Update: 16.09.2010

Access to apprenticeships for young irregular migrants

As of 1 February 2013, it shall be possible for young irregular migrants to complete an apprenticeship under certain conditions. As part of the implementation of Luc Barthassat’s parliamentary motion, the Federal Council has decided to amend the Ordinance on Admission, Period of Stay and Employment (ASEO) in order to facilitate access to apprenticeships for juveniles «without proper legal status».

Well-integrated youths without a proper legal status

According to the new Article 30a ASEO, juvenile foreign nationals with no legal status will get the possibility to complete a vocational training in Switzerland. In order to receive a residence permit for the duration of their vocational education, the youths must have visited compulsory school uninterruptedly for at least five years and must be well integrated. This means that they have to respect the legislation and have to be proficient in a national language. If youths participate in transitional courses that are mainly theoretical, this may also be counted as part of the minimum duration of five years.
After the end of the vocational training, the cantonal authorities can prolong the residence permit in cases of hardship and can also regularise the stay of parents and siblings. This means that the prolongation of the residence permits after the vocational training as well as the residence permits of family members still fall under the stringent conditions defined in Article 31 ASEO.

Two changes to the consultation draft

Although the draft law was hotly debated, only two details were modified. Firstly, the applicants have to disclose their identity. This measure which is also applied in other cases of hardship was included in order to counter criticism voiced during the public consultation of the amended ordinance.
Secondly, it was legally determined that juvenile irregular migrants must wait for twelve month before handing in their request for a residence permit and cannot continue their education straight after school. This takes account of the various problems which many foreign youths, in particular, face when searching for an apprenticeship.


Previous history

As the second chamber of parliament, on 14 September 2010 the Council of States (Senate) decided that, in future, juvenile undocumented immigrants will have the right to an apprenticeship in Switzerland. After a heated debate, a 23 against 20 majority agreed to the motion by the Geneva national councillor Luc Barthassat (CVP) that limits the respective right to juvenile sans-papiers who have received all their schooling in Switzerland. A motion that went even further was rejected by the council. The Federal Council will now have to rephrase the respective law.

Federal Council holds on to hardship case clause

On 3 March 2010, the National Council (House of Representatives) had discussed several issues related to migration among which two motions in favour of extending apprenticeship programs to undocumented immigrants were accepted. As the Federal Council recommended its rejection, the parliamentary vote came as a surprise and was welcomed by most Swiss NGOs.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child, in particular Article 28, prescribes that in all signatory states shall grant children access to freely available and compulsory primary education. Up to the present, Switzerland did not live up to this regulation since children of undocumented immigrants were not allowed to start vocational training. It is the Federal Council's view that the hardship case clause is comprehensive enough to deal with individual cases and therefore there is no collision with the regulations of the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child. But the majority of both chambers of parliament were not convinced by this explanation.

Council of States undecided at first

During this year's summer session that Council of States took its time to come to a decision since it wanted to get a better picture on some key issues, such as the financing, the competences on the cantonal and federal levels as well as the acceptance of degrees.

Lausanne plays a pioneering role

After a controversial decision in mid-February, the city council of Lausanne opened its job training programs to four young undocumented migrants who grew up in Switzerland. Around 20 children of undocumented migrants finish the compulsory primary education every year if they do not continue into higher education. As Federal Law disallows authorities to give working permits to undocumented migrants after leaving school, around 20 children of sans-papiers leave school with no perspectives whatsoever. And this constitutes a clear breach of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.


Documents of the Parliament website in the national languages

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