In principle, each person who would like to stay in Switzerland requires a visa – exceptions apply to EU and EFTA citizens. Visas have to be applied for in advance at the Swiss representation in or responsible for the country in which you are before entering the country. Visas are issued for a particular purpose and can only be granted if you fulfil certain conditions.
For more information about visas to Switzerland, please visit:
- General information about visa requirements and nearest Swiss representation (by clicking on “representations and travel advice” and selecting your country of residence) provided by the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA)
- Information provided by the State Secretary for Migration (SEM) here and here
- Information provided by ch.ch
However, for refugees with specific needs, there are special paths of entry to Switzerland. These include resettlement procedures and humanitarian admission programmes. Close relatives can also receive a visa for family reunification if family members are already living in Switzerland. Please refer to the following sections below for further information about family reunification, resettlement and humanitarian visas.
Important: Neither UNHCR, IOM nor the SEM or the legal advice offices in the federal reception centres take money for any services. Their help is always free of charge. You should not be asked, at any point, to pay for any of the services provided.
a. How can I bring my family to Switzerland?
Your core family (i.e. spouses and unmarried children under 18 years of age) may join you in Switzerland under certain conditions. Whether your family can join you ultimately depends on your legal status in Switzerland.
- If you have a B-permit, you are entitled to family reunification, provided that you apply within a certain time period. You should, therefore, apply for family reunification immediately after your B-permit is granted.
- If you have an F-permit (provisional admission), you will have to wait for three years from the deliverance of your permit before applying for family reunification according to the Foreign Nationals and Integration Act (AIG). According to a recent decision of the Swiss Federal Administrative Court, this waiting time can be reduced in some cases. It is not yet clear how the decision will be implemented in practice. You will also be required to fulfil certain requirements including the availability of appropriate accommodation for the family to live in and adequate financial resources.
- As long as you have not received a decision on your asylum application and still hold an N-permit, you cannot bring your family to Switzerland.
Given the complexity of the Swiss legal framework for family reunification, we recommend that you contact a legal counselling organisation for advice in your canton of residence.
For more information please visit:
- General information on the legal and political context, provided by the Swiss Refugee Council (SRC) (in French or German)
- Specific information on your right to family reunification depending on your legal status, Swiss Refugee Council (SRC) (in French or German)
- General information provided by the UNHCR Office for Switzerland and Liechtenstein (OSL) (in French or German)
Please also visit section 5: “Rights and duties”.
b. How can I / my family be resettled to Switzerland?
Resettlement programs enable refugees with specific needs to enter the country legally and safely.
There is a fixed selection procedure to determine who will be given a place in the resettlement program. UNHCR examines cases according to certain criteria and then suggests particularly vulnerable persons for admission to Switzerland.
It is not possible to apply for the resettlement program. Refugees who may be eligible are directly contacted by the UNHCR Representation in the country in which they are in. It is, therefore, important to register with UNHCR in your current country of residence. You will find the contact details of our local offices here.
Due to the very limited number of places currently available, most refugees cannot take part in this program even if they meet all the criteria mentioned above. In Switzerland, there are less than a thousand resettlement places available each year and these are limited to refugees from Syria and a few other operations.
The final decision on the resettlement of refugees to Switzerland lies with the Swiss authorities. UNHCR has no influence on these decisions.
For more information on resettlement, please visit:
- General information on resettlement, provided by the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) (in German or French)
- General information on resettlement, provided by the UNHCR Office for Switzerland and Liechtenstein (OSL) (in German or French)
- General information on resettlement, provided by the Swiss Refugee Council (SRC) (in German or French)
c. How can I / my family apply for a humanitarian visa?
If a person’s life or physical integrity is directly, seriously and concretely threatened in his or her country of origin, her or she may apply for a visa to come to Switzerland on humanitarian grounds. According to current practice, this type of visa is granted only in very exceptional cases.
The decision to grant a humanitarian visa lies exclusively with the Swiss authorities. Foreign nationals wishing to leave their native country should apply for a humanitarian visa at the Swiss representation abroad.
For more information on humanitarian visas, please visit:
- Address of the closest Swiss representation provided by the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) (by selecting ‘Travel Advice & Representation’ then the relevant country)
- Detailed information provided by the Swiss Red Cross (SRC) (in several languages)