Until fairly recently, anyone on a C-permit who had lived in Switzerland for 15 years was able to draw welfare payments without risking their permit. In 2019, a new law changed this.
Article 63 of Switzerland’s federal law on foreigners (page 32) sets out a number of conditions that allow residency rights to be taken away. In addition to those presenting a serious danger to public order or security, someone who has a long term dependancy on welfare can also lose their right to reside in Switzerland.
In some cases, long term welfare dependancy can lead to a permit downgrade. In others it can lead to the loss of all rights to reside in Switzerland.
According to a report by RTS, fear of the new law has kept some foreign residents from applying for welfare. RTS interviewed someone who was born in Switzerland in 1968 after her parents fled Spain under Franco. But she never applied for Swiss citizenship. In 2005, the woman fell ill with a chronic disease and has been on welfare ever since. Until 2019, welfare dependency presented no risk to her. She had held a C-permit for many decades. However since then her C-permit has had a cloud hanging over it.
The woman has now received three letters related to her right to reside in Switzerland. The last one explains that her right to continue living in Switzerland could be revoked.
Since the new law came into force in 2019, around 4,000 people have lost their right to remain in Switzerland. In some cases it hasn’t been made clear why. But based on what is known it seems that only a few have lost their residency because of welfare dependancy. However, the fear surrounding expulsion has kept people that might otherwise apply for welfare from applying.
People on permits avoiding applying for welfare is very new, according to Christine Piazzini, an integration officer in the municipality of Nyon. According to her it is linked to the new law. It’s something that we never saw before, she said.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, the State Secretariat for Migration exempted those on residency permits from the 2019 welfare clause. However, the fear of expulsion seems to have persisted.