Relatives of permanent residents can move to Switzerland, but rules apply. Find out more with our guide to family reunification visas in Switzerland.
If you want to join a relative or as a trailing spouse 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 even more in our guide for EU/EFTA nationals moving to Switzerland.
However, if you’re not an EU/EFTA citizen, only relatives of permanent residents can come to Switzerland under family reunification. Temporary residents must 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 program. If you only hold a temporary residence permit B, however, you cannot do this; however, it may be possible 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.
This guide includes information for those holding different permits:
- Swiss residence permit C
- Swiss residence permit B or L
- If you divorce or if your spouse dies
- More information
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 program. However, they may need a visa to enter Switzerland (see our complete guide Swiss visas and permits). When they arrive, they should go to the cantonal immigration and labor 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 receive a residence permit B with the same duration as yours. Family members can work but before they do so, they must register with the cantonal immigration and labor 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 labor market authorities to apply for family reunification. You can also find the contact details for your specific canton here.
Swiss residence permits B or L
Permit L and Permit B are both short-term residence permits allowing the holder to move to 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 program. However, the cantonal migration authorities may allow you 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 in Switzerland, that you can support everyone financially. Family members means spouse and unmarried children under 18; unmarried/same-sex dependent partners may need to fulfill certain specific criteria. You’ll need to contact the local cantonal authorities in the first instance. You can also find the contact details for your specific canton here.
Your relatives may need a visa to enter the country. You’ll need to apply through a Swiss embassy or consulate. On arrival in Switzerland, they need to go to the cantonal immigration and labor market authorities straightaway to get their residence permit. They will be granted the same residency status as the main permit holder.
If you divorce or your spouse dies
When 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).
In case you have a settlement permit C, spouses and children over 12 may 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 labor 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 as well as the details of the communal authorities.