Freedom of movement


Country Report: Freedom of movement Last updated: 30/06/23


Swiss Refugee Council Visit Website

In general, after some time (maximum 140 days) in a federal asylum centre, the SEM allocates the applicants / beneficiaries to a canton according to a distribution key. This allocation can only be contested if it violates the principle of family unity.[1]

After a status has been granted, recognised refugees have the right to choose their place of living within the canton. Additionally, they have the right to change the canton, if they are not dependent on social assistance and there are no grounds for revocation of a residence permit.[2]

Persons with temporary admission as foreigners also have a right to choose their place to live within the allocated canton, unless they depend on social assistance. In this case, the canton can determine a residence or accommodation. In order to change cantons, an application must be filed at the SEM, which will decide after a consultation of the two cantons concerned. A negative decision can only be challenged if it violates the principle of family unity. The allocation to a canton does not limit the freedom of movement within Switzerland.

Since the cantons are responsible for granting social assistance, the concrete arrangements depend on the canton. If a person depends on social assistance, it is possible that the canton provides for a room in a certain accommodation and therefore ‘determines’ the place of residence for the person concerned.

Normally, beneficiaries have to move from the first reception centre to the cantonal collective centre and as a next step within the canton to a private accommodation. We are not aware of problems of beneficiaries related to being obliged to change their accommodation too often.

We are also not aware of any specific residence for beneficiaries for reasons of public interest or public order.

No legal assistance is foreseen in the law for these specific cases, but the general rule regarding legal aid is applicable: If it is necessary in order to safeguard the right of the person concerned, the Court can appoint a lawyer to represent the applicant.[3]




[1] Article 27(3) AsylA.

[2] Article 63 FNIA.

[3] Article 65(2) Federal Act on Administrative Procedure.

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