Residence and work permits in Switzerland
How to apply for a residency or work permit in Switzerland for you and your family.Related Articles
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 five-fold since WWII, compared to a total population increase of 60 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. First, 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.
Second, obtaining a work permit differs according to your place of origin. Switzerland has a dual system for the admission of foreign workers. 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 not subject to quotas. Only a limited number of management-level employees, specialists and other qualified employees are admitted from other countries.
Third, your type of employment (local hire, assignment, period of employment) can determine whether you are granted a work permit.
Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons
In 1999, the EU and Switzerland signed seven two-way agreements including the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons, which began in 2002. The agreement allows Europeans in Switzerland access to the Swiss employment market, regardless of their qualifications. The agreement was later changed to gradually introduce ten new EU member states beginning 2006. Because the agreement is still being implemented, transitional measures still 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 und Liechtenstein) the Free Movement of Persons fully applies.
Work and residence permits issued to citizens of the EU-8 (Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Slovenia) are subject to quotas and additional regulation - unlike citizens of EU member states as restrictions for those EU countries have been lifted, effective 1 May 2011.
The Free Movement of Persons Agreement applies to nationals from Bulgaria and Romania from 1 June 2009.
Labour / Work permits
In general, EU-17/EFTA nationals working in Switzerland may stay in Switzerland without a residence permit for three months (90 days) in a calendar year, although their employer must register them with the Cantonal Labour Office. The employer may go to www.meweb.admin.ch to do this online. It is also possible to obtain a 120-day permit with sporadic in and out trips for all EU nationals including the new Eastern European member states, which are not subject to quotas.
People who work in the construction, hospitality, cleaning, surveillance, security and travelling sales industries must register with the authorities from the first day of their activity, regardless of its duration.
Any non-Swiss national who works in Switzerland for longer than three months requires a permit.
G permit: Cross-border commuter
Workers receive this permit if they are EU/EFTA residents and work in Switzerland. They may stay in Switzerland, but must return abroad at least once a week and register their Swiss residence with the communal authorities. For EU-17/EFTA nationals, no border zones apply; residence can be anywhere in the EU/EFTA and the workplace can be anywhere in Switzerland. For EU-8 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:
EU-8 and other country nationals
Within eight days of arrival and before beginning work, nationals of EU-17/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. You will need the following standard required documents for a work and residence permit application:
In addition, non-EU nationals usually need to provide the competent authorities with a Criminal Record. This document is a compulsory requirement for the work permit and residence application.
While there are similar work permit requirements for nationals of EU-8 and other countries, the Swiss authorities will generally require that you also fulfil the following conditions:
Bringing family members
Family members are defined as spouses, children and grandchildren under the age of 21, and parents and grandparents who are financially supported by the worker. Family members of EU/EFTA employed 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 may work, but must notify the cantonal authorities before doing so.
More informationFederal Office of Immigration, Integration and Emigration