Overview of the different work permits in Switzerland

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Obtaining a Swiss work permit depends on a variety of factors, including your nationality, your employment status, your marital status and where you are living (or plan to live). It is important to note that the rules are also not exactly the same between the Cantons, which are the authorities issuing the work permits. However, if for most of you this step will not be a real challenge in your journey, for others (e.g. non-EU citizens) it can require a little more effort. Let’s dive into the topic step by step.

Do you need a work permit in Switzerland ?

If you are a citizen from the European Union (EU-27) or European Free trade Association (EFTA), the conditions that applies for you are different than for non-EU and non-EFTA citizen. In brief, citizen from the EU-27 and EFTA countries have an easier access to eh Swiss labour market under the conditions of the Free Movement of Persons Agreement. On the other hand, only a limited numbers of workers from the other countries are admitted, depending if their management levels, their skills and their qualifications matches the needs of the Swiss labour market.

Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, Germany, Estonia, Finland, France, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Austria, Poland, Portugal, the Czech Republic, Romania, Sweden, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Hungary, the United Kingdom and Cyprus.

Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland (of course!)​

If you are from the EU-27 or EFTA countries and you are working for a maximum of 90 days (3 months) in Switzerland, in principle, you can exercise gainful activity in Switzerland without a work permit. You only need to follow the online announcement procedure. However if you are on this webpage, you are probably considering settle in Switzerland for a longer period than the above. In that case, you will definitively need a work permit.

What are the different work permit in Switzerland ?
As a UE-27 / EFTA citizen, you can apply for one of the below work permits:
PermitDescriptionConditionsValidity
BFor people who have found a job in Switzerland and want to live in Switzerland.​Obtain a signed work contract (or at least a signed promise to hire)​ for at least one year.5 years
CFor people who have a job in Switzerland and who live in the country.5 year minimum residency in Switzerland (usually under a B permit).Unlimited (with conditions)
GFor people who have found a job in Switzerland and live in another European country.Obtain a signed work contract (or at least a signed promise to hire)​ for at least 4 months.5 years, unless the contract is below 1 year (in this case, limited by contract).
LFor people who have found a job in Switzerland and want to live in Switzerland. for less than one year.Obtain a signed work contract (or at least a signed promise to hire)​ for at least 4 months.Fixed by contract
< 1 year

For the rest of the world, the requirements are a little different. The State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) mentions in one of its brochure that “if you […] would like to work in Switzerland, you may only do so if you are highly qualified“. Highly qualified as per the SEM means that, ideally, you:

  • Are a manager, a specialist or a skilled professional with several years of experience
  • Have a degree from higher-education

Also, as it depends on quotas, your future employer must prove to the administration that he is not able to find on the local Swiss employment market a suitable candidate. If you are experienced enough or a specialist in your field, this requirement should not be the hardest to meet.

However, apart from the above, the work permits categories are similar to the UE-27 / EFTA citizens, with some additional conditions depending on your country of origin. For greater details on that matter, please refer to the State Secretariat for Migration website.

How to apply for a Work Permit ?

As mentioned earlier, the cantons are responsible of the Swiss work permit. However, though the requirements may vary from canton to canton, the below documents are generally needed :

  • a photocopy of your passport / national ID card;
  • copies of job advertisements for the job you applied;
  • evidence of any other effort to get work in Switzerland;
  • a copy of your resume;
  • copies of qualifications (certificates or diplomas). Please note that you need to present a copy of those document in one of the following languages: German, French, Italian, or English. If needed, you will need a translation made by an official translator;
  • details about the university/place of higher education where you have your diploma from.
And then what ?

Once all the documentation has been submitted and reviewed by the authorities, the State Secretariat of Migration will write to you, your employer and the canton with their decision. If their decision is positive, the cantonal office where you applied will inform the Swiss embassy or consulate from your actual place of residence to issue your visa.

You are now free to come to Switzerland !

 

You will then have 14 days, starting on the date you arrive in Switzerland, to  register with the Residents’ Registry Office through the local cantonal migration offices. Once registered, only then you will be able to finally get your residence permit which will arrive by mail within a few days / weeks. You can usually start working before obtaining the work permit document, as there is a delay between the decision of the State Secretariat of Migration and the issuance of the official document. In case of any doubt, you can contact the local migration office of your future canton to get support (find the list here).

 

So, how easy was that ?! 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Active professional working in Switzerland since 2016, Guillaume is a French national who lives in Geneva. While he was struggling to find the information he needed to move, it is only after receiving questions from his friends willing to join him in Switzerland that he decided to start this website.

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WHAT YOU WILL FIND

 

On work-in-switzerland.com, you will find all the information you need to make your move to Switzerland successful in three simple steps:

 

Plan Ahead : discover what it takes to land a job, get information on work permits, salaries, local taxes and prepare your battle plan !

 

Move smart : use our moving checklist to find a flat, win over the administrative burden and master all other steps required for a smooth installation !

 

Enjoy like a local : once settled, live the moment like a true Swiss and put into practice all the tips and tricks that we have compiled for you to become a true Swiss local !

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