Legalisation of your residence

Persons from outside Europe seldom have the possibility to gain a residence permit in Switzerland. As a Sans-Papiers, your possi- bilities of receiving a legal residence status are restricted almost exclusively to cases of hardship («Härtefall») or marriage.

Permit in hardship cases (Härtefall)

The law states that migrants illegally residing in Switzerland must leave the country immediately except in cases of acute personal hardship. An expulsion must be ruled on by the responsible migration office.

In cases of acute personal hardship, persons may submit an individual appeal/application to the authorities. Each application for a «Permit in a Case of Hardship» is reviewed. Criteria such as length of stay in Switzerland, employment, degree of integration, education of children, health and oth- ers are all taken into consideration.

The authorities assume that a hardship case generally does not exist if the individual has been resident in Switzerland for less than five years. Only in cases of alonger stay will the authorities seriously review and consider your application. Today (2012), the future of these individual hard- ship case regulations is highly uncertain.

The situation for former asylum seekers who have gone into hiding is even more difficult: They have virtually no possibility for a new process or for an application for a hardship case.

Note! Decisions on applications for cases of hard- ship are the responsibility of the cantons, and if approved must also be obtain consent at the fed- eral level. The authorities decide on applications for hardship cases at their own discretion, and the practice varies from one canton to another. Check with your information centre.


Every person has the right to marry. In reality however, this is not easy for Sans-Papiers due to the lack of a residence permit. Since the beginning of 2011, all foreign nationals wishing to marry must provide proof of their legal right to residence in Switzerland. Moreover, registrars’ offices are obliged to notify the migration authorities about illegal spouses. However, the Federal Court

has ruled that, in principle, sans-papiers may not be denied the right to marry in Switzerland.

This means that each individual case must be reviewed. The practice varies from canton to canton. Check the local procedure with your infor- mation centre.

If a sham marriage (marriage of convenience) is suspected, the registrar in Switzerland may refuse to perform the marriage ceremony.

Note! If you divorce within the first three years of marriage, you run the risk of losing your residence permit.

Call for collective regulation

For years Sans-Papiers and support groups have- been campaigning for collective regulation. Some achievements have been made, such as the granting of more than one thousand residence permits as well as the right to health insurance coverage. In regions where Sans-Papiers are well organised, new doors may be opened. A large campaign in Geneva led to the canton demanding 5,000 residence permits from Berne for domes- tic/home workers.

Get involved and help the cause through various Sans-Papiers collectives and groups.