Moving to Switzerland to join a relative or partner
Relatives of Swiss permanent residents can move to Switzerland to join family but temporary residents need special permission from their local cantonal authority.
If you want to join a relative or partner living in Switzerland, different conditions apply for citizens who are from a country in the European Union or European Free trade Association (EFTA) (EU countries plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland). Read more in our guide for EU/EFTA nationals moving to Switzerland.
If you are not an EU/EFTA citizen, only relatives of permanent residents have the right to come to Switzerland under family reunification, but temporary residents will have to get special permission from their local cantonal authorities to bring family to Switzerland.
This means that if you hold a Swiss settlement permit C your family can join you in Switzerland under the family reunification programme but if you only hold a temporary residence permit B you are not entitled to do this, however it may be allowed under certain circumstances. It’s up to the local cantonal migration authorities to decide whether to allow your family to come to Switzerland or not.
If you hold a Swiss residence permit C
The Swiss residence permit C allows permanent residency in Switzerland after 10 years’ continuous residence (or five years for US and Canadian citizens).
If you hold a permit C (settlement permit), you can bring your spouse or registered partner and any children under the age of 18 to live with you in Switzerland as part of the family reunification programme. They may need a visa to enter Switzerland (see our complete guide to Swiss visas and permits). When they arrive, they should go to the cantonal immigration and labour market authorities with the following documents:
- a valid passport or travel ID (with a visa if necessary);
- certificate of marriage, registered partnership or birth (as appropriate);
- a letter from the authorities in the country of origin confirming that you will be supporting financially any dependents.
Your spouse or partner and children between 12 and 18 years of age will be issued with a residence permit B with the same duration as your own settlement permit. Family members can work but before they do so, they must register with the cantonal immigration and labour market authorities.
After five years’ continuous residence in Switzerland, your relatives will be granted a settlement permit C. Children under 12 will be issued with a settlement permit straightaway.
Contact the cantonal immigration and labour market authorities to apply for family reunification. Find the contact details for your specific canton here.
If you hold a Swiss residence permit B or L
Permit L and Permit B are both short-term or temporary residence permits allowing the holder to stay in Switzerland for up to a year; L can be renewed for up to two years while B can be renewed annually.
Neither permit grants the holder the automatic right to bring family members to Switzerland under the family reunification programme. However, the cantonal migration authorities may allow you to do so if you can prove that you have enough living space for the entire family to live together and, if you are self-employed or not working, that you can support everyone financially. Family members means spouse and unmarried children under 18; unmarried/same-sex dependent partners may need to fulfil certain specific criteria. You’ll need to contact the local cantonal authorities in the first instance. Find the contact details for your specific canton here.
Your relatives may need a visa to enter the country (see our complete guide to Swiss visas and permits). You’ll need to apply through the Swiss embassy or consulate in your home country. On arrival in Switzerland, they will need to go to the cantonal immigration and labour market authorities to get their residence permit. They will be granted the same residency status as the main permit holder.
If you get divorced or your spouse dies
If you have a residence permit type B, then your permit may be extended after a death or divorce so long as the marriage lasted at least three years in Switzerland, you all lived together as a family unit, and that you have integrated well into Swiss society, or if there are any special reasons why you cannot return to your home country (persecution for example).
If you have a settlement permit C then spouses and children over 12 years of age have the right to settle in Switzerland.
For more information
Federal Office for Migration (FOM): the Swiss government’s official site for information on all aspects of immigration to Switzerland.
+41 58 465 11 11 | Monday to Friday: 9–11am and 2–4pm.
Cantonal authorities: Each canton has its own cantonal immigration and labour market authorities that issue permits and will be able to provide detailed information on the application procedures. Find the contact details of your specific Swiss canton for information. Click here for the addresses of all the cantonal authorities, for online access via their websites and for the details of the communal authorities.
The information given here is for guidance only and you should seek specific advice from the Federal Office for Migration (FOM) or the Swiss embassy or consulate in your home country.
Need advice? Post your question on Expatica's free Ask the Expert service to see if we can help.
Updated from 2012.
Comment here on the article, or if you have a suggestion to improve this article, please click here.