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You are here: Home Moving to Getting Started Residence and work permits in Switzerland
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14/09/2012Residence and work permits in Switzerland

Residence and work permits in Switzerland How to apply for a residence permit or a work permit in Switzerland, for you and your family.

Switzerland has a high migration rate. Foreigners now make up more than a fifth of the Swiss population, with the number of foreigners increasing more than four-fold since WWII, compared with a total population increase of 67 percent.

Residence and work permits

Anyone who works during their stay in Switzerland or who remains in Switzerland for longer than three months requires a residence permit issued by the Cantonal Migration Offices. A distinction is made between short-term residence permits (less than one year), annual residence permits (limited) and permanent residence permits (unlimited).

There are three aspects to consider when applying for a permit. Firstly, Switzerland is a federal republic consisting of 26 cantons (regions). Each canton has Cantonal Migration Offices, which are responsible for issuing residence permits, and Cantonal Labour Offices, which are responsible for work authorisation. Although all cantons operate under the same federal law, each canton has some autonomy over immigration into the region. Therefore, individual cantons are the first resource for information regarding requirements for work and residence permits. See the Swiss Confederation website at www.bfm.admin.ch for contact details of the various cantons.

Secondly, obtaining a work permit differs according to your place of origin. Switzerland has a dual system for the admission of foreign workers, with priority given to individuals from EU/EFTA countries. For employed nationals from EU/EFTA states, the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons applies (to varying degrees; see below), leading to a straightforward permit process that is not subject to quotas. Only a limited number of management-level employees, specialists and other qualified employees is admitted from non-EU/EFTA countries – known as third countries.

Thirdly, your type of employment (local hire, assignment, period of employment) can determine whether you are granted a work permit.

Relocation

Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons

In 1999, the EU and Switzerland signed seven bilateral agreements with other nations relating to the movement of citizens. These included the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons, which came into force in 2002. The agreement grants citizens from EFTA countries access to the Swiss employment market, recognition of professional qualifications, the right to buy property, in addition to the coordination of member countries’ social security systems. The agreement was later expanded to gradually introduce ten new EU member states beginning in 2006. Because the agreement is still being implemented, transitional measures apply to some member states.

For citizens of the EU-17/EFTA (France, Germany, Austria, Italy, Spain, Portugal, the UK, Republic of Ireland, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxemburg, Greece, Cyprus, Malta, Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein), the Free Movement of Persons fully applies, allowing unrestricted freedom to live and work in Switzerland.

As of May 2011, the citizens of the EU-8 countries (Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Slovenia) have had the same unrestricted free movement rights as EU-17 and EFTA countries. Recently, however, the Federal Council in Switzerland invoked a safeguard clause that allows for the introduction of restrictions. In May 2012, EU-8 Member States became subject to some restrictions on living in Switzerland in the form of quotas on category B residence permits. The restrictions apply to individuals who are self-employed or have employment contracts that are valid for one year or longer. It is expected that these restrictions will remain in place for a year.

Citizens of the EU-2 (Bulgaria and Romania) are also subject to some restrictions. These will remain in place until May 2016 at the latest.

Labour / Work permits

In order to work in the Switzerland, EU-25/EFTA nationals must have a residence permit, which also acts as a work permit. To qualify, a person must either have secured employment or meet the requirements that apply if they are not employed. The employer registers the individual with the Cantonal Labour Office or online at www.meweb.admin.ch. The category of the residence permit is determined by the duration of employment. A short-term residence permit (Type L permit) is awarded for employment of less than a year, while a residence permit (Type B permit) is awarded for employment of one year or more.

Citizens from EU-2 countries must have an employment contract, which their employer submits to the cantonal labour authority together with a request for a work permit. Whether a work permit is awarded depends on quotas and the local labour situation. Usually, EU-2 nationals must also already hold a residence permit when they apply for a work permit.

Nationals from non-EU/EFTA can only work in Switzerland if employers can prove that they have been unable to recruit a person from an EU/EFTA country. There are, however, some exceptions to these rules (further information can be found at www.bfm.admin.ch).

G permit: Cross-border commuter

Workers receive this permit if they are EU/EFTA residents who also work in Switzerland. They must return to their non-Swiss domicile at least once a week and register their Swiss residence with the communal authorities. For EU-25/EFTA nationals, no border zone regulations apply; residence can be anywhere in the EU/EFTA and the workplace can be anywhere in Switzerland. For EU-2 nationals, residence and workplace must lie within designated border zones. (Contact your cantonal labour market authority for details).

The following guide provides a timeline for the required types of permits:

RelocationEU-25/EFTA nationals

  • 8 days per calendar year: in general without permit or registration*
  • 9 - 90 days of employment: registration (no permit required)
  • 3 - 12 months: L permit (short-term residence permit)
  • 12 months or more: B permit (residence permit)**
  • 5 years or more: C permit (settlement permit)

* Exceptions apply to the following industries: construction, hospitality, cleaning, security services, and itinerant traders such as travelling salespeople, market-traders, stall-keepers, and circus and fairground workers.
** Quotas currently apply to category B resident visas for EU-8 nationals who are self-employed or have employment contracts of longer than one year.

EU-2

  • Up to 12 months of employment: L permit (short-term residence and work permits required, quotas)
  • 12 months or more: B permit (residence permit, quota)

Other country nationals

  • 0 - 12 months: L permit (short-term residence permit)
  • 12 months or more: B permit (residence permit)
  • 10 years or more: C permit (settlement permit)

Within eight days of arrival and before beginning work, nationals of EU-25/EFTA states must register with the communal authorities at their Swiss place of residence and apply for a residence permit. A valid ID (such as a passport) and written confirmation of employment must be presented. Further documentation requirements can vary according to your type of employment and canton of residence. Contact the respective communal authorities or the cantonal migration authorities for specific requirements.

While there are similar work permit requirements for nationals of EU-2 and other countries, the Swiss authorities will generally require that you also fulfill the following conditions:

  • Local worker priority: no local equivalent worker (Swiss national or foreigner already in the Swiss labour market) is available to fill the position.
  • The wage and working conditions must meet local, professional and industry standards.
  • The canton’s quota for that permit must not be exhausted.

For third country nationals, the applicant must demonstrate relevant qualifications, such as graduation title and relevant work experience.

Family permits

Family members are defined as spouses, children and grandchildren under the age of 21, and parents or grandparents who are financially supported by the worker. Family members of employed EU/EFTA nationals are granted an EU/EFTA permit even if they are non-EU/EFTA nationals but live permanently in an EU/EFTA country. The validity of the permit is limited to the duration of the main holder's position. Family members are allowed to work, but must notify the cantonal authorities before doing so. For more information, see our article on bringing your family to Switzerland.  

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More information
Visit www.bfm.admin.ch or contact your local authority.

Sources
www.bfm.admin.ch
(Federal Office for Migration)



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9 reactions to this article

Howard G posted: 2012-10-26 18:13:27

[Edited by moderator. Please post (elaborate) questions on Ask the Expert or on our Forums. If you have questions for the Expatica staff, please contact us directly.] <br />

Fernando posted: 2012-11-07 14:40:47

[Edited by moderator. Please post (elaborate) questions on Ask the Expert or on our Forums. If you have questions for the Expatica staff, please contact us directly.]

Sivarao posted: 2013-04-07 12:16:30

[Edited by moderator. Please post (elaborate) questions on Ask the Expert or on our Forums. If you have questions for the Expatica staff, please contact us directly.]

phumi posted: 2013-05-02 19:54:15

[Edited by moderator. Please post (elaborate) questions on Ask the Expert or on our Forums. If you have questions for the Expatica staff, please contact us directly.]

Venkusa posted: 2013-06-01 07:19:01

[Edited by moderator. Please post (elaborate) questions on Ask the Expert or on our Forums. If you have questions for the Expatica staff, please contact us directly.]

JOHN posted: 2013-08-07 14:47:31

[Edited by moderator. Please post (elaborate) questions on Ask the Expert or on our Forums. If you have questions for the Expatica staff, please contact us directly.]

Deb posted: 2014-03-03 03:10:25

What is the point in having a Comments section, when in fact you don't want any comments !!! Each comment here has been moderated/deleted away and sent off to a questions section...Even people's questions can be of interest to others surely.

janet posted: 2014-05-02 11:57:54

yes good question Deb! As for me I would have actually liked some help with getting movers in Geneva to move me a bit further into Switzerland. The only people coming to my rescue are the German Swiss....

muja posted: 2014-06-22 12:16:52

Hallo ich hatte da ne sehr wichtige frage ich lebe in Ostereich und will nun mit meine frau in der schweitz weiter leben also wohnen und arbeiten.Was genau brauch ich datzu oder anders gesagt was fur documente brauche ich um in die schweitz um zu ziehen ? ich bin verheiratet meine frau ist ne Ostereichische stadtsburgerin und ich bin mit en normalen aufhenthaltstitel.

Grusse: Muja.

9 reactions to this article

Howard G posted: 2012-10-26 18:13:27

[Edited by moderator. Please post (elaborate) questions on Ask the Expert or on our Forums. If you have questions for the Expatica staff, please contact us directly.] <br />

Fernando posted: 2012-11-07 14:40:47

[Edited by moderator. Please post (elaborate) questions on Ask the Expert or on our Forums. If you have questions for the Expatica staff, please contact us directly.]

Sivarao posted: 2013-04-07 12:16:30

[Edited by moderator. Please post (elaborate) questions on Ask the Expert or on our Forums. If you have questions for the Expatica staff, please contact us directly.]

phumi posted: 2013-05-02 19:54:15

[Edited by moderator. Please post (elaborate) questions on Ask the Expert or on our Forums. If you have questions for the Expatica staff, please contact us directly.]

Venkusa posted: 2013-06-01 07:19:01

[Edited by moderator. Please post (elaborate) questions on Ask the Expert or on our Forums. If you have questions for the Expatica staff, please contact us directly.]

JOHN posted: 2013-08-07 14:47:31

[Edited by moderator. Please post (elaborate) questions on Ask the Expert or on our Forums. If you have questions for the Expatica staff, please contact us directly.]

Deb posted: 2014-03-03 03:10:25

What is the point in having a Comments section, when in fact you don't want any comments !!! Each comment here has been moderated/deleted away and sent off to a questions section...Even people's questions can be of interest to others surely.

janet posted: 2014-05-02 11:57:54

yes good question Deb! As for me I would have actually liked some help with getting movers in Geneva to move me a bit further into Switzerland. The only people coming to my rescue are the German Swiss....

muja posted: 2014-06-22 12:16:52

Hallo ich hatte da ne sehr wichtige frage ich lebe in Ostereich und will nun mit meine frau in der schweitz weiter leben also wohnen und arbeiten.Was genau brauch ich datzu oder anders gesagt was fur documente brauche ich um in die schweitz um zu ziehen ? ich bin verheiratet meine frau ist ne Ostereichische stadtsburgerin und ich bin mit en normalen aufhenthaltstitel.

Grusse: Muja.

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