Visas & Permits for Switzerland

If you are planning to go working to Switzerland, you will definitely need a Swiss visa or a work permit. However, obtaining a Swiss visa or permit may be quite a tough task to do, especially in the view of the migration crisis. The number of permits/visas granted to work immigrants has been always limited, and it was reduced even more after the outbreak of the European immigration crisis.

Typically, there are different kinds of work permits allocated to the citizens of the EU/EFTA (European Free Trade Association that includes the EU countries, Iceland, Switzerland, Norway, and Liechtenstein) and to the citizens from third countries. This means that the number of permits is different and separate for each of the kinds of work permits.

However, the Swiss government reduced the quotas of annually granted work permits by 1,000 for each of the types. Moreover, even further tightening of the rules is expected, such as stricter rules on Swiss visa or work permit extension, higher requirements for salary, and a better scrutiny of applications.

Residence permits for the citizens of the EU/EFTA countries

If you are an EU or EFTA citizen, you are able to enter the country without any obstacles, yet you will have a need to get registered in order to work. Anyone who wants to stay more than 90 days within Switzerland must go to the Registry Office of Residents in his/her canton and apply for a residence (work permit). You should apply for the permit within 14 days after the arrival to the country.

swiss visa

The citizens of the EU countries are able to stay within Switzerland for 90 days without registration, if they don’t look for a job

If you need a residence permit for other purposes than working (such as studying, retiring, or spending time with your family), you must also apply for a residence permit, but the one of non-working purposes. In order to get a residence permit, you will have to provide proofs that you have enough money for supporting your stay in Switzerland financially. Also, you will have to provide respective documents about your accident and health insurance – it must be necessarily a contract with a Swiss (exactly with a Swiss one!) insurance company. Those people who go to Switzerland for studying must also provide a certificate or a document that they have been accepted by a particular university.

Swiss visa and residence permits for the citizens of the third countries

In order to receive a right to work in Switzerland for a citizen of the third country, one has to get an authorization to work in the country along with a special residence permit. Besides, it does not matter whether your work is paid or not, whether it is the Swiss-based company or not – you must obtain such documents in order to be able to work in Switzerland.

If you have obtained a Swiss visa (a tourist one, for example), entered the country, and started searching for a job, you might be deported, since it is prohibited by the Swiss law. In order to find a job in Switzerland, you must look for it while being in your home country. So if you have entered the country, you have to return home and apply for a job from there.

swiss work permit

In order to enter the country with a purpose of work, residents of the third countries should look for a job while staying in a home country

After you found a job in Switzerland, your employer – on your behalf – must apply for authorization for granting you a Swiss visa (a work visa) to the authorities of Switzerland. At the same time, you must apply for an entry visa to Switzerland while staying in your home country. You will get a residence permit and permit for work after arriving to Switzerland.

However, students as well as relatives or family members of holders who were granted settlement permits are able to work without having a work permit, yet they must notify authorities about their economic activities.

Types of residence permits for the citizens of the EU/EFTA countries

Type C settlement permits for the citizens of the EU/EFTA countries. These permits allow you to stay within the country during any period of time, though the settlement permits have to be renewed every five years. The citizens of Sweden, Norway, Luxembourg, Iceland, Ireland, the United Kingdom, Finland, Spain, Portugal, Austria, the Netherlands, Italy, Greece, Liechtenstein, France, Denmark, Germany, and Belgium are able to get a settlement permit after living in Switzerland for 5 consecutive years.

Type G cross-border commuter permit for the citizens of the EU/EFTA countries. This kind of a permit is given to people who work in Switzerland, yet who live in their home countries. You have to cross the border with Switzerland at least once per week. If the duration of your employment contract is less than 12 months, this permit is valid during the period of your contract. If the duration of your employment contract is more than 12 months, then this permit is valid for 5 years.

swiss permits

There are different types of Swiss work permits that can be handed to the citizens of both the EU and third countries

Type B residence permit for the citizens of the EU/EFTA countries. This type of permits is given to the people who have an employment contract signed for longer than 12 months and for self-employed people. In order to get this permit, you need to provide evidence that you have enough money to support your stay. This kind of permits is also typically given to students on the annual basis and, then, extended every year.

Type L short-term residence permit for the citizens of the EU/EFTA countries. These permits have been created for those whose employment contracts last less than 12 months. The permit is valid during the same period as the contract.

Type Ci permit for the citizens of the EU/EFTA countries. This permit is granted to the workers of consulates, embassies, international organizations.

Types of residence permits for the citizens of the third countries

Permit Type C. This is a settlement permit, which is typically granted to people who have been living for over 10 years in the country. The citizens of Canada and the US are required to live only 5 years to be eligible to apply for this permit.

Permit Type B. It is a temporary permit for residence, which is typically valid for one year, yet which can be extended without a problem, if the conditions remain same (your workplace, salary, etc.).  The permits of this type are issued according to quotas, which are published on the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Typically, permits type B do not allow to go beyond the canton of residence.

Permit Type L. This is a short-term (up to 12 months) residence permit, allowing you to work in Switzerland. It can be extended – though, it happens rarely – if you continue working for the same company, but for a period of no longer than a year.

Applying for a Swiss visa or work permit

If you want to apply for a work permit, you will be required to have the following documents:

  • Your CV (Lebenslauf);
  • Copies of all your diplomas, certifying your qualifications, and translations of those copies in English, Italian, French, or German;
  • Details about your higher education and the university;
  • Proofs of your efforts to get another work than in Switzerland;
  • Copies of work ads (either online or press);
  • A copy of your page of ID data or passport.

Useful sources

When applying for a Swiss visa or work permit, the following sources might stand in good stead for you:

Federal Department of Foreign Affairs

Cantonal Immigration and Labor Market Authorities

State Secretariat for Migration

State Secretariat for Economic Affairs