canton. A recognised refugee with a residence permit can change cantons (Art. 37 para. 3 FNA; Art. 58 AsylA, Art. 26 Geneva Refugee Convention (in French)).

Full freedom of movement

Under international law, the right of refugees with asylum to move freely within Switzerland is not linked to further conditions. In practice, switching to another canton is most commonly rendered impossible due to grounds for revocation under foreign nationals law. 

Grounds for revocation

This is the case if the person concerned:

  • makes false statements or conceals material facts in the permit procedure,
  • has been given a long custodial sentence or has been made subject to a criminal measure,
  • represents a threat to public security and order, or
  • if the person concerned or a person he or she must care for is permanently and heavily dependent on social assistance Art. 62 and 63 FNA).

Gainful employment

Every refugee may pursue gainful employment without restriction and may change job and occupation (Art. 61 AsylG). The prerequisite for this is that the gainful activity has been declared. In the case of paid work, the declaration must be made by the employer; in the case of self-employment, the declaration must be made by the person concerned. The person must report the commencement and termination of gainful employment. The wage and working conditions customary in the place, profession and industry must be fulfilled (Art. 65 VZAE). 

Welfare and health insurance

Refugees with asylum who are unable to maintain themselves from their own resources are entitled to social benefits. They must be granted the same benefits as local recipients of social assistance (Art. 3 para. 1 AsylO 2). The guidelines of the Swiss Conference for Social Assistance (SCSA) apply. 

Exclusion from social assistance

Social benefits are excluded if a third party is required to support them (Art. 81 AsylA).

Refugees with asylum must be insured against illness (Art. 3 Health Insurance Act (HIA), in French).

Family reunification

Spouses or registered partners of refugees granted asylum and their minor children shall be recognised as refugees and granted asylum provided there are no special circumstances that preclude this (Art.51 AsylA). The Confederation can assume the costs of family reunification (Art. 53. lit d AsylO 2).

Integration measures

The professional, social and cultural integration of refugees shall be facilitated (Art. 82 para. 5 AsylA). Refugees have a right to benefit from integration measures subsidised by the Confederation. The cantons are responsible for implementation (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

Refugees can apply for the international refugee travel document in order to travel to third countries. All recognised refugees are entitled to this document (including temporarily admitted refugees). It allows them to travel outside Switzerland and to return to Switzerland (Art. 59 para. 2 lit. A FNA). 

Revocation of asylum

The refugee travel document is valid for all countries except the holder’s native country or country of origin. If a refugee returns to his or her native country or country of origin and puts him- or herself under that country’s protection, this action is grounds for revocation of asylum (Art. 63 para 1 lit. b AsylA).

Refugees granted asylum can lose their legal status again in exceptional cases. This happens if there are grounds for the revocation of asylum or for the revocation of refugee status (Art. 63 AsylA) or for the expiry of asylum (Art. 64 AsylA).

In these cases, the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) decides that asylum is revoked or expires. Further authorisation to stay in Switzerland is based on the Foreign Nationals Act (FNA) and depends on the circumstances of each individual case.