Rights and Duties

Your rights and duties differ depending on your legal status in Switzerland, such as:

  • right to non-refoulement;
  • right to stay in Switzerland;
  • right to social welfare and health insurance;
  • right to work and access to education;
  • right to family reunification; and
  • right to travel abroad.

The Swiss refugee Council (SRC) provide detailed information about residence status and the rights and duties according to your status in English, French and German.

Right to non-refoulement

The 1951 Geneva Convention prohibits deportation to an area where the life or freedom of the refugee would be threatened on the grounds of ethnic origin, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion. This prohibition applies not only to the direct or indirect deportation to the country of origin, but also to any other country in which the refugee must fear either persecution within the meaning of Article 1 of the 1951 Geneva Convention or deportation to such a country. Similar non-refoulement obligations exist in several human rights treaties.

The right to stay

During the duration of your asylum procedure you have the right to stay in Switzerland. Depending on the status you receive at the end of the asylum procedure, you will either keep enjoying this right and be granted a permit or be required to leave Switzerland.

For more detailed information about the rights you have, please visit:

Asylum-seeker (N-permit)

Recognised refugee (B-permit):

Recognised refugee with provisional admission (F-permit refugee):

Provisional admission of foreigners (F-permit foreigner):

Dismissed asylum-seeker (no permit):

Right to social welfare and health insurance

If you are unable to maintain yourself, you have a right to social welfare benefits. The amount of your social welfare payment depends on your status. You are automatically insured against illness upon your registration as asylum seeker.

If you received a removal order and the departure deadline is set or if you filed a request for re-examination, you will be excluded from social assistance.

For more detailed information about the rights you have, please visit:

Right to work

As long as you are in the asylum procedure and accommodated in a federal asylum centre, you cannot engage in gainful employment. Once you have been assigned to a canton, and depending on your status, you may subsequently have the right to work under certain conditions. You can find more information on the State Secretariat for Migration website: FAQ – Employment for persons seeking or granted asylum (admin.ch).

You can find an overview of the competent authorities and support services available at the cantonal level here.

Your social worker, as well as employment services in your canton of residence, can provide additional guidance on how to look for a job.  

Right to education

Attending school is mandatory for all children from 4 to 16 years of age. However, for children living in a federal asylum centre, school programmes may be limited. Public education is managed by the cantons. The canton to which a child has been assigned will determine when he or she can start attending school and whether prior preparatory or language classes are needed. Children may therefore have to wait before they can join regular school classes. For an overview of cantonal education structures, you can consult this document (available in German and French). 

General information on education, vocational training and occupations in Switzerland is available in different languages here

Several cantons offer the possibility to attend an “integration pre-apprenticeship” (Integrationsvorlehre in German). 

If you wish to continue your studies after the end of your mandatory education, the following document provides a non-exhaustive overview of existing programmes to facilitate refugees’ access to higher education, as well as information on scholarships.

Additional information can be found on the website of Perspectives – Studies.

Information about the recognition of foreign qualifications is available on the website of the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation.

Right to family reunification

During the asylum procedure, you have no right to family reunification. Once your status has been determined, you may have a right to family reunification depending on your type of permit and under certain conditions.

Please also visit section 4: “Other Possibilities for Admission to Switzerland”.

For more detailed information about the rights you have, please visit:

  • Animation film about the family reunification process in Switzerland available in six languages (Arabic, English, Farsi, Tamil, Tigrinya and Turkish) on UNHCR’s Youtube channel.

Right to travel abroad

If your asylum procedure is pending, travel abroad is, in principle, not allowed. You may, in exceptional cases – such as illness or the death of a close family member – apply to the State Secretary for Migration (SEM) for permission to travel to a third country.

If you are a recognised refugee (B permit) you can apply and principally have the right to receive travel document for travel to third countries. You are, however, not allowed to travel to your country of origin. The travel document ensures that you can return to Switzerland. You can ask for a travel document at the immigration office of your canton of residence in person.

If you are a provisionally admitted foreigner (F permit), you need a return visa and in addition a travel document if you do not have a valid national passport. You must first apply for a return visa granting you permission to return to Switzerland after your trip. This visa will only be granted upon specific conditions:

  • If you have been provisionally admitted to Switzerland for less than two years, you will have to prove specific circumstances to travel otherwise your request will not be accepted.
  • If you have been provisionally admitted to Switzerland for more than two years, a travel document can be issued for other reasons.

In addition to a travel visa, you have to apply for a travel document with which you will be able to travel abroad. However, you do not have a right to such a document and the practice regarding this is very strict. You can apply for both documents in person at the immigration office of your canton of residence.

Attention: Please note that, whether you are still in the asylum procedure, recognized as a refugee or provisionally admitted to Switzerland, you do not have the right to travel to your country of origin except in very specific circumstances. If you do so, your application for asylum risks being rejected or your status risks being revoked.

For more detailed information about the rights you have, please visit:

Related information

Where to seek help?