Information about humanitarian visas

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If you would like to bring an at-risk relative to Switzerland or apply for a humanitarian visa for yourself, here you find information on the procedure.

Advisory service closed

We closed our advisory service in mid-December 2021. Having analysed developments with regard to legal access to international protection, the SRC decided to channel its expertise and resources into family reunification. We remain in contact with the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) in our search for solutions to provide individuals whose lives or physical integrity are in danger with access to international protection.

Read our final report (in German)

What is a humanitarian visa?

In Switzerland, humanitarian visas are issued by the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM). To be eligible for a Swiss humanitarian visa, an individual’s life or physical integrity must be directly, seriously and tangibly endangered. The connection to Switzerland is an important factor. You can find more information in the Prerequisites section.
The application must be submitted in person at a Swiss representation (embassy or consulate).

Prerequisites

A humanitarian visa can only be issued if the following prerequisites are met:

  • The individual’s life and physical integrity is directly, seriously and tangibly endangered in their home country or country of origin.

  • The individual is clearly in direct danger and not merely at risk because they belong to a potentially endangered group.

  • The individual no longer has any other options and their personal situation requires the urgent intervention of the Swiss authorities.

Other important factors

  • Connection to Switzerland

  • There are prospects of integration

  • It is not possible to seek protection in another country

PLEASE NOTE

Consider the benefits and risks carefully

Applying for a visa is expensive and entails high risks. If there is no Swiss representation in the country where you are currently staying, you will need to travel to a third-party country. We therefore recommend you think carefully about the benefits and risks before making a decision.

Procedure

Applicants for a humanitarian visa to enter Switzerland must contact a Swiss representation abroad directly and book an appointment. This can be either an embassy or a consulate.

The FDFA website lists the addresses and contact details of Swiss representations abroad.
Book an appointment by email, including the following information:

  • A sentence that states that you would like to apply for a humanitarian visa

  • Surname, first name and date of birth of all individuals applying for a humanitarian visa

  • If applicable, surnames, first names, dates of birth and addresses of any family members resident in Switzerland

The appointment at a representation is very short, so it is important for you to make sure you are well prepared. You must bring the following documents with you:

  • Copy of the email confirming the appointment

  • Signed visa application form, duly completed in German, French, Italian or English

  • Travel document (passport or identity card)

  • Copy of the travel document

  • Two recent identical biometric passport photos

  • Detailed excerpt from the family register

Covering letter

In addition to the above documents, your application should have a covering letter explaining your situation. The PDF file «Humanitarian visa | Guidance for the covering letter» contains questions that will help you write your letter. The letter must be written in German, French, Italian or English.

Did you leave your country of origin specifically to apply for a humanitarian visa? If so, it is very important for you to mention this in your covering letter.

We can provide you with a template letter in German, English, French or Italian on request.

Representations do not charge for humanitarian visa applications.

Visa application form

You can find the application form on the State Secretariat for Migration website. Use the national type D visa application form (long-term residency).

Useful info

There may be security checks at the representations in Beirut, Cairo and Amman, Islamabad and Tehran, which can lead to longer waiting times.

The length of time it takes to check an application can vary greatly, as the processing depends on your situation and current location. It can take one day to several months.

Costs

The Swiss representation does not charge for humanitarian visas. But applying for a visa is nevertheless very expensive. Depending on where you are, you will need to undertake a long, dangerous journey. You will also need to arrange and pay for translations of your application documents. If the representation must arrange for an interpreter, you may be required to cover the costs.

Appeal or complaint

If the Swiss representation has refused the application, an appeal may be submitted to the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM). There is then the opportunity to file a complaint with the Federal Administrative Court.

If you want to submit an appeal or a complaint, we recommend you seek the advice of a lawyer. However, be careful with anyone who promises you a positive outcome. The procedure is very strict.

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