Cross-border commuters from the EU/EFTA, to whom the Agreement between the Swiss Confederation, of the one part, and the European Community and its Member States, of the other, on the Free Movement of Persons ("AFMP") applies, enjoy professional and geographical mobility and are not subject to border zones. As a cross-border commuter, they can therefore pursue gainful employment anywhere in Switzerland and must return once a week to their place of residence abroad.
In contrast, the Foreign Nationals and Integration Act ("FNIA") applies to cross-border commuters from third-countries. Due to the AFMP, this cross-border commuter permit has only marginal significance and is only applied in certain cases. What do third-country nationals need to consider when applying for a cross-border commuter permit and what conditions must they meet?
Requirements for obtaining a cross-border commuter permit
The cross-border commuter permit is issued for the exercise of gainful employment in a border zone. The following conditions must be met: The cross-border commuter applying for a permit must live in one of the border zones of Switzerland's four neighboring countries, but does not have the nationality of his or her country of residence or of another EU or EFTA state. Border zones are the regions defined in the cross-border commuter agreements concluded between Switzerland and its neighboring countries. The person in question must have a permanent right of residence of one of these neighboring countries and have been resident in the neighboring border zone for at least six months. In principle, a permanent right of residence exists if it can be extended, which usually also applies to short-term residence permits. Cross-border commuters must be gainfully employed within the border zones of Switzerland and must return to their place of residence abroad at least once a week in accordance with the FNIA. In practice, however, cross-border commuters usually return to their place of residence every day, mainly because of the lower cost of living in the neighboring countries.
The provisions on quotas, on special professional qualifications and on housing requirements do not apply to the granting of a cross-border commuter permit. A sustainable integration into the Swiss labor market is also not required, since the permit does not entitle the holder to permanent residence in Switzerland. However, wage and working conditions as well as the rules on precedence for Swiss nationals apply to the employment of cross-border commuters. The practice of the cantonal employment offices is strict regarding the priority of Swiss nationals, especially in the hospitality sector.
Cantonal and job changes as a cross-border commuter
If cross-border commuters wish to move the main focus of their employment to the border zone of another canton, they require a permit from the new canton in advance. It is also possible for people with a cross-border commuter permit to change jobs if the conditions of precedence for Swiss nationals and the wage and working conditions are met. If the person in question has been employed for five years without interruption, he or she is entitled to the change of canton or job. However, the change from an employed to a self-employed activity requires an overall economic interest and the fulfilment of the necessary financial and operational requirements.
Extension of the cross-border commuter permit
The cross-border commuter permit is limited to one year, but can be extended upon request. If the applying cross-border commuter has been in gainful employment for five years without interruption, there is a legal right to an extension, which is granted for a further two years in each case in accordance with the Dispatch on the Federal Act on Foreign Nationals. The exact wording of the law needs to be carefully noted, however, as the entitlement to an extension is made dependent on the absence of grounds for revocation in accordance with art. 62 para. 1 FNIA – e.g. conviction to a long custodial sentence, threat to public security and order.
Do you have further questions about the requirements for obtaining a cross-border commuter permit as a third-country national? Our Immigration Team will be happy to advise you.