Photo: Bernd Konrad/Swiss Refugee Council

Recognised Refugees (Provisional Admission)

Persons recognised as refugees but excluded from asylum under Swiss law are admitted temporarily. They receive the F-Permit.

The Geneva Refugee Convention stipulates that recognised refugees must receive a minimum of rights. For instance, temporarily admitted refugees are better off than other temporarily admitted persons in terms of social assistance or mobility.

Right to stay in Switzerland

The card „f“ (official document confirming the legal situation of provisionally admitted refugees) is issued for a period of one year in each case and can be renewed.

In this context it might be difficult to understand why a person receives a card «f» instead of a B-permit, even though he or she is recognised as refugee under the 1951 Refugee Convention. This is a particularity of the Swiss asylum system: people who qualify as refugees under the 1951 Convention are recognised as refugees. In Switzerland it is additionally examined whether the person concerned is granted asylum and therefore receives a B-permit. This is usually the case except for situations in which one of the two grounds for denying asylum (articles 53 and 54 Swiss Asylum Act) are found to exist.

Yet, although a person may not be granted asylum status the principle of non-refoulement (Article 33 1951 Refugee Convention) applies, since he or she is recognised as a refugee under the 1951 Refugee Convention. In this case, the enforcement of expulsion is not permitted and the person is admitted provisionally. 

Provisionally admitted refugees benefit from the rights enshrined in the 1951 Convention. Furthermore, the legal status of refugees as stipulated in arts. 59ff. Swiss Asylum Act also applies to recognised refugees with provisional admission.

The State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) regularly reviews whether the requirements for temporary admission are still met. If the SEM finds in its review that the removal of the person concerned is not impermissible, unreasonable or impossible, it revokes the order for temporary admission and issues a removal order (Art. 83 and 84 FNA).

Revocation of permit

The temporary admission of refugees is revoked if there is a reason to disallow refugee status (reason for revocation, Art. 63 AsylA) or if there is a reason for expulsion (Art. 65 AsylA).

Residence in hardship cases

Temporarily admitted refugees can file a request for recognition as a hardship case with the canton to which they are assigned. The requirements are that the person must have resided in Switzerland for more than five years and meet further requirements  related to integration, family circumstances and the reasonableness of return to the country of origin (Art. 84 para. 5 FNA). If the request is granted by the cantonal authorities and the SEM, the person obtains a residence permit (B-Permit).

Place of residence

Temporarily admitted refugees remain in the canton to which they already resided as asylum seekers (Art. 85 para. 2 FNA; Art. 27 AsylA). They are free to live wherever they wish within this canton (Art. 85 para. 5 FNA).

Changing canton

Temporarily admitted refugees are entitled to change canton (Art. 37 para. 3 FNA; Art. 58 AsylA) because they are theoretically free to move throughout Swiss territory under international law (Art. 26 GRC). In actual practice, a person is often unable to change his or her place of residence within a canton or move to another canton because of grounds for revocation under law regarding foreign nationals. 

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

Temporarily admitted refugees 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

Temporarily admitted refugees unable to maintain themselves from their own resources are entitled to social benefits. They are to be treated equally to nationals. 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 must be insured against illness (Art. 3 Health Insurance Act (HIA), in French).

Family reunification

Temporarily admitted refugees can file an application for family reunification three years, at the earliest, after they are granted temporary admission. The requirements are that they live in the same household, the family has suitable housing, and the family is not dependent on social assistance. Spouses and unmarried children under the age of 18 receive the same status in Switzerland (Art. 85 para. 7 FNA, Art. 51 AsylA).

Filing an application

The application must be filed with the cantonal migration authority, which passes it on to the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM). The person must file the application within eight years of being granted temporary admission or within four years if it pertains to children older than twelve (Art. 74 paras. 2 and 3 Ordinance on Admission, Stay and Gainful Employment (OASGE), in French). In the decision on family reunification, consideration must be given to the special situation of temporarily admitted refugees (Art. 74 para. 5 OASGE).

Travel costs

The Confederation can cover the costs of getting the families of temporarily admitted refugees to Switzerland (Art. 53 lit. d AsylO 2).

Integration measures

The professional, social and cultural integration of temporarily admitted refugees shall be facilitated (Art. 82 para. 5 AsylA). Temporarily admitted refugees have a right to benefit from the 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

Temporarily admitted 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 (Art. 3 lit. a Ordinance on the Issuing of Travel Documents for Foreign Nationals (OITDFN), in French). It allows them to travel outside Switzerland and to return there (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 that country and puts him- or herself under its protection, this action is grounds for revocation of asylum (Art. 63 para 1 lit. b AsylA).