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What is Protection status S and what does it involve?
Under protection status S, the persons concerned receive an S permit. This is limited to a maximum of one year, but can be extended. After five years, persons in need of protection may receive a B residence permit, which is valid until the temporary protection is lifted (Art. 74 AsylA).
Persons who are granted protection status S may travel abroad and return to Switzerland without a travel permit (Art. 9 para. 8 Ordinance on the Issue of Travel Documents for Foreign Nationals). They may engage in gainful employment (including self-employment) without having to wait a certain period to do so.
Persons with protection status S are assigned to a canton after registration. What applies in which canton? You will find the most important information here (PDF, 303 kB, 25.01.2023).
There is no quantitative limitation for protection status S.
Who is eligible for protection status S?
According to the Federal Council’s general ruling of 11 March 2022:
- Ukrainian citizens seeking protection and their family members (partners, minor children and other close relatives who were fully or partially supported at the time of flight) who were resident in Ukraine before 24 February 2022.
- Persons of other nationalities and stateless persons seeking protection and their family members as defined in para a, who held international or national protection status in Ukraine before 24 February 2022.
- Those seeking protection of another nationality and stateless persons as well as their family members as defined in para a, who can prove by means of a valid short-term residence permit or residence permit that they have a valid right of residence in Ukraine and cannot return to their home countries in safety and on a permanent basis.
Those seeking protection of another nationality and who can safely and permanently return to their home country are not eligible for protection status S in Switzerland. An appeal against such a negative decision can be filed with the Federal Administrative Court. Moreover, these persons are free to file an asylum application if they believe they are at risk on returning to their home country. This ensures that all persons in need of Switzerland’s protection receive it.
If a person has already been granted protection status in another EU/EFTA state, they will not be granted protection status S in Switzerland unless the EU/EFTA state that granted it is a country that has been particularly burdened by the Ukraine crisis (e.g. Poland).
How long is the protection status S valid?
The status is valid until the Federal Council withdraws it (Art. 76 AsylA), and depends on the continued existence of serious general danger in Ukraine (Art. 4 AsylA), whereby Switzerland will coordinate with the Schengen countries.
The Federal Council will withdraw protection status S if it concludes that the security situation allows for people to return; a transitional period will be established leading up to departure.
What does someone fleeing Ukraine need to do to obtain protection status S in Switzerland?
We recommend all those seeking protection who have already entered Switzerland and have not yet registered to submit their application online via the RegisterMe web portal.
After that, they should go to one of the federal asylum centres (FAC) for registration. There, SEM collects their personal data and fingerprints and examines each application individually (security check and a check as to whether they belong to the group of persons in need of protection). They then stay at the FAC until a decision has been made on protection status S (a few days). If SEM cannot reach a decision during their stay (for example, because additional clarifications have to be made), the person is allocated to a canton and receives their decision by post. The same applies to persons who are already living in cantonal accommodation or in a private household. Accommodation will be organised for those who do not yet have a place to stay in Switzerland.
Groups of 30 or more and groups with vulnerable people are requested to contact the authorities by sending an email to email@example.com a few days before arriving in Switzerland so that the registration process and sufficient accommodation can be organised.
You will find important information about the various types of accommodation and about the procedure in this Fact sheet (PDF, 146 kB, 10.11.2022).
What should a person do if they no longer require to claim protection status S in Switzerland – for example because they are leaving the country again?
Persons who no longer require to claim protection status S in Switzerland can communicate their change of status in writing in a signed and dated statement (PDF, 111 kB, 14.06.2022) sent to the following address, quoting their N-number:
State Secretariat for Migration SEM
If their statement is valid, SEM will terminate their protection status S (see Art. 79 let. b AsylA). This means that the individuals concerned are no longer subject to the Asylum Act but to the provisions for foreign nationals in general.
How many people from Ukraine is Switzerland prepared to take in?
There is no quantitative limitation (see ‘Who is eligible for protection status S?’). If the EU decides to introduce a relocation programme, Switzerland will show solidarity and participate in the project.
Why does protection status S not apply to refugees from Syria or Afghanistan, for example?
A large proportion of the world's displaced people find refuge in neighbouring countries - including many people from Syria and Afghanistan. These refugees are often dependent on humanitarian aid. The number of asylum applications in Switzerland from people from these countries has so far remained within a range that SEM can handle within the framework of existing processes. The focus is therefore on assistance on the ground, but persons under threat can of course apply for asylum in Switzerland.
The situation with the war in Ukraine is different. Switzerland is faced with an unprecedented influx of refugees. In the first six weeks after the activation of protection status S, over 40,000 people from Ukraine seeking protection due to the war were registered in Switzerland. With protection status S, this large number of refugees arriving at the same time can be granted the necessary temporary protection quickly and without an in-depth individual examination of the reasons for flight, without overburdening the Swiss asylum system.
Why is no asylum procedure carried out (instead of status S)?
Granting protection status S to Ukrainian refugees aims to prevent the Swiss asylum system from becoming overstretched. This ensures that the asylum system continues to function and that refugees from Ukraine receive the protection they need quickly, with a minimum of bureaucracy and with a solid legal basis.
Since the refugee movements from Ukraine pose enormous challenges for Europe as a whole, a coordinated approach at the European level is also crucial. Protection status S corresponds in large part to the temporary protection afforded to persons from Ukraine under the EU's Temporary Protection Directive, which was adopted by the EU, but is not directly applicable to Switzerland.
How does the system of subsidy payments work?
The cantons receive subsidy payments from the federal government in the form of global lump-sum funding for the social welfare costs they have incurred (see. Art 88 para. 2 AsylA).
The level of global lump-sum funding corresponds to that paid to asylum seekers and temporarily admitted persons (see Art. 22 AsylO 2). The total amount of subsidies payable is calculated on the same basis as for temporarily admitted persons (see Art. 23 AsylO 2).
The global lump-sum funding is payable from the point at which a person is allocated to a canton or from the start of the following month (see Art. 20 AsylO 2); payments are made quarterly (see Art. 5 para. 1 and 2 AsylO 2). As allocation to a canton is retroactive to the point at which an application for protection is submitted, the cantons effectively receive the global lump-sum funding from that point or from the beginning of the following month.
What is SEM's asylum and removal practice for Ukrainian citizens?
In view of the war in Ukraine, SEM has suspended the processing of pending asylum applications of Ukrainian citizens who have been granted protection status S since 24 February 2022 (Art. 69 para. 3 AsylA).
SEM is monitoring the situation on the ground very closely. For the time being, however, nobody will be returned to Ukraine.
Entering and leaving the country
How can refugees from Ukraine enter Switzerland?
Switzerland is showing solidarity and grants exemptions to Ukrainian citizens who do not have a biometric travel document and visa, unless there are compelling reasons in an individual case for refusing entry.
For persons who are outside the Schengen area, the normal rules of entry apply. Further information on entering Switzerland is available from the local Swiss representation.
People who have fled from Ukraine may use public transport free of charge (2nd class) to travel to their destination in Switzerland or to transit through the country.
Further information (Alliance SwissPass)
Are people with protection status S allowed to travel abroad?
Persons who are granted S status in accordance with the Federal Council decision of 11 March 2022 may travel abroad and return to Switzerland without a travel permit (Art. 9 para. 8 Ordinance on the Issue of Travel Documents for Foreign Nationals). The entry regulations of the respective countries of entry apply.
Travel within the Schengen area: This is possible in principle if the person has a biometric passport and the trip does not exceed 90 days within a period of 180 days. Those travelling should have a valid travel document. SEM recommends clarifying the entry requirements with the representation of the destination country before the planned trip abroad:
Address of foreign representations in Switzerland
Travel outside the Schengen area: SEM recommends clarifying the entry requirements with the representation of the destination country before the planned trip abroad:
Address of foreign representations in Switzerland
Under the following circumstances, a stay abroad may result in protection status S being rescinded: if the focal point of a person in need of protection’s living arrangements shifts abroad, temporary protection status in Switzerland expires (see Art. 79 let. a AsylA). SEM examines each case individually. A shift in the focal point of a person’s living arrangements is presumed to have occurred if the stay abroad exceeds two months, but the presumption can be challenged (for example in the case of temporary study stays of more than two months or work-related assignments abroad).
Are Ukrainian nationals with protection status S allowed to travel to Ukraine?
Travel to Ukraine is not prohibited in principle. However, if a person in need of protection stays in the home country or country of origin for more than 15 days per quarter, SEM may revoke temporary protection status in Switzerland (Art. 78 para. 1 let. c AsylA; Art. 51 AsylO 1). SEM will waive the revocation if the foreign person undertook the journey (lasting more than 15 days in any quarter period) due to coercion or in preparation for definitive return to his or her country of origin or home country.
If the focal point of a person in need of protection’s living arrangements shifts abroad, temporary protection status in Switzerland expires (cf. Art. 79 let. a AsylA). SEM examines each case individually. A shift in the focal point of a person’s living arrangements is presumed to have occurred if the stay abroad exceeds two months, but the presumption can be challenged rebutted (for example in the case of temporary study stays of more than two months or work-related assignments abroad).
How does family reunification work?
Persons seeking protecting who do not require a visa (e.g. Ukrainian nationals with biometric passports) may enter Switzerland and apply for protection status S themselves. Persons seeking protection who require a visa should contact a Swiss mission abroad.
If the requirements for independent entry are not met, it is possible to submit a written application to SEM for family reunification. Spouses, persons living together in a permanent relationship, registered partners and minor children who are abroad will be granted entry to Switzerland, provided that the family has been separated by events in Ukraine and there are no special circumstances to the contrary.
What do you need to be aware of if you want to bring pets with you?
Cats and dogs brought from Ukraine may be brought into Switzerland in exceptional cases. You can find out about the procedure here:
Federal Food Safety and Veterinary Office
(application form in English and Ukrainian).
Due to the high risk of disease, entry with poultry, hoofed and cloven-hoofed animals is prohibited. Animal owners are requested to contact the veterinary authorities immediately.
What regulations apply to Ukrainian driving licences or number plates?
Persons with a valid Ukrainian driving licence, either on paper or in credit card format, are permitted to drive in Switzerland. Persons whose driving licences have been issued in the Cyrillic alphabet only must present an official translation. Persons who drive motor vehicles registered in Switzerland in the categories C (lorries) or D (passenger cars), or in the subcategories C1 (vehicles weighing between 3.5 and 7.5t) or D1 (minibuses for up to 17 persons) on a professional basis or who require a permit for the commercial transport of passengers (e.g. taxis) must exchange their driving licence for a Swiss one before driving in Switzerland. Ukrainian driving licences for all the above categories must be exchanged for a Swiss driving licence no later than one year after entering Switzerland. Further information is available here.
Persons with protection status S who used their foreign-registered vehicles in Switzerland for longer than six months must apply for a customs permit. Ukrainian vehicles that are brought into Switzerland must always have a valid international insurance card. If the person bringing the car into Switzerland cannot present an international insurance card, they must take out border insurance. Border insurance taken out in an EEA state is also valid in Switzerland. Border insurance can be taken out at the border customs office or at any other customs office.
What accommodation options does Switzerland offer for refugees from Ukraine?
The federal government, cantons, communes and private initiatives are working together to deal with the challenging task of accommodating refugees from Ukraine.
Federal Asylum Centres FAC:
These are usually the first point of contact for refugees – and offer up to 9,000 accommodation places. Registration takes place here. Refugees are then assigned to a canton, which assumes responsibility for their care from that point on. Until they leave the canton of registration, refugees are accommodated for a few days in a FAC.
Registered refugees are allocated to the cantons in proportion to the size of their population. SEM compensates the cantons with a global lump sum of around CHF 1,500 per person per month (including for health insurance premiums).
What applies in which canton? You will find the most important information here (PDF, 303 kB, 25.01.2023).
There are several cantonal initiatives to help accommodate Ukrainian refugees with private host families. Some cantons coordinate these activities with the Swiss Refugee Council (SRC). In each case, the canton responsible decides on any compensation to be paid to providers of private accommodation.
HotellerieSuisse has agreed to make empty hotel rooms available as an additional way to house refugees if necessary, in order to avoid possible shortages this autumn and winter.
SEM made occasional use of these hotel services this past March when, due to the large number of refugees arriving at the same time, it was not possible to accommodate everyone who wanted to register at a federal asylum centre.
Do you have to meet certain conditions in order to accommodate refugees?
The Swiss Refugee Council (working in cooperation with Campax) assesses on a case-by-case basis whether basic conditions for first-time occupancy of private accommodation are met. According to the SRC, the host should be able to provide a bedroom that can be locked, as well as access to a bathroom and kitchen.
Further information (Swiss Refugee Council)
Are private individuals compensated if they host people who have fled Ukraine?
As is the case for recognised refugees and temporarily admitted persons, the cantons receive a global lump sum from the federal government to accommodate and look after those who have been admitted. It is for the cantons to decide whether or how much they wish to compensate private individuals for providing accommodation.
What is meant by cantonal allocation?
The State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) will allocate you to one of the 26 Swiss cantons (Art. 74 Abs. 1 AsylA). This canton is then responsible for your accommodation and other care – or for your departure from Switzerland if you are refused temporary protection. The canton is also responsible for the payment of social welfare benefits, if necessary, to cover your basic daily needs in Switzerland.
What canton will I be allocated to and how will I be informed?
Asylum seekers and persons in the ‘S’ procedure are allocated to cantons according to a distribution ratio. Each canton will receive a number of persons with protection status ‘S’ in proportion to its population. On the day you register at one of the six federal asylum centres, SEM will decide which canton you are allocated to, based on the distribution ratio, and tell you in person. You will receive written notification of your ‘S’ decision either directly at the centre or later by post.
Do I have a say in the cantonal allocation?
SEM decides which canton you are allocated to. As a rule, this decision is based on the cantonal distribution ratio. Only in the following cases are you entitled to be allocated to the same canton as your relatives or close contacts:
- Extended nuclear family: spouses; parents and their minor children; parents and their adult children if these are seeking protection without their own families; grandparents.
- Vulnerable persons with close contacts outside of the extended nuclear family, e.g. unaccompanied minors, persons with disabilities, serious health problems or age-related condition.
Requests for allocation with/to more distant relatives or close friends can only be considered if the distribution ratio can be maintained.
I am already living in private accommodation. Can I stay there and be allocated to my hosts’ canton?
The distribution ratio also applies for those who have arranged private accommodation by themselves. This means that your existing private accommodation can only be taken into account for cantonal allocation if the distribution ratio can be maintained. Otherwise you will be allocated to another canton, which will then find new accommodation for you. On the day you register at a federal asylum centre, SEM will decide which canton you are allocated to, based on the distribution ratio, and tell you in person.
Important: Your current private accommodation can only be taken into consideration if you bring a printed copy of the ‘Confirmation of private accommodation (PDF, 310 kB, 22.11.2022)’, signed by your host, to the federal asylum centre on the day you register. You must have this ready to present.
If someone does not agree with their allocation decision, what can they do?
Refugees can appeal against an allocation decision to the Federal Administrative Court (FAC). Their allocation to a canton can only be challenged on the grounds that it violates the principle of family unity.
Refugees wishing to change their allocated canton can also write to SEM (PDF, 64 kB, 09.06.2022), stating which canton they would like to transfer to and why. They should clearly indicate both their allocated and requested canton of residence and name all persons to be included in the change of canton. The application must be signed by the persons concerned or an authorised representative and sent to the following address:
State Secretariat for Migration SEM
Taskforce Kantonswechsel Ukraine
Before the decision on allocation to a canton becomes legally binding (30 days from the date of the decision on protection status S), the application will be processed according to the same criteria as for the initial allocation.
Once the allocation decision has become legally binding, an application to change canton may be approved only in certain cases:
- Reunification of close family members: spouse; parents and their minor children; parents and their adult children, provided these are not in Switzerland with their own family; grandparents.
- Reunification of vulnerable persons with close contacts other than family members (e.g. unaccompanied minors, persons with disabilities, serious health problems or an age-related condition) if this can secure better care arrangements.
In all other cases, a change of canton is only possible if the cantons concerned give their consent, for example in the following situations:
- Moving to suitable private accommodation
- Staying with a distant relative or an acquaintance
- Relocation for employment in another canton
Do people in need of protection have access to medical care?
Ukrainian nationals can stay in Switzerland for 3 months without a visa or permit, for example by staying with relatives or private individuals. In this case, the person is not required to have compulsory health insurance. They may however have travel insurance or their hosts may have taken out guest insurance.
Persons in need of protection submit an application for temporary protection (S status) at a federal asylum centre or via RegisterMe. If they are dependent on social welfare support, they are then retroactively registered for compulsory health insurance by the canton from the date on which the application was submitted. The cost to the cantons of premiums and co-payments (deductibles and retention fees) are subsidised by the federal government with the payment of global lump sums.
Persons who are not dependent on social welfare support must fulfil the health insurance obligation independently by taking out insurance with a health insurance company within 3 months of submitting the application - with retroactive effect to the date of the application. These persons pay the premiums and co-payments themselves.
If a person in need requires immediate medical treatment even before applying for protection status S and has no health insurance, the costs will be covered by the cantons or the cantonal welfare support and emergency aid.
If you have any questions about cancer therapies, medication or cancer in general, contact the Cancer League's advice and information helpline.
What applies in which canton? You will find the most important information here (PDF, 303 kB, 25.01.2023).
A lot of information on health matters in Switzerland can be found on the migesplus.ch website – as well as important information specifically relevant for refugees from Ukraine.
What healthcare services are covered by health insurance?
Health insurance entitles those in need of protection to basic medical care. However, the choice of medical practitioner is limited and they are requested to follow the instruction provided by the relevant authorities in the allocating canton. The authority will indicate whom they should turn to in the event of illness, accident, mental health issues or pregnancy.
Accident insurance: As long as persons seeking protection are not gainfully employed in Switzerland, their health insurance also covers them against accidents. If a person is in work, the employer must insure the person against accidents.
What applies in which canton? You will find the most important information here (PDF, 303 kB, 25.01.2023).
How does SEM ensure that those seeking protection who have been traumatised by the war have access to the necessary psychological care?
SEM ensures that those seeking protection who have been traumatised by their experiences and who are accommodated at federal asylum centres have access to psychological care via Medic-Help, then to partner doctors and ultimately psychiatrists. Once assigned to a canton, the cantonal authorities are responsible for providing this service. The costs of psychological care is covered by compulsory health insurance.
What rules apply to persons in need of protection regarding COVID-19?
The rules currently applicable in Switzerland can be found here:
Coronavirus: current rules
SEM offers those seeking protection in the Federal Asylum Centres (FAC) the possibility of being vaccinated against COVID-19 with the vaccines approved in Switzerland..
If a person in need of protection is found to have symptoms (e.g. during the registration process) that indicate infection with coronavirus, or if the person reports health problems to SEM staff or support staff, SEM staff will carry out a COVID-19 test and take any necessary further measures.
Given that persons in need of protection are usually only accommodated at one of the six Federal Asylum Centres (FAC) for a few days, or often only for registration, SEM only provides emergency medical consultations and treatment at the FAC. Responsibility for the provision of medical treatment for persons with protection status S who are dependent on social welfare support rests with the canton to which they are assigned. This canton also takes out health insurance with retroactive effect from the date on which the application was submitted.
Persons who are not dependent on social welfare support must fulfil the health insurance obligation independently by taking out insurance with a health insurance company within 3 months of submitting the application – with retroactive effect to the date of the application. These persons pay the premiums and co-payments themselves.
Protection against human trafficking and prostitution
What is Switzerland doing to protect refugees from human trafficking, prostitution and exploitation?
The federal government and the cantons as well as their partner agencies are aware of these risks. SEM has been raising awareness of this issue among its staff for years and distributing information material in the federal asylum centres. In the current context, an information campaign (Protect yourself! Human trafficking and other forms of abuse) has also been launched - in Ukrainian, Russian, English, French, Italian and German. These PDFs can be downloaded and may gladly be used and distributed.
On behalf of SEM and in close cooperation with the cantons, the Swiss Refugee Council arranges accommodation for Ukrainian refugees. Swiss Refugee Council staff are present in the federal asylum centres and also raise awareness of these risks among those staying there.
SEM is also in close contact with fedpol, the Federal Office for Customs and Border Security and the Conference of Cantonal Police Commanders of Switzerland to raise awareness among Ukrainian nationals of the risks of human trafficking and exploitation.
Support measures and financial matters
How can Ukrainian nationals seeking protection fund their stay in Switzerland?
All persons with protection status S may take up work (incl. self-employment) if they have a permit to do so from the appropriate cantonal authority. There is no waiting period. Persons with protection status S receive social welfare support from the canton to which they have been assigned if they cannot support themselves independently. This support covers the basic needs of daily life in Switzerland and can take the form of benefits in kind (accommodation, food, hygiene articles, etc.) and/or money. The canton is responsible for organising social welfare support.
Can persons with protection status S exchange their Ukrainian cash for Swiss francs?
The possibility to change Ukrainian banknotes into Swiss francs at selected branches of certain banks in Switzerland, which has been in place since the end of June 2022, was discontinued on 25 November 2022 at the request of the National Bank of Ukraine because demand was low. Cashless transactions to and from Ukraine are still possible, however.
Are there differences in the amount of social welfare support depending on whether a person is in private accommodation or in cantonal accommodation?
Yes, there are differences. As a rule, persons in private accommodation receive social welfare support in the form of financial contributions whereas persons in cantonal accommodation largely in the form of benefits in kind. The canton to which they have been allocated is responsible for the arrangement of social welfare support.
Do people who work also receive financial support?
Social welfare support serves to secure a livelihood. Consequently, people who can fully cover their own living expenses through paid work do not receive social welfare support. However, if their wages are not sufficient to cover their living costs, they receive supplementary assistance.
Do people with protection status S have access to support measures such as language courses and counselling?
In every canton, in cities and in many communes there are services, courses and programmes to support migrants, i.e. also people with protection status S, and provide them with information about life in Switzerland. People with protection status S who are registered with the social welfare support services for asylum seekers usually receive information from there.
Please ask the authorities of your commune for information or consult the official website of your canton of residence (PDF, 303 kB, 25.01.2023) (in German).
You can also request help from the cantonal or city services responsible for integration (in German).
Here you can find information on the cantonal integration programmes (in German).
Are people with protection status S allowed to work / to be employed?
Yes, but the employer must first apply for a work permit from the cantonal authorities at the place of work (PDF, 303 kB, 25.01.2023). This application can be made, without a waiting period, after protection status S has been granted. The persons receive a confirmation letter and the S work permit is sent a short time later. The canton periodically checks whether the applicable wage and working conditions are complied with.
Are people with protection status S allowed to be self-employed?
Yes, but people with S status must apply for a work permit from the cantonal authorities at the place of work (PDF, 303 kB, 25.01.2023) before taking up work regardless of whether they are employed or self-employed. The cantonal authorities then assess whether the financial and operational conditions for the activity in question are met. The authorities take into account the special situation of people in need of protection.
Are people with protection status S allowed to work outside their canton of residence?
Yes, that is possible. The employer has to apply for a work permit from the cantonal authorities at the place of work (PDF, 303 kB, 25.01.2023).
If the commute to work takes longer than two hours, the person can apply to the cantonal migration and employment offices to change the canton of residence, provided the person is not receiving social welfare assistance for themself or their family members. The application must be approved by both the old and new canton.
Do people with protection status S have access to services offered by public regional employment centres RAV?
Yes, the services of the employment centres are available to all persons entitled to work who are looking for a job and who are in Switzerland. Registration is possible as soon as protection status S has been granted; this is confirmed by letter. The protection status S permit is sent later.
Further information can be found on the Unemployment Insurance and public employment service website or on the website of the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO).
Are Ukrainian qualifications recognised in Switzerland?
Yes, diplomas are recognised in various professions, provided the person meets the relevant conditions for professional recognition. This may included language skills. Diploma recognition is only required for professions that are regulated in Switzerland. Where a profession is regulated, the situation must be examined in detail and on a case-by-case basis. Further information can be found on the website of the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI). From the point of view of immigration law, access to the labour market is possible for all professions. For regulated professions such as doctors, the necessary authorisation to practise the profession must be enclosed.
Can people with protection status S work from home for a foreign employer?
Yes. Working from home exclusively for a foreign employer (e.g. for the current employer in the home country) or the continuation of an existing self-employed activity with no influence on the Swiss labour market are not considered gainful employment subject to a work permit. Therefore, no work permit is required. However, income derived from such work is considered to be earned income and must be declared to the relevant authority if required.
Can people with protection status S take on a traineeship?
Traineeships are always temporary employment relationships with a training element and are considered gainful employment. A work permit must therefore be obtained from the canton of the place of work (PDF, 303 kB, 25.01.2023) before taking up employment. There must be a training programme as well as a fixed-term employment contract providing a level of pay customary for the location, industry and role and that corresponds to the person’s qualifications and experience.
Are people with protection status S allowed to receive vocational education and training (VET)?
A requirement for basic vocational training is B1 language proficiency in German, French or Italian, depending on where the vocational school or the training company is located. The employer is responsible for obtaining the required work permit from the competent cantonal labour market and migration authority. Once the work permit has been obtained, the employer must submit the apprenticeship contract to the respective cantonal VET office for approval.
The cantons offer bridge-year courses in preparation for a VET programme. The purpose of these courses is to close gaps in a person’s education and provide support in choosing a vocation or career. A basic requirement for attending a bridge-year course is A2 level language proficiency. The cantonal careers advisory services can provide advice and guidance on choosing a vocation or career, what education and training is available and what preparatory courses are on offer: BIZ - berufsberatung.ch (German, French, Italian, Romansh)
For support during vocational education and training, students have access to cantonal teaching supervision and tried-and-tested services (e.g. support services at VET schools). Information on this is available from the cantonal VET offices.
What rules apply for people from Ukraine who already have a temporary Swiss residence and work permit?
Existing temporary residence and work permits can be extended in accordance with the applicable provisions under the legislation on foreign nationals. Applications to convert a short-term residence permit (L) into an annual residence permit (B) will be examined by the cantonal authorities at the place of work (PDF, 303 kB, 25.01.2023) in accordance with the regular provisions. In cases where no extension or conversion is possible and you must return to Ukraine, you can apply for protection status S.
Can SEM offer any information to help with planning for employers who would like to hire someone with status S, or for people with status S who wish to undertake vocational education and training or other education?
Protection status S is based on the expectation that people will return to their home countries. The status is valid until the Federal Council withdraws it (Art. 76 AsylA), and depends on the continued existence of serious general danger in Ukraine (Art. 4 AsylA). Switzerland will coordinate with the Schengen countries in this matter.
The Federal Council will withdraw protection status S if it concludes that the security situation allows for people to return; a transitional period will be established leading up to departure. Whether distinctions are made between categories of persons will be decided at political level at the appropriate time.
How soon can Ukrainian children attend school?
The decision as to when a child in need of protection can attend school after taking up residence in a commune rests with the allocated canton or the commune itself, in application of the canton’s school law. In principle, children are enrolled in school as soon as possible. Under certain circumstances, however, a short waiting period is to be expected.
What are the rules concerning school attendance?
In Switzerland, all children have a fundamental right to education under the Federal Constitution. Children and young people have the right to basic education regardless of their nationality or residence status. The requirement to attend school is also enshrined in the Federal Constitution. This means that school attendance is compulsory and free of charge for all children who remain in one place for a certain period of time.
The 26 cantons and their communes are responsible for obligatory schooling and thus currently also for the enrolment of children and young people from Ukraine. Upon receiving protection status S, individuals are assigned to a canton (protection status S is not issued to a specific commune). After being assigned to a commune, children are either admitted directly to a regular class and receive an intensive course in the local school language (German, French or Italian, depending on the language region), or they are admitted to a class for foreign speakers for a certain period of time. In principle, children attend a public school at their place of residence. This also applies to children and young people who arrive independently and take up residence in a commune.
Compulsory schooling lasts 11 years (including nursery school) and is divided into primary and lower secondary level in all cantons (see also diagram of the Swiss education system – available in German and French).
Information on school attendance is available from the canton and the commune of residence.
Can refugees from Ukraine study (or continue their studies) at a Swiss university or university of applied sciences?
Persons with protection status S can study in Switzerland, continue their studies or further their education (their residence conditions are regulated by the recognition of protection status S). Access to studies is arranged with the university or university of applied sciences. The individual should contact them directly.
Various universities have posted their own information. Further details can be found at Swissuniversities.
Are interpreters available to help with communication (e.g. in schools)?
This is arranged by the cantons. Thanks to special (free) translation apps on smartphones/tablets, communication between host families and people from Ukraine is now relatively easy. In some cases, teachers or assistants with knowledge of Ukrainian are also being placed in schools to help with communication.
Switzerland’s humanitarian activities
How is Switzerland helping on the ground in Ukraine and in its neighbouring countries?
Switzerland's humanitarian support package currently comprises three lines of action, which complement each other and which can be expanded and developed as needed: financial contributions (including to aid organisations such as the ICRC), aid supplies (to Ukraine and neighbouring countries) and personnel (e.g. specialists in the areas of emergency shelter, water/sanitation/hygiene and health/medicine).
In addition, Switzerland - together with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) - supports third-country nationals who have fled to neighbouring Ukrainian countries and wish to return to their home countries.
Russian nationals / Partial mobilisation
Russia has ordered the partial mobilisation of its citizens, with the prospect of severe penalties for draft evaders and deserters. Can they be granted asylum in Switzerland?
According to asylum law practice, draft evasion or desertion alone are not reasons for granting refugee status since the possible punishment is not imposed for any of the reasons listed in Article 3 of the Asylum Act (i.e. race, religion, affiliation to a social group, political views). However, if specific circumstances result in penalties being imposed not only for evading military service (or for desertion), but for one of the reasons mentioned in Article 3, and the penalties are disproportionately severe, or if in addition to evading military service or deserting the person has a well-founded fear of persecution for a reason set out in Article 3, they would fulfil the requirements for refugee status and be recognised as a refugee. SEM examines the individual circumstances of each case carefully and in detail.
Do Russian nationals need a visa to enter Switzerland?
Switzerland belongs to the Schengen area. Russians therefore need a visa to enter Switzerland (regardless of the reason for their stay). The normal entry requirements apply (Art. 5 FNIA).
Can Russian nationals apply for a humanitarian visa?
Anyone who is at risk of direct, serious and genuine danger to life or limb in their home country or country of origin can apply at a Swiss representation for a visa on humanitarian grounds. The Swiss embassy in Moscow is open and will process applications from Russian nationals.
The mere possibility of being drafted into the armed forces in the future does not generally meet the strict requirements for obtaining a humanitarian visa: the applicant must be in a specific emergency and have a connection to Switzerland.
Last modification 12.01.2023