Work permit in Switzerland
Obtaining a permit to work in Switzerland depends on many factors, including where you are from, the skills you have and quotas.
The requirements for entry into and residence in Switzerland are not the same for citizens of European Union (EU) and European Free Trade Association (EFTA) countries and people from the rest of the world (third countries).
United Kingdom (UK) nationals have come under a special regime since the country left the EU.
Living and working in Switzerland
Citizens of EU and EFTA countries
Thanks to free movement agreements, people from EU and EFTA countries (Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein) have the right to enter, live and work in Switzerland. They are allowed to stay in the country for three months while they look for work. This period can be extended for a further three months (to six months in total) if they apply for a short-term residence permit and prove that they have the necessary financial means to support themselves.
EU/EFTA nationals may work in Switzerland for three months without taking any particular administrative steps. For employment beyond this period, they must apply for a residence permit from the municipality where they are living before they can start work.
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Anyone from these countries who wishes to be self-employed in Switzerland must register their arrival within 14 days and apply for a residence permit from the municipality where they are living.
There is no limit to the number of permits issued to EU/EFTA citizens.
Citizens of third countries
People from outside the EU/EFTA can only come to work in Switzerland if they are “qualified”. This includes executives, specialists and other people with qualifications, in particular university graduates with several years’ professional experience.
They must hold a work permit, even for short-term employment. The administrative formalities are up to the employer, who must also demonstrate that recruiting a third-country national is in Switzerland’s economic interests and that the necessary personnel could not be found on the national or EU/EFTA market. If the employee is due to stay in Switzerland for several years, then their potential to integrate professionally and socially is also taken into account (language skills, age, etc.).
Full integration out of reach for non-European migrants
Obtaining a work permit does not necessarily confer the right to enter Switzerland. Depending on the person’s nationality, a visa may be required.
Each year, the Swiss government sets a maximum number of residence permits that can be issued to workers from third countries.
Since January 1, 2021, the UK is considered as a third country and is subject to the same conditions. However, UK citizens who obtained a right of residence in Switzerland before this date may retain it.
The Swiss government sets specific residence permit quotas for the UK, pending a possible agreement between the two countries on their future migration relations.
L permit: this is a short-term permit issued to foreign nationals who are staying in Switzerland temporarily for a specific purpose, generally for a period of under one year, and who may or may not be gainfully employed.
EU/EFTA nationals are entitled to an L permit upon presenting an employment contract valid for three months to one year. If they meet certain conditions, they may also receive this permit while job hunting.
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B permit: this is a residence permit issued to foreign nationals who are staying in Switzerland permanently for a specific purpose and who may or may not be gainfully employed.
This permit is granted to EU/EFTA nationals who can prove that they have been hired for an indefinite period or for a fixed period of at least one year. It is valid for five years and may be renewed under certain conditions.
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C permit: this is a settlement permit that is issued to foreign nationals after five or ten years’ residence in Switzerland. The conditions for granting it may vary depending on the person’s country of origin, family situation and level of integration. The permit is valid indefinitely.
Ci permit: this is a residence permit with gainful employment that is issued to the families of civil servants of intergovernmental organisations or of members of foreign representations. It applies only to spouses and children up to the age of 25. The permit is valid as long as the principal beneficiary exercises their official duties.
G permit: this is a cross-border commuter permit issued to nationals of EU/EFTA states who are a resident in an EU/EFTA member state and work in Switzerland, but return to their main place of residence abroad at least once a week.
This permit is valid for five years if the employment contract is open-ended or for a fixed period of more than one year. In other cases, it is valid for as long as the employment contract.
For more information on work and residence permits in Switzerland, see:
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