Here you will find information regarding your rights and obligations that can help you on your way to higher education. The links provided on this page offer further information regarding legal texts and regulations for individuals supporting student refugees.
There are different residence statuses:
- N permit (asylum seeker): Whilst your application is being processed and until conclusion of the procedure, you will obtain residence status N (Art. 42 AsylA).
- B permit (recognised refugee): If you have been granted refugee status and have received asylum, you will receive the B permit (Art. 60, para. 1 AsylA).
- F permit (temporarily accepted refugee): If you have had your refugee status accepted, but not been granted asylum, you will receive the residence status F. There are different grounds to denying you asylum. These are set out in Art. 53 and 54 AsylA.
- F permit (temporarily accepted person): If the refugee status has not been recognized but your expulsion to your country of origin is not possible, not permitted or not reasonable, you will obtain the F status. This is not a residence permit, but a confirmation that your expulsion is not possible for now. (Art. 83 FNIA)
Here you can find further information on the following topics: change of canton, work permits, insurance, family reunification, right to social assistance, settling in with your status.
Social assistance is administered at canton level. Attribution guidelines are set out by SKOS (available in German, French and Italian), the Swiss Association of Welfare Organisations. However, these are not binding. Social assistance is based around the principle of subsidiarity. This means social services will only pay out social assistance if there is no other way to cover your costs. Social assistance covers basic needs only.
The F status (temporarily accepted refugee) or the B residence permit (recognised refugee) give you the same rights to touch benefits as the Swiss population. You have a right to benefit from integration measures.
Financial support for individuals with the N status (asylum seeker) or F status (temporarily accepted person) is far below what Swiss nationals can receive (around 40% less). Temporarily accepted persons have a right to integration measures. Asylum seekers (N status) have no right to integration measures. There are however cases where integration measures will be granted.
Social assistance can only be discontinued if it is replaced by emergency assistance (available in German, French and Italian). This is the case when you receive the definitive decision to have your asylum application dismissed (Dublin system) ora negative asylum decision and ruling on your expulsion.
- Social assistance
Written decision or ruling
As a matter of principle:
- You always have the right to receive the written decision in your case within an appropriate space of time.
- Finding a solution is always preferable to entering a legal dispute.
A decision taken by your adviser and affecting your circumstances entitles you to receive a written decision (available in German, French and Italian) with an explanation outlining on what grounds the decision was taken. This document should be dated and signed. However, this is far from common practice. You should however make a point to request this document.
What can I do if I disagree with the decision taken by my adviser?
You should initially discuss the situation with your adviser. Explain your view of things, whilst also trying to understand the decision. Your adviser is in an equally difficult position: They are unable to fund everything they might want to support.
If you are unable to reach an agreement in the course of this conversation and if you get the impression that the decision is not well justified, you have means to oppose the decision. You can appeal against the decision. NB: An appeal creates costs for legal proceedings. These costs are paid for by the party that loses the case. A law clinic or legal aid office can advise you on the prospects of your appeal and how to go about it.
An appeal can touch different aspects, e.g. the conditions you are asked to meet, the restrictions that have been imposed or the amount of benefits and/or assistance you receive.
You will need access to the written decision in order to appeal. It is also important that you observe the deadline of (usually) 30 days following the date specified on the written decision or ruling.
Definition: A sanction is a type of punishment.
If you fail to adhere to the restrictions in your capacity as benefit recipient, you might be subject to sanctions, e.g. for not declaring your income or failing to observe the decision taken by a social worker or adviser. You need to have been notified in advance: Doing (or failing to do) something means action will be taken against you.
You might for instance see your benefits or social support reduced provided that your basic rights will still be safeguarded. Social services can reduce benefits by up to a maximum of 30 %.
Benefits are reduced under the following circumstances.
What should I do when I receive money from a third party?
Duty to declare and provide financial information
NB: Receiving money from individuals, organisations or trusts is counted as income by social services. It is compulsory that you declare the overall amount to social services so make sure to let your adviser know. This is also the case for small donations or cash gifts. They might be deducted from the social assistance you receive.
If you fail to declare your income, you can see your benefits reduced. Your failure to notify the authorities is enough to be reported on the grounds of a criminal offence. It is possible to be expulsed from Switzerland on the basis of two criminal offences. Make sure to always notify authorities about your income.
This is the best way to be supported:
Money you receive should always represent a contribution towards a specific purpose. Ideally, the money is not directly paid out to you. Instead, your supporter covers costs on your behalf, e.g. they pay for your language classes. They can also reimburse you for expenses: They might pay your travel costs or tuition fees. Make sure to get a receipt or a confirmation of the bank transfer which specifies the date. This means you are able to prove what the money has been spent on.
- This is the best way to be supported:
Crowdfunding is associated with a number of difficulties, mainly that the money is not tied to a specific purpose. You will therefore have to declare this as a source of income and the amount might be deducted from social assistance. If you are involved in a project of this kind, make sure to discuss this with your adviser.
As a matter of principle, social services only support your course in exceptional circumstances. It is mainly scholarships and bursaries which can help you fund your course or training.
Once you receive a scholarship or bursary, you should expect your benefits to be capped or reduced. You cannot receive your bursary in addition to benefits.
Eligibility for bursaries depends on a number of different factors.
- Your previous education: Secondary training is usually not supported.
- Your income (and your parents’ income if they are resident in Switzerland)
- Your canton of residence
- The length of time you have been resident in the canton
- Your residence status
Report on the situation of student refugees in Switzerland in terms of scholarship law (available in German and French)
Refugees (B and F)
Recognised refugees (B) and temporarily accepted refugees (F) are in principle eligible for bursaries. This means you can apply for a bursary if you also meet the other requirements.
Not everyone is aware of the difference between temporarily accepted persons and temporarily accepted refugees. Click here to learn more about the F status. You can attach the information provided by the Refugee Council when making an application.
Temporarily accepted persons (F)
If you are a temporarily accepted person (F), there is no statutory right for a bursary.
However, some cantons award scholarships to persons with F-foreigner status. However, there are sometimes waiting periods, so you must already have been resident in the canton for a few years (between 3 and 7 years). It is therefore worth asking.
Asylum seekers (N)
Asylum seekers (N) have little prospects of receiving a bursary, though there are some exceptions. Check with the local authorities and retain the document stating that you have been unsuccessful. When you are seeking financial support, this will be proof that you have no means of funding your studies through a bursary.
There is no statutory right to study. Higher education institutions in Switzerland are responsible for the admissions process. Some institutions will consider your residence permit as part of their decision, others make their decision regardless of your residence status. Most higher education institutions do not refuse admissions on the ground of your legal status. Check with the institution of your choice.
The Geneva convention rules that refugees (B permit and F status) cannot be excluded from studying on the grounds of their residence status.