Several thousand children and young people are living without legal status in Switzerland, either with their families or not.

Who are the undocumented children?

As "accompanied" children, these are the children of immigrant workers without residence permits, rejected asylum seekers or EU citizens for whom family reunification was refused. As "unaccompanied" children, they are those who have not filed an application for asylum or a residence permit, having been dismissal decision, or rejected asylum application.

Some numbers

The scale of illegal migration is very difficult to quantify. Various reports advance estimates of the number of people without legal status in Switzerland, including the study of the Federal Commission on Migration (CFM) of 2010 (in French or German), or the 2015 report on undocumented migrants in Switzerland (French or German). The number of children in an irregular situation is also very difficult to understand. The 2015 report, based on interviews of experts, estimates that 12% of illegal immigrants are minors.

Youth and clandestinity

The phenomenon of clandestinity is worrying because young people who do not apply for asylum - or who are coming out of the asylum system - do not benefit from the protection provided.

Education and training

Children and young undocumented migrants have the right to attend school as do indigenous children. The issue of post-compulsory education, which is often problematic for many young people, has been the subject of considerable debate at the national level. In recent years, many voices were raised to demand access to learning for young undocumented immigrants, which was the subject of the Barthassat motion passed in March 2010. In order to implement this motion, the federal Council amended on 7 December 2012, Article 30a of the Ordinance on admission, residence and gainful employment (OASA) (in German) to attach specific conditions to regularize the stay of young people without legal status during the time required for an apprenticeship.

Since February 1, 2013, undocumented youth can do an apprenticeship under certain conditions that must be fulfilled:

  • The youth was educated in Switzerland for at least five years
  • The application must be filed within twelve months after the end of compulsory schooling.
  • A request from an employer stating the desire to hire the person concerned has been submitted to the competent cantonal authority.
  • The youth is well integrated and respects Swiss law.
  • The youth must openly declare his/her identity.

However, there is no guarantee to obtain a residence permit even if all the conditions are met. By revealing their identity, young undocumented migrants and their families run the risk of expulsion if the application is rejected. It is therefore necessary to properly assess this risk with the competent services.The Federal Commission for Migration Issues (CFM) has published a guide for young people and their families and employers on this topic. Consult the Guide to Professional Apprenticeships for undocumented persons.Source: Federal Commission for Migration Issues - heading "Undocumented"


Health is a fundamental human right. Everyone has the right to access to health care regardless of their situation. Since the 2000s, various cities have opened outpatient or consultation services covering health issues for people without legal status, some specifically devoted to children and adolescents. However, many undocumented persons are slow to consult a doctor to avoid fees or for fear of being discovered. Information on this right is very important.


Information platform, campaigns and projects for undocumented migrants in Switzerland: