Material reception conditions primarily consist of accommodation, food, health care and limited financial allowance according to the specific entitlement to social assistance. Assistance benefits are granted only when a person is unable to maintain themselves from their own resources, and under the condition that no third party is required to support them on the basis of a statutory or contractual obligation.
On the federal level, asylum seekers must declare their valuables and money when entering the asylum procedure. Usually the border guard, the police or the State Secretary of Migration will search the people for valuables and /or cash which they may have on themselves. If they have assets at their disposal they are liable to pay the special charge (“Sonderabgabe”, Art. 86 AsylA). The charge serves to secure a claim for reimbursement of social assistance, emergency assistance, departure and enforcement costs as well as the costs of the appeal proceedings (Art. 85 AsylA). It is levied by confiscating assets and money which exceed the amount of CHF 100. If their legal origin is proven, only the amount exceeding CHF 1,000 will be definitively confiscated. (Art. 16 Abs. 4 AsylV2).
After transfer to the cantonal structures, the asylum seekers’ need for assistance is reassessed. During the asylum procedure the above-mentioned rules continue to be applied. The obligation to declare and dispose of assets ends when the asylum-seeker is granted asylum or is provisionally admitted as a refugee, when they are granted another residence permit or when the amount of CHF 15,000 is reached, but in any case, no later than ten years after entry into Switzerland.
For organisational reasons, accommodation in asylum centres is available for all asylum seekers, regardless of their financial resources, and even obligatory in most cases.
Social assistance, departure and enforcement costs as well as the costs of the appeal procedure must be reimbursed subsequently if the person has the necessary means at a later point in time.
Asylum seekers in a regular procedure are entitled to full material reception conditions from the lodging of the application until granting of a legal status or rejection of their application. Material or financial assistance continues either under the emergency aid scheme in case the person is to leave the country, or according to the usual legislation on social assistance if the person receives a protection status.
In the federal centres, reception conditions are similar for all asylum seekers regardless of the type of procedure they will go through, with the exception of the daily 3 Swiss francs pocket money, to which persons from EU/EFTA countries or countries exempt from the visa requirement are not entitled. After cantonal attribution, reception conditions may change significantly. General legal entitlement to reception conditions is governed by national law and should therefore be similar in all cantons, but the implementation of those national provisions is largely dependent on cantonal regulation and varies in practice.
Admissibility procedure (including Dublin)
According to national law, asylum seekers whose application may be dismissed without proceeding to an in-merit examination are entitled to the same reception conditions as persons in a regular procedure, until formal dismissal of their application.
Swiss legislation is based on the idea that dismissal of an application will occur within the 140 days of the stay in the federal centre. Quickly rejected or dismissed asylum seekers should in principle not be allocated to a canton, unless their appeal has not been decided upon within a reasonable time or they are prosecuted or convicted for a felony or misdemeanour committed in Switzerland. Persons in the Dublin procedure are not allocated to a canton, unless their removal cannot be completed within 140 days. They are transferred to a federal asylum centre without processing facilities. In 2022, the average length of stay in the Federal Centres was between 61 to 75 days, depending on the region.
Asylum seekers are entitled to social benefits until the decision of rejection or dismissal becomes enforceable. This happens when the deadline for appeal expires without any appeal being made, or at the moment the appeal authority rejects the appeal. The person has to leave the country and the material reception conditions become dramatically reduced as the person is excluded from social assistance and falls into the emergency aid scheme (see section on Forms and levels of material reception conditions).
Airport procedure (border procedure)
When an asylum seeker applies for asylum at the airport of Geneva, Swiss authorities must decide whether to permit entry into Switzerland within 20 days. For further information on the procedure, see Asylum Procedure, C. Procedures, 4. Border procedures) The centre in the transit zone of Geneva has a capacity of 30 places. Given the closed nature of these centres, the holding of asylum seekers during the airport procedure is considered as detention within the meaning of this report (see Chapter on Detention starting with General). Asylum seekers may be held at the airport or exceptionally at another location for a maximum of 60 days. After this period, the SEM allocates the person either to a canton or a federal asylum centre. Upon issuing a legally binding removal order, asylum seekers may be transferred to an immigration detention facility.
The appeal procedure is part of the overall procedure and does not affect entitlement to material reception conditions. Restrictions occur at the moment when the decision becomes enforceable, which means either at the moment the appeal authority rejects the appeal, or when the deadline for appeal expires if no appeal has been lodged. There should therefore be no change of reception conditions during the appeal procedure, neither regarding accommodation, nor social assistance benefits.
Subsequent applications: application for re-examination, revision or subsequent applications
Swiss law provides for the restriction of reception conditions during the procedure for subsequent applications or applications for revision or re-examination. Therefore, persons in such procedures do not receive social assistance (as they are subject to a legally binding removal decision for which a departure deadline has been fixed) and receive only emergency aid for the duration of a procedure. This restriction on reception conditions also applies when the removal procedure is suspended by the competent authority. Regarding accommodation, subsequent asylum applicants do not return to a federal centre but stay mostly assigned to the same canton and level of accommodation conditions depends on the cantonal practice. In case five years have passed since the entry into force of the last asylum decision, the application will be considered a new one and the asylum seeker will normally be accommodated in a federal asylum centre.
 Article 81 AsylA.
 Article 28(2) AsylA states that the SEM and the cantonal authorities may allocate asylum seekers to accommodation, and in particular accommodate them as a group. This provision is separate from the ones on social assistance and emergency aid in Article 80 et seq. AsylA. On the side of financial organisation, accommodation is however counted in within the social assistance budget.
 Article 85(1) AsylA, Brief information from the SEM regarding the levy of the special charge on assets in English: https://bit.ly/3C5ygmD. Information available in several languages: https://bit.ly/3PYVdxh.
 SEM, Stratégie de traitement du SEM dans le domaine de l’asile, available in English (as well as in French, German and Italian) at: https://bit.ly/339iE2z. In the Decision F-3150/2018 of 20 July 2020, the Federal Administrative Court has observed that an automatic application of this rule could lead to a violation of the constitutional principle of equality before the law in the case of a person claiming a legitimate need for protection (para 7.6).
 Article 27(4) AsylA.
 Information provided by the SEM, 1 May 2023.
 See section on Forms and levels of material reception conditions.
 Article 22(6) AsylA.
 Article 22(5) AsylA.
 Article 111c AsylA.