Protection seekers from Ukraine who have had to leave their home country because of the war will be granted the so-called Protection Status S" in Switzerland. This was decided by the Federal Council on 11 March 2022. This means that refugees from the Ukraine will receive a residence permit without having to go through the regular asylum procedure.
Under normal circumstances, (i), Ukrainian nationals can legally enter Switzerland without a visa and can stay freely in Switzerland (and the Schengen Area) for a maximum of only 90 days. For any residence permits, (ii), Ukrainian citizens as non-EU/EFTA-nationals need to have a qualifying employment in Switzerland and must undergo a thorough approval process. When entering Switzerland as refugees and asylum seekers, (iii), they would normally have to go through an asylum procedure that can take several months and up to one year. In this asylum approval procedure, the authorities examine whether the reasons for asylum are credible and - if so - whether the requirements for refugee status under the Federal Asylum Act (AsylA, SR 142.31) are met. During the first three months of this procedure, applicants are generally not permitted to work and are typically subject to onerous travel restrictions. Regarding current Ukrainian refugees, however, Switzerland has decided to apply for the first time a procedure that is able to provide assistance to the refugees in an unbureaucratic manner.
For this reason, the Federal Council has activated for the first time since its legal implementation in 1998 the so called Protection Status S". While this new procedure has applied since 12 March 2022, most of the detailed questions are still to be resolved on a case-by-case basis. The legal basics, however, are as follows:
PROTECTION STATUS S
With the Protection Status S, protection is granted solely based on belonging to a certain defined group of persons in need of protection (see below section 2). Belonging to the defined group is determined in a simplified procedure, in which certain procedural steps of the regular asylum procedure are applied (e.g., registration of the application, security check, short interview and examination of the affiliation to the group of persons in need of protection). If the Federal Council has not revoked temporary protection after five years, those in need of protection receive a temporary residence permit (residence permit B) from the canton where they live (art. 74 AsylA).
In the case of persons whose refugee status is revoked based on an individual risk of persecution when a reason listed in the Refugee Convention obviously applies, the ordinary asylum procedure is carried out.
DEFINITION OF THE GROUP OF PERSONS IN NEED OF PROTECTION
Protection Status S applies to the following categories of persons:
a. Protection-seeking Ukrainian nationals and their family members (partners, minor children, and other fully or partially supported close relatives) who were residing in Ukraine before 24 February 2022;
b. Protection-seeking persons of other nationalities and stateless persons and their family members as defined in subparagraph (a) who had international or national protection status in Ukraine before 24 February 2022;
c. Protection-seeking persons of other nationalities and stateless persons and their family members as defined in subparagraph (a) who can prove with a valid short-term residence or residence permit that they have a valid right of residence in Ukraine and cannot return to their home countries safely and permanently.
Switzerland bases its definition of these groups of persons in need of protection on the provisions of the European Union (EU).
EXTERNAL AUTHOR: Silke Skowronek
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.