Foreigners in Switzerland can access social assistance after 10 years of residence
In Switzerland, access to social assistance can endanger the residence permits of foreigners. A recent parliamentary initiative could change that for some.
The practice of who is entitled to social assistance varies from canton to canton and the subject is somewhat of a minefield. Often there are rules about helping family members before state social assistance intervenes, as well as rules about repayment of money received if the recipient receives money later. via lottery winning or inheritance.
Residents of EU / EFTA countries have roughly the same rights as Swiss nationals. However, foreign residents of most other nations run a high risk of losing their residence permit if they take social assistance in Switzerland.
And the rules are not binary. For example, current federal case law suggests that a couple would endanger their C license if they received more than CHF 50,000 in social assistance over a two-year period. A study on the subject can be viewed here in french.
On May 28, 2021, a vote in parliamentary committee in Bern narrowly (12 against 11 with 2 abstentions) was in favor of a reflection on the possibility of extending social rights to all foreigners legally resident in Switzerland since more than 10 years.
Because foreigners know the risk of losing their right to stay if they are on social assistance, many avoid seeking help when they need it and the coronavirus crisis has made this situation worse, Samira said. Marti, MP and member of the Socialist Party in Basel who proposed the initiative. Poverty is not a crime, she added.
The next step in the process will be to convince a committee of the Council of States, Switzerland’s upper house.
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