Photo: Bernd Konrad/Swiss Refugee Council

Latest update on the arrival of Syrian refugees

1. Admission on humanitarian ground

Switzerland intends to make it possible for 3000 refugees from the Syrian conflict to enter Switzerland legally over the next three years on a gradual basis. The Swiss Federal Council already took this decision in March 2015. Up to 1000 individuals will already be admitted this year.

This humanitarian action to take on refugees on humanitarian ground is part of a co-operation with the UN High Commissariat for Refugees and comprises two measures:

a) 2000 individuals in particular need of protection from the Syrian conflict would be allowed to stay in Switzerland within the framework of a long-term resettlement. They will receive refugee status and will therefore not be required to go through the ordinary asylum process.

b) A further 1000 individuals in need of protection would receive humanitarian visas, so they can travel safely to Switzerland. This measure is aimed specifically at the closest family members (such as spouses and underage children) of displaced persons who have already received provisional admission into Switzerland and are living in the country (with an F Permit). Asylum requests must be submitted to the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) – see the adjacent article.

2. Humanitarian visas

Up to now, humanitarian visas have been issued in only a very small number of cases. The chances of obtaining such a visa are thus very low. That’s why it’s extremely important to weigh the risks associated with an application (for example, travel into a neighbouring state).

A humanitarian visa may be granted to someone at risk of an immediate, serious and tangible threat to their life and well-being. The person must be in a special emergency situation. This could be the case, for example, when there is war or when there is an immediate threat to the person.

If the person is already in a third state, the authorities will as a rule consider that there is no longer any danger. As Switzerland no longer has an embassy in Syria, all persons who apply for a humanitarian visa at a Swiss embassy are by default in a third country. No humanitarian visas will be issued in such cases. That means that Syrians barely have a chance to obtain a humanitarian visa and consequently are unlikely to have a chance to enter Switzerland legally.

SEM directive concerning humanitarian visas dated 25 February 2014 (in French)

In principle, an application must be made in person at a Swiss diplomatic representation abroad. As a rule, an appointment will be required. The simplest way to make one is by e-mail:

In your e-mail, you should indicate that this is an application for a humanitarian visa and the individual(s) applying for the visa (family name, given name and date of birth). If applicable, also list family members who are living in Switzerland.

Along with your appointment at the embassy, you will receive a questionnaire. You must fill in this questionnaire along with the Schengen visa application form and bring them with you to your appointment. If you have to travel out of Syria first in order to get to your appointment and to apply for a humanitarian visa, you absolutely have to state so in your questionnaire.

Click here to download the application form for a humanitarian visa in the Schengen area 

In line 21 “Reasons”, you will need to tick “Others”. You will need to explain that you are applying for a visa for humanitarian reasons and you will have to provide details about your particular situation, along with any evidence and identity papers whenever possible.

In principle, there are no fees for humanitarian visas. However, if the authorities consider an application to be obviously groundless or if they see an application has been made multiple times for the same motive, visa fees may possibly be charged.

If a visa application has been refused by a Swiss representation, an appeal can be made within 30 days to the State Secretariat for Migration. The SSM can ask for a deposit of CHF 150 for a decision that is subject to appeal.

If the State Secretariat for Migration rejects an application, an administrative appeal can be made to the Federal Administrative Court.

For further questions, please contact the State Secretariat for Migration

3. Family reunification of close family members of recognised refugees and of foreign nationals granted temporary admission

Depending on the legal status of the person already living in Switzerland, different conditions apply for bringing the immediate family (spouses and single children under 18 years old) to Switzerland as part of a family reunification.

  • Recognised refugees who have been granted asylum may apply for family reunification as soon as asylum has been granted.
  • Recognised refugees who have been granted temporary admission may apply for family reunification no sooner than three years after receiving temporary admission. The condition applies that they will live in the same household, that a suitable apartment will be available to them and that the family will not be dependent on social assistance.
  • Foreign nationals who have been granted temporary admission may apply for family reunification no sooner than three years after receiving temporary admission. The condition applies that they will live in the same household, that a suitable apartment will be available to them and that the family will not be dependent on social assistance.

Click here for more information.

4. Visa facilitation

From 4-29 September 2013, a facilitated process was made possible for relatives to obtain a visa. Since then no visas have been granted through a facilitated process. To date, there are still cases pending. For those individuals who have already applied for a visitor’s visa at a Swiss embassy by no later than 29 September 2013, the rules for the facilitated visa process apply. The pending cases will be processed as quickly as possible.

Click here for more information on visa facilitation (in German)