Ukrainian refugees in Switzerland – what to expect

With over a million people having fled the Ukraine, there will definitely be Ukrainians arriving in Switzerland. It is important for people arriving here to know what they can expect.

Are Ukrainians allowed to enter Switzerland?

Yes, they can enter the Schengen area and thus also Switzerland without a visa. Since the end of February, even if they do not have a biometric passport. Currently, a maximum stay of 90 days is possible. People who enter Switzerland in this way are not allowed to work.

May I offer a flat to Ukrainians who have entered the country?

Yes, especially during the first 90 days after a visa-free entry. According to the SEM, as long as the accommodation is provided free of charge, no notification to the authorities is necessary. After that, the guests need a residence status – the introduction of S status could help here.

How can guests in Switzerland take out health insurance?

Those arriving as tourists are responsible for insurance themselves. Usually, travel insurance is taken out for this purpose – or the home country’s health insurance provides the cover. Subsequent private insurance for people who are already in Switzerland is possible with individual insurers for a short time at most.

Can they open a bank account?

Postfinance has a basic service mandate and is therefore obliged to provide an account to every person residing in Switzerland. However, valid Swiss identity papers must be presented for this. Several other banks refused to open accounts for Ukrainians without residence status in Switzerland upon request.

What happens when the 90 days have expired?

Discussions are currently underway in Switzerland and between the Schengen states. According to the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM), various options are currently being examined to allow Ukrainians to stay beyond the 90 days. Justice Minister Karin Keller-Sutter will discuss this issue at a meeting with her EU counterparts on Thursday. The Federal Council will hold its next meeting on Friday.

Who may apply for asylum and where?

In principle, every person who enters Switzerland can apply for asylum. Either directly upon entry at the border crossing or at the border control at the airport. After entry, an application is also possible in one of the federal asylum centres. These regularly have about 5,000 places. Emergency plans provide for up to 9000 places.

What could such a residence status for over 90 days look like?

The SEM calls the status S for persons in need of protection – a status that was created after the Balkan wars but has never been applied. S status entitles war-displaced persons to stay in Switzerland without having to go through an asylum procedure. The duration of protection depends on developments in the home country. The decision to lift the protection status for a population group is taken by the Federal Council. After three months in Switzerland, they are in principle entitled to work – but with restrictions. The Federal Migration Commission demands “rapid access to the labour market” even before the 3-month period expires. The law also provides for a right to family reunification.

S protection status does not guarantee permanent residence in Switzerland. Does it have other disadvantages?

Since it has never been granted so far, many practical questions are open. Much depends on the decision of the Federal Council. In particular, it is unclear whether and in which areas persons with S status are entitled to financial support.

What happens after arrival at the Federal Asylum Centre?

In a first step, personal details are taken and luggage and documents are checked. The passports are confiscated for the duration of the procedure and replaced by an identity card with which the refugees may only move within Switzerland. After that, they are assigned to accommodation – which is not necessarily in the same asylum centre where the application was filed.

Are my guests allowed to stay with me after the asylum application?

In the first phase of the examination of the asylum application, residence in a federal centre is mandatory. Refugees can, however, apply for private accommodation. They have to bear the costs for this themselves, including food and other everyday costs in private accommodation. The right to health insurance remains.

What are the prospects for asylum?

War alone is not a reason for recognition as a refugee in Switzerland. Ukrainians must prove that they are also being personally persecuted – for example, because of their political commitment. The majority of asylum seekers from Ukraine probably have poor chances of obtaining refugee status. They will probably only be admitted provisionally. It takes some time before they receive a decision. The goal is to complete the procedures in the federal asylum centres in 140 days at the most.

Temporarily admitted – what does that mean?

Recognised refugees receive a residence permit in Switzerland, can work, join their family, and are entitled to financial support – just like Swiss nationals. Provisionally admitted refugees, on the other hand, only receive a refugee permit F, which can be a disadvantage on the labour market. Family reunification is also only possible after three years – here provisionally admitted persons would currently be at a disadvantage compared to persons with S status. If they need social assistance, it is greatly reduced.

If you would like to take refugees in you can sign up to the Flüchtlingshilfe database.

Also here is a list of organisations offering help and in need of donations.

Sources for this article Tages Anzeiger article and page

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