Criteria and restrictions to access reception conditions


Country Report: Criteria and restrictions to access reception conditions Last updated: 19/04/22


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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 him or herself from own resources, and under the condition that no third party is required to support him or her on the basis of a statutory or contractual obligation.[1] For organisational reasons, accommodation in asylum centres is however available for all asylum seekers, regardless of their financial resources.[2] 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.[3]


Regular procedure


Asylum seekers in a regular procedure are entitled to full material reception conditions from the lodging of the application until the granting of a legal status or the rejection of their application. Material or financial assistance then continues either under the emergency aid scheme in case the person has 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.[4] 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 a in-merit examination are entitled to the same reception conditions as persons in a regular procedure, until formal dismissal of their application.[5]

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.[6] Quickly rejected or dismissed asylum seekers should in principle not be allocated to a canton, unless their appeal has not been decided within a reasonable time or they are prosecuted or convicted of a felony or misdemeanour committed in Switzerland.[7] 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 Reception centre without processing facilities.[8]

Since the entry into force of the new asylum procedure in March 2019, practice in the different asylum regions does not yet seem to be uniform and clearly defined. For example, there have been several cases of persons who had exceeded the maximum legal stay of 140 days in federal centres but were still residing there. In a number of other cases, asylum-seekers awaiting a decision at first instance or for whom an appeal has been lodged have been allocated to a canton without their legal representative being informed.

Asylum seekers are entitled to social benefits until the decision of rejection or dismissal becomes enforceable. This is the case 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).[9]


Airport procedure (border procedure)


When an asylum seeker applies for asylum at the airport of Geneva or Zurich, the Swiss authorities must decide whether to permit entry into Switzerland within 20 days.[10] If entry into Swiss territory is allowed, the asylum seeker is assigned to a federal centre or a canton and is entitled to regular reception conditions. If entry is refused, the SEM should provide persons with a place of stay and appropriate accommodation until they leave the country.[11] While the asylum seekers are in the airport procedure, they are provided with accommodation in the transit zone (they cannot go out of the airport), food and first necessity goods. The accommodation centre in the transit zone of Geneva has a capacity of 30 places, in Zurich of 60 places. 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.[12] Upon issuing a legally binding removal order, asylum seekers may be transferred to an immigration detention.[13]


Appeal procedure


The appeal procedure is part of the overall procedure and does not affect the 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. 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 are excluded from receiving 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.[14] This restriction of 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.[15] The level of accommodation conditions depends on the cantonal practice.


[1] Article 81 AsylA.

[2]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 ff AsylA. On the side of financial organisation, accommodation is however counted in within the social assistance budget.

[3] Article 85(1) AsylA.

[4]SEM, Stratégie de traitement du SEM dans le domaine de l’asile, available (in French) at:

[5] See sections on Dublin and Admissibility Procedure.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Article 27(4) AsylA.

[8] Information on this is availalbe at:

[9] See section on Forms and levels of material reception conditions.

[10]For details on the airport procedure see section Border Procedure.

[11] Article 22(3) AsylA.

[12] Article 22(6) AsylA.

[13] Article 22(5) AsylA.

[14] The legal basis for the restriction is Article 82(2) AsylA (in force since 1 February 2014). For the reception conditions under the emergency aid scheme, see Forms and Levels of Material Reception Conditions.

[15] For more information on subsequent applications, see section Subsequent Applications.


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