How to obtain a permit in Switzerland? What are the related conditions and procedures? Find out in this article.
Regardless of your nationality, you will always need a work permit or resident permit if you wish to work in Switzerland. Indeed, local authorities have set up different variants of the work permit for citizens of the European Union, as well as those coming from non-European countries. Obviously, conditions applied depend on many certain factors, such as your nationality, your level of qualifications, skills and recommendations from your employer, etc. As regards certain activities, including medical, catering and education fields, you will have to take part in a supplementary examination, which means that you have to follow three additional years of studies at your own expenses.
You are therefore advised to inquire with Swiss authorities in your home country before starting. Note that work permits are usually issued by cantonal authorities, taking into account federal quotas which now amount to some 7,000 in total for all categories. This quota primarily aims at encouraging local companies to hire the local qualified and skilled workforce.
Good to know:
Your family members, namely your spouse and your less than 21 years old children or other dependents, can also settle with you in Switzerland with you once you have obtained your work permit.
Nationals of the EU and EFTA
In general, nationals of the European Union and of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) are allowed to make a three-month stay in Switzerland without having obtained an employment contract, in accordance with a free movement agreement which came into force in 2002. This agreement allows you to travel to Switzerland to look for a job or to perform an independent activity. However, you will have to choose from different types of permits according to the purpose of your stay, namely the L EU/ EFTA permit, the B EU/ EFTA permit, the C EU/ EFTA permit and the G EU/ EFTA permit.
The L EU/ EFTA permit:
The L EU/ EFTA permit is a short-term permit which is generally valid for 3 to 12 months, depending on the validity of your employment contract. It applies to EU and EFTA nationals whose employment contract has a less than one year duration and allows you to change your place of residence, as well as your employer. As regards those who have not yet been hired, they are required to register with the communal authorities before starting their job search, that is within 15 days following their arrival in Switzerland.
Good to know:
Nationals of former EU countries and of the EFTA countries do not require a permit to work in Switzerland for less than 90 days. The same applies to those who are sent to Switzerland by a European company. They simply have to report to the communal authorities upon their arrival.
The B EU/ EFTA permit:
The B EU/ EFTA permit is a stay permit that allows you to live in Switzerland for a specified period, either for a more than 12 months stay or for an indefinite period, provided you have an employment contract. This permit is valid for 5 years and is renewable for a similar period, except in cases of changes regarding your employment contract. If you remain unemployed for more than a year, the renewal of your residence permit may be limited to a year only.
Good to know:
Unemployed and self-employed European nationals are also eligible for a residence permit in Switzerland provided they have sufficient funds to support themselves and they have the means to prove it.
The C EU/ EFTA permit:
The C EU/ EFTA permit is a resident permit with unlimited duration. It allows nationals of former EU/ EFTA member countries to settle in Switzerland after having spent more than 5 years without interruption in the country. Nationals of the EU are eligible to the same provided they intend to stay in Switzerland for at least 10 years.
The G EU/ EFTA permit:
Finally, the G EU/ EFTA permit, which is intended for border workers, allows them to reside and work in Switzerland, provided they go back home at least once a week.
Nationals of non-EU countries
Terms and conditions regarding the work permits for nationals of non-EU countries are more restrictive. Indeed, they must have obtained an employment contract and a work permit before settling in Switzerland. However, having obtained an employment contract does not guarantee obtaining a work permit. Moreover, you will be eligible for a work permit provided the qualifications and skills you have are required and are not available locally, including in the EU and EFTA region. Note that the number of available permits is very limited.
Good to know:
You have more chances of obtaining a work permit if you are a specialist, and/or you are highly qualified, as in the case of managers, teachers (under certain conditions), which implies that you have university qualifications, supported by successful professional experience. Knowledge of one of the languages that are spoken in Switzerland is also a considerable asset.
There are different types of work permits for nationals of non-EU countries, namely the L permit, the B permit and the C permit.
The L permit:
The L permit is a short-term permit allowing a non-EU to work in Switzerland for less than a year. However, its validity varies according to that of the employment contract, and can reach up to 24 months provided you do not change your employer during this period. Note that the L permit also applies to those wishing to perform an internship in Switzerland as part of their vocational or continuous training.
The B permit:
The B permit, for its part, is a resident permit (limited in number) which allows non-EU nationals to make a minimum of one year stay in Switzerland. This permit can be renewed each year in the absence of an opposition (social or legal). It is issued in the canton where you have settled and does not allow you to change your workplace. Moreover, income tax for holders of the B permit is deducted at source.
The C permit:
Finally, the C permit is a resident permit to which you may be eligible after making a stay of at least 10 years in Switzerland without interruption. In the case of Canadian and American nationals, they are eligible to this permit after completing a 5 years stay in the country. Once you have obtained your resident permit, you are free to change employer and even your place of residence. Moreover, income tax will not be deducted at source.
Note that the C permit is subject to the federal confederation's approval although it is issued by cantonal authorities.
Formalities to be filled in during the application for a work permit in Switzerland for non-EU nationals vary according to conditions regarding their resident permit. Thus, if you are hired by a Swiss employer who manages to justify the fact that the qualifications and skills that you have are not available locally and in the EU and EFTA region, the latter will take care of all procedures related to obtaining the permit before your arrival. Documents will then be transferred to the Swiss embassy or consulate in your home country.
Thereafter, you are required to report to the communal authorities within 14 days following your arrival in Switzerland. Documents to be produced are the following:
- your valid passport
- your ID card
- birth certificate (and marriage certificate if applicable)
- passport-size identity photos
- your employment contract
- proof of health insurance.
Other documents may also be requested. It is best to inquire with the communal authorities first.
Good to know:
Processing may vary between three weeks to several months, depending on your file's strength, that is, if you have provided all required documents and no special or advance research is required.