Any foreigner arriving in Switzerland for work or education must meet a number of requirements, including a valid travel document accepted in the country, a residence permit and, depending on nationality, a visa. Switzerland distinguishes between residence permits for citizens of other countries and residence permits for citizens of EU/EFTA countries.
Whether pursuing training or additional education, pursuing a profession, or both, a recognition procedure for a foreign diploma can be helpful. Depending on the profession and degree of training, different authorities in Switzerland are in charge of this.
Language skills and integration
If a person wants to work and integrate in Switzerland, they must understand and speak the language of the region in which they live and work. Language courses and exams can be completed in Switzerland or abroad.
For three months out of the year, EU/EFTA citizens who accept a job offer in Switzerland are permitted to remain there without a residence permit. They must, nevertheless, be notified to the relevant authorities.
Gainful employment of more than 3 months
Citizens of EU/EFTA countries must register with the municipality of their place of residence and apply for a residence permit within 14 days of arrival and before starting actual work. The following must be presented: a valid identity card or passport and a written employment confirmation or employment contract outlining the length of employment and the number of hours worked. A residence permit is issued according to the duration of work: a type L permit, i.e. a short-term residence permit for a maximum of 364 working days or a type B permit residence permit for at least one year of work or indefinitely.
The steps necessary for obtaining a residence permit may be taken after arriving in Switzerland.
Croatian citizens who wish to take up gainful employment in Switzerland for more than four months after 1 January 2023 are subject to the safeguard clause. The safeguard clause allows Switzerland to unilaterally reintroduce permit quotas for a limited period of time if immigration from Croatia exceeds a certain threshold.
Which types of permits exist and for how long are they valid?
Type L EU/EFTA short-term residence permit
People holding a contract of employment of less than twelve months duration are issued a type L EU/EFTA permit. The permit is valid until the contract expires, or the posting has ended. Citizens of an EU/EFTA state in employment not exceeding three months do not need a work permit; however, commencement of such employment is subject to online notification by the Swiss employer.
State Secretariat for Migration SEM: Notification procedure for short-term work in Switzerland.
Type B EU/EFTA residence permit
This permit is issued to EU/EFTA citizens holding a contract of employment of twelve months or unlimited duration and people who prove they are genuinely self-employed. Persons not in gainful employment are issued this permit if they can prove that they possess sufficient financial means to support themselves and their family and have taken out adequate accident and health insurance policies. The permit is valid for five years and can be extended.
Students are issued this permit for one year and are granted yearly renewals until the completion of their studies, if they continue to fulfil the respective conditions.
Type G EU/EFTA cross-border commuter permit
Employed or self-employed persons domiciled in an EU/EFTA state and working in Switzerland (place of work or company headquarters) may apply for a cross-border commuter permit. They need to return to their main domicile abroad at least once a week.
Cross-border commuters holding an employment contract of less than one year’s duration are issued with a permit for the period of employment. In employment of twelve months or more, the permit is valid for five years.
Type C EU/EFTA settlement permit
Under agreements concluded with the respective states, citizens from an EU-15/EFTA state who have resided in Switzerland for five continuous years and according to the rules are granted a settlement permit (C-permit). While holders of a settlement permit are entitled to stay for an unlimited period of time, their permanent residence status needs to be confirmed every five years. The free movement agreement does not cover permanent residence. No such agreements with the other EU-states are in force; citizens of states other than those mentioned above are granted a settlement permit after a regular period of ten years.
Non EU/EFTA citizens
Citizens from these countries (third countries) must always apply for a residence permit. As a rule, only well-qualified workers are admitted. In addition, the employer must provide proof that no suitable workers could be recruited in Switzerland or in the EU/EFTA area.
Initial authorisations for gainful employment are subject to a quota set annually by the Federal Council. Further information: State Secretariat for Migration sem.admin.ch > Non EU/EFTA
The aim of EURES, the EURopean Employment Services, is to facilitate the mobility of workers in Europe. They can access a network of more than 900 counsellors thanks to it. They help jobseekers who want to work in an EU or EFTA member state by offering them information, counsel, and support. Likewise, they offer details on living and working conditions, as well as employment prospects, in these nations.
Switzerland joined the EURES network on 1 June 2002 as part of the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons. EURES was set up by the European Commission in 1993.
Plenty of people work in Switzerland but live in neighbouring countries. They need information on labour law, pensions, health and daily allowance insurance and unemployment.
The following websites contain further information: