Criteria and conditions

Switzerland

Country Report: Criteria and conditions Last updated: 14/05/21

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Swiss Refugee Council Visit Website

The differences between the statuses are relevant regarding the question of family reunification. The Swiss Refugee Council provides a table summarising the relevant rules and legal bases according to the status on its Website.[1]

Refugees with asylum

Spouses or registered partners of refugees and their minor children are entitled to family reunification. They will also be recognised as refugees and granted asylum provided there are no special circumstances that preclude this (for example if the family member has a nationality allowing for the family to reside in another country or has been granted refugee status in a safe third country[2]).

If one of those persons is still abroad, their entry must be authorised on request, if the person in Switzerland and the person abroad were separated during the flight.[3] If the family had not been separated during the flight, for example because the family / marriage did not exist at that time, they are not entitled to family reunification under the Asylum Act and can only request family reunification under Article 44 FNIA, with more restrictive conditions and no right to it. However, if the spouse and children are already in Switzerland, this rule does not apply and they can be included in the asylum of the family member.[4]

In case of family asylum, there are no requirements regarding income or health insurance.

Practical problems frequently arise in case of lack of necessary documentation. Also, in some cases the SEM required the conduct of DNA-tests to prove parenthood. The high costs of such tests as well as the travel costs can be covered by SEM on demand, which however has discretion in the decision whether or not to approve such demand. The refusal can be appealed.[5] This represents a clear obstacle to family reunification. IOM can provide logistical support for the organisation of the flight.[6]

In 2020, 1,511 recognised refugees applied for family reunification for family members residing abroad (compared to 1,643 in 2019). During the same year, the SEM authorised entry as a consequence of refugee family reunification cases for 1,414 persons (compared to 1,463 in 2019).[7] However, due to the pandemic, many of those concerned were not able to travel or had to wait a significant amount of time before being able to reach Switzerland. Due to travel restrictions, persons who had received their entry authorisation from SEM could not reach Switzerland in absence of direct flights. In addition to the cases mentioned, family asylum was granted in 675 cases concerning family members already in Switzerland.

At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in spring 2020, family reunifications were suspended. In addition, many embassies around the world closed their counters and prevented family members to pursue their family reunification procedures.

Temporary admission

Three years after having received temporary admission, the person can apply to be reunited with their spouse and unmarried children under the age of 18. The requirements are that they all live in the same household, the family has suitable housing (a big enough apartment, already at the time of the application), and the family does not depend on social assistance (income requirement).[8] The application must be filed with the competent cantonal migration authority, which passes it on to the SEM. Certain deadlines apply to the application.[9] After the three-year waiting period is over, the application for family reunification must be submitted within five years, in case of children over 12 years the time limit is twelve months (in case of important family-related reasons, especially the best interest of the child, a later family reunification is possible). If the family / marriage was established after the waiting period of three years, the time limits start at the time the family / marriage was founded.

In 2020, 304 temporarily admitted persons applied for family reunification (compared to 401 in 2019). The approved cases during the same year by the SEM concerned 108 persons (compared to 120 in 2019).[10]

Regarding practical obstacles related and not related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the same observations can be made as for recognised refugees (see above).

 

 

[1]  Available in French here: https://bit.ly/37X8wdt and in German here: https://bit.ly/3pxqyJ3.

[2]  BVGE 2019 VI/3 c. 5.5–5.7. The same is not true for subsidiary protection, cf. judgement D-2976/2018 of 31,01.2020, c. 5.3.2.

[3]  Article 51 AsylA.

[4]  BVGE 2017 VI/4, c. 4.2–4.4, especially 4.4.1.

[5]  The Human Rights Law Clinic of the University of Bern provides a template for appealing those decisions, available at: https://bit.ly/2KNqu9t.

[6]  See Website: https://bit.ly/2MhFsF7.

[7]  Information provided by the SEM, 19 March 2021.

[8]  Article 85(7) FNIA.

[9]  Article 74(2)-(3) Ordinance on Admission, Stay and Gainful Employment.

[10] Information provided by the SEM, 19 March 2021.

Table of contents

  • Statistics
  • Overview of the legal framework
  • Overview of the main changes since the previous report update
  • Asylum Procedure
  • Reception Conditions
  • Detention of Asylum Seekers
  • Content of International Protection