• Adrian Tüscher, Partner |

Within three weeks, over two million people fled Ukraine for the Schengen Area. Hence, on March 11, 2022, the Federal Council decided that individuals who had to leave Ukraine because of the war are given the protection status S and permit S respectively in Switzerland.

Please find hereafter answers to the nine most pressing practical questions around what S status exactly means:

What does S status mean?

With protection status S, collective protection can be granted to a certain group of people for the duration of a serious threat, especially during a war. Due to S status, war refugees from Ukraine quickly receive a right of residence without having to go through a regular asylum procedure. They can enter Switzerland without a visa and are entitled to reside in Switzerland for up to one year with an option for extension. S status also enables those in need of protection to reunite with certain family members (see below). It largely corresponds to the solution that the EU member states have decided on.

As of when is S status available for refugees from Ukraine?

Since March 12, 2022.

Who is eligible to the permit S?

Permit S applies to «persons in need of protection».

In addition to Ukrainian nationals and their family members, this also entails people from other countries who left Ukraine because of the war. The prerequisite for such other nationals is that they had a valid residence permit in Ukraine before they fled and cannot return safely and permanently to their homeland.

On the other hand, protection status S does not apply to persons who have already been granted protection status in another EU country.

Can family reunification be claimed under Status S?

Family reunification is possible with respect to partners, minor children and other relatives who were fully or partially supported by the permit S holder at the time of escape.

When can permit S be applied for and where?

The permit S may be applied for directly or even after the expired, visa-free 90 days in the Schengen Area. Requests can be made at the border crossing or within Switzerland at one of the six Federal Asylum Centers.

Are permit S holders allowed to work in Switzerland?

Yes, permit S holders may generally work in Switzerland and also go to school here. The Federal Council has decided to abolish the regular waiting period of three months for taking up gainful employment and also allows self-employment. 

Nonetheless, a work authorization must be applied for. The work authorization is issued by the cantons and the application is to be submitted by the Swiss employers to employ the respective individual or the individual themselves in case of self-employment. 

The State Secretariat for Migration is currently examining with the cantons whether measures to promote language learning with permit S holders are necessary.

Can refugees with the permit S claim social welfare?

Permit S holders may receive social welfare benefits. The federal government pays the respective canton a cost lump-sum (e.g. portion of rent costs, social welfare and care costs, health insurance premiums, etc.) for each permit S holder on social welfare. The cost lump-sum varies depending on the canton but on average amounts to CHF 1,573 per month.

For how long is permit S valid and what happens thereafter?

Protection status S conceptionally aims for repatriation. For now, the right of residence with permit S is limited to up to one year, with the possibility of extension (right of residence in the allocated canton).

If after five years temporary protection has not yet been lifted, persons in need of protection receive a residence permit B from the canton, limited until temporary protection is lifted.

Can permit S holders travel abroad and return to Switzerland?

Persons with a permit S may travel abroad and return to Switzerland without an (additional) travel permit.

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