Depending on which citizenship(s) an immigrant to Switzerland holds, immigration regulations differ. In this article we explain everything you need to know or consider about immigrating to Switzerland.

Immigrants with EU/EFTA citizenship

For immigrants from the EU and EFTA states (Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein), the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons also applies within Switzerland. This means that immigrants with EU/EFTA citizenship are generally granted a work permit in Switzerland if they can present a signed Swiss employment contract.

Those who only work in Switzerland for up to 90 days per calendar year do not need a work permit, but must register with the Swiss authorities using the registration procedure.

If there is no Swiss employment contract, but an employee is posted to Switzerland by his employer, a work permit must be applied for if the posting lasts longer than 90 days.

Immigrants from a third country

For those who do not have EU/EFTA citizenship but that of a third country, it is somewhat more difficult to obtain a work permit. Again, an employment contract with a Swiss company is a prerequisite for a work permit. However, in the case of a third-country national, the Swiss employer must be able to prove to the authorities that he has not found a suitable candidate on the Swiss labor market.

Therefore, employees from third countries are often only recruited if they are specialists in their field or if managerial positions are to be filled.
An exception arises when an employee is transferred within the company to a branch or subsidiary.

Depending on the nationality, different entry requirements also apply. This means that in most cases the employee must additionally apply for a visa that entitles him or her to work and reside in Switzerland.

Overview of the different work/establishment passes

Depending on how long an employee stays in Switzerland, there are different work or settlement certificates issued by the immigration authorities. The issuance of the different passes is subject to conditions and there is not always an entitlement to such a pass.

Short-term residence permit
(L permit)

For EU/EFTA nationals, a short-term residence permit (L permit) is issued if the person is staying in Switzerland for a limited period of time and only up to 12 months (with or without gainful employment). The L permit can be extended up to 48 months.

If an employment contract with a Swiss employer is presented in which a temporary employment relationship of between three months and less than one year is documented, the employee is entitled to the L permit.

In principle, L permits can be issued to all EU/EFTA nationals who reside in Switzerland even without gainful employment. It should be noted that the L permit does not entitle the holder to claim social security benefits.

Non-EU/EFTA nationals are only entitled to an L permit in exceptional cases.

Residence permit
(B permit)

For EU/EFTA nationals, the validity period of the B permit is five years; for non-EU/EFTA nationals, one year.

The B permit is issued if an EU/EFTA national can prove permanent employment or temporary employment of at least 365 days.

EU/EFTA citizens who are not gainfully employed receive a B permit if they can prove that they have sufficient financial resources and adequate health and accident insurance.

For non-EU/EFTA nationals, a B permit is only issued if the quota in the canton of residence has not yet been exhausted.

Settlement permit
(C permit)

The C permit entitles the holder to unlimited residence in Switzerland. It can be issued after a person has lived in Switzerland continuously for either five or ten years. Different time limits apply depending on the person’s nationality. For EU/EFTA nationals from the following countries, the C permit is issued after five years:

Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Finland, France, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Austria, Portugal, Sweden, Spain

EFTA: Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway

For nationals from other states, either a five or ten year period applies.

Generally, a C permit is only issued after strict examination of the person. For example, there must be no entry in the criminal record and, depending on the canton, proof of language skills must be provided.

Cross-border commuter permit
(G permit)

A cross-border commuter is an EU/EFTA national who lives abroad in the EU/EFTA and works in Switzerland. The prerequisite is that the employee returns to his or her place of residence abroad at least once a week.

If there is an employment contract that is either indefinite or documents temporary employment of more than one year, the G-card is valid for five years. In the case of employment relationships of shorter duration, the G-card is valid for the duration of the activity.

Non-EU/EFTA nationals are only issued a G permit if they have already lived in the EU/EFTA country for at least six months with a residence permit.

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