The Federal Office for Migration (FOM) was established on 1 January 2005, out of a merger between the Federal Office for Refugees (FOR) and the Federal Office of Immigration, Integration and Emigration (IMES). The FOM is responsible for all matters covered by legislation on foreign nationals and asylum seekers in Switzerland.

Entry and residence

Anyone wishing to remain in Switzerland for an extended period of time must have both a valid travel document and a residence permit. Such permits are issued more readily to nationals of EU/EFTA member states than to third-state nationals. Foreign nationals fleeing from persecution may apply for asylum.


Nationals of EU and EFTA member states who wish to work in Switzerland may do so by virtue of the Swiss-EU Bilateral Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons. Only highly qualified third-state nationals are authorised to work in Switzerland and the number of permits issued is limited by quotas. Asylum seekers are not authorised to work for the first three months after they have submitted their asylum application.

Protection from persecution

Switzerland affords temporary or long-term protection to foreign nationals who face persecution in their native countries or wish to escape the ravages of war. Asylum seekers undergo an asylum procedure to determine whether they qualify for refugee status.


Foreign nationals who live in Switzerland for an extended period of time should be as integrated as possible. Integration is defined as a process involving both the Swiss population and the foreign national. The Confederation may lend support to integration projects.


Well-integrated foreign nationals may apply for naturalisation, which falls mainly within the purview of cantonal and communal authorities. The Confederation establishes the criteria for naturalisation.

Returning abroad

Irregular migrants and asylum seekers whose application has been rejected must leave the country. The SEM encourages voluntary return but, if necessary, also enforces return.

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