Switzerland Visas, Work Permits and Migration
Switzerland is one of the most desirable places for people to live and work. It has an exceptional economy with first class workforce and a politically secure environment. Its citizens enjoy a high standard of living, and the business framework provides an ideal location for innovation allied to financial stability. Switzerland is not a member of the European Union (EU) – however, it is a member of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and part of Europe’s ‘single market.’
As with all countries, there are rules regarding living and working in Switzerland and quotas regarding permits for Third Country Nationals as well as some EU/EFTA citizens. EU and EFTA nationals have freedom of movement which allows them to enter the country to visit, live and to look for work.
Expert help can make life easier and less costly with staff in place and ready to work in days rather than the weeks or months it could take. Bradford Jacobs with its Professional Employer Organization (PEO) specialists and Employer of Record (EOR) platforms, has 20 years’ experience in immigration law and obtaining the correct documentation e.g., residence /work permits and visas as well as all aspects of setting up businesses globally.
What Types of Work Visas, and Permits for Switzerland are there?
Different factors are involved when applying for a permit to live and work in Switzerland including qualifications and quotas. The Residence Permit or “autorisation de séjour” acts as a residence and work permit and is issued as a biometric card.
Switzerland operates a dual system when it comes to employing people from abroad:
- European Union (EU) and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) countries
- All other nationalities (Third Country Nationals, TCNs)
EU and EFTA countries’ nationals have the right of free movement within Switzerland to seek work or establish their own businesses and do not require a visa or work/residence permit to enter the country. However, they should be looking for work and be registered with an employment center with a good chance of finding employment.
TCNs wanting to work in Switzerland, a Biometric Residence/Work Permit is required and a National D Visa for long term stays.
There are also agreements with other countries, giving their citizens the right to enter Switzerland visa-free for 90 days in a 180-day period for visits, cultural or business trips. This depends on the nationality.
Similarly, if foreign nationals have a Schengen visa from another EU country or one of the relevant permits issued by Switzerland, they need not to apply for a tourist visa.
TCNs not exempt however do require a Schengen visa to visit for less than 90 days, which can be applied for online, and a D Visa for more than 90 days that can be applied for in the home country from a local Swiss Embassy or Consulate or their official representative.
System for working in Switzerland:
- EU/EFTA nationals:
- Do not require a visa to enter the country
- Can enter and work for three months (in any calendar year) without a Residence Permit but employers must notify the canton in which the person will be working. If entered before getting a job, they must notify the authorities at the canton within 14 days of arriving. There are 26 cantons in Switzerland
- Require a Residence Permit for longer than three months employment from the canton where the worker is living, before they start work. A local employment contract is required
- An employment offer / contract is required
- A valid entry D (Work) visa
- A work permit/residence permit which is applied for by the employer to the labor market authorities in the relevant canton. The position is offered first to EU/EFTA employees, priority given to Swiss nationals
The relationship between the worker and the company is called ‘Commencements of Work’ and require a job offer and contract with a Swiss registered company.
A Posting (external assignment) is where a person goes to Switzerland to work on a particular project for his company and continues with the contract from the home country.
Permits depend on a number of factors:
- Employee’s nationality: There are different routes for EU/EFTA/TCNs
- Category of employment: Non-EU/EFTA workers need to have certain qualifications or professional experience and fall into one of the following groups:
- University graduates with professional experience
- Language: It may be necessary to speak one of French, German, or Italian
Category of Work / Residence Permits for EU/EFTA Nationals – who have the right of free movement. Local employment contracts are not subject to quota permits.
- Short-term residence permits (L) for 12 months or less. This is generally issued when there is a work contract for between three to 12 months.
- Residence permits (B) for longer than 12 months. Can be valid for five years and provided the employment contracts continues, can be extended for another five years.
- Cross Border Commuters (G) are EU/EFTA citizens who live in an EU country but work in Switzerland.
Category of Residence/ Work Permits for NON – EU/EFTA Nationals
- L: Short term residence permit granted up to 12 months and is determined by the length of the employment contract and under certain conditions can be extended to two years for the same employer.
- B: Residence Permit initially issued for 12 months and can be renewed annually. It may limit where employees reside, and it can depend on changes in circumstances. It is tied to the employer who applies for the permit.
- C: Permanent Residence Permit granted after employee has been employed continuously in Switzerland for 10 years.
Quotas in 2021 for permits (as examples):
- EU/EFTA citizens – Short Term Permit (L) quota 3,000 for service providers and posted workers but does not apply to those EU/EFTA nationals having a local contract
- EU/EFTA citizens – Long Term Permit (B) quota 500 for service providers and posted workers but does not apply to those EU/EFTA nationals having a local contract
- NON-EU/EFTA citizens – Short Term Permit (L) quota 4,000
- NON-EU/EFTA citizens – Long Term Permit (B) quota 4,500
- Must show that this position cannot be filled by a Swiss or EU/EFTA national
- Provide the same working conditions and pay, as local employees
- Need to apply for the appropriate work permit for the employee
- Apply early before quotas run out
- If an employee was granted a work permit that was not used, inform the relevant authority so this can be re-allocated