A recent example, reported in 20 Minuten, shows how even foreigners who have lived in Switzerland for many years can be forced to leave if they end up reliant on government welfare. A mother and her 17 year old daughter recently found out the hard way.
Switzerland’s constitution allows people to be stripped of their residency permits if they do certain things, such as provide false information when applying, commit serious crimes, or repeatedly threaten security and public order. In addition, those who depend on state welfare can also lose their residency permits, a rule that includes dependents.
For those with C permits allowing permanent residency, the hurdle is set a bit higher. Regarding welfare, dependence needs to be long term. And once someone on such a permit has lived in Switzerland continuously for more than 15 years, welfare can no longer be used as a reason for stripping them of their permit.
The case outlined in 20 Minuten involves two people who fall just short of key milestones. The mother, a citizen of Montenegro, is short of the 15 year period that would put her outside the time needed to remain despite long term welfare dependence. And her daughter, is less than a year shy of becoming 18, an age when people are no longer considered legally dependent on their parents.
According to the newspaper, Dzejla Ledinic arrived in Switzerland at the age of 3, completed all of her schooling in Winterthur and started apprenticeship training last month. In 9 months she would have been 18. Now she and her mother need to leave Switzerland by the the end of September.
Guidelines at Switzerland’s State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) define long term welfare dependence as CHF 80,000 received over at least 2 or 3 years. According to Dzejla Ledinic, her mother received CHF 90,000 over several years. After a divorce, she had struggled to make ends meet.
And while Section 2 of the Federal rules on foreigners makes it very clear how impermanent a permanent residency permit can be, it is unlikely that all foreigners have read them.
Another article, article 61, explains how a residency permit can be lost automatically. It states that short term permits automatically lapse after an absence of 3 months, and permanent residency permits automatically lapse after 6 months, however these can be extended to survive 4 years of absence if it is arranged prior to departure.
20 Minutes article (in French) – Take a 5 minute French test now
Swiss law on foreigners (in French)
Swiss law on foreigners (in German)
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