9 October 2020

World map with symbols of people around it and a hand holding it from below

Switzerland is not only popular with tourists, but also attractive for foreign workers. The unemployment rate in Switzerland is low and the wage level and standard of living are high. Companies based in Switzerland - often internationally active - are also increasingly turning to foreign specialists. Especially in the health care and catering sectors, Swiss companies would not function without foreign workers. 

How easy it is for Swiss companies to employ foreign workers in Switzerland depends primarily on their nationality and the duration of their planned employment:

Citizens from EU/EFTA countries

EU/EFTA citizens benefit from a liberal mobility system through the agreement on the free movement of persons. The EFTA states include Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and the Principality of Liechtenstein. 

1. Work for a limited period of up to three months

EU/EFTA citizens are allowed to work in Switzerland without a residence permit for a limited period of 90 days within a calendar year. The maximum period of 90 days within a year applies per business on the one hand and per employee on the other. 

For this purpose, an electronic registration procedure has been set up through which the employer must register the foreign person's employment in Switzerland. This notification must be made at least eight days (and in the case of a new job at the latest one day) before the intended assignment. 

2. Work for a limited period between three and twelve months and up to five years

For employment limited to between three and twelve months, a short-term residence permit (L-permit EU/EFTA) is required. This permit is issued for the duration of the employment relationship by the migration office responsible for the employee's place of residence. 
A residence permit (B-permit EU/EFTA) is required for employment of between one and five years. The permit is issued by the competent migration office for a period of five years if an employment contract is available which is limited to (at least) one year or is of unlimited duration. Self-employed persons who can already prove at the time of application that they will pursue a planned self-employment will also receive a B-permit.

EU/EFTA citizens applying for this permit must register with their municipality of residence within two weeks after their entry into Switzerland and before taking up their employment in Switzerland and submit various documents. 

3. Cross-border commuter permit (G-permit EU/EFTA)

Cross-border commuters are nationals of an EU/EFTA state who work solely in Switzerland but live in an EU/EFTA state. The cross-border commuter may reside in any EU/EFTA state. People with a cross-border commuter permit must return to this place of residence at least once a week. Otherwise, they enjoy professional and geographical mobility. The period of validity of the cross-border commuter permit depends on the duration of the employment contract. It is valid for five years, provided that an employment contract of at least one year's duration is available. 

Citizens from non-EU/EFTA states (so-called third-country nationals)

Non-EU/EFTA citizens (so-called third-country nationals), must always apply for a residence permit if they wish to work in Switzerland. However, such an application will only be successful if the employment of the third-country national is in the overall economic interest of Switzerland; if he/she is a well-qualified employee (university or university of applied sciences degree and several years of professional experience); and if the Swiss employer can prove that no suitable workers could be recruited in Switzerland and the EU/EFTA area. In addition, the employer must guarantee/provide the third-country nationals with wage and working conditions that are customary in the location, profession and industry. Furthermore, the Federal Council sets annual quotas for residence permits for third-country nationals. 

For third-country nationals who wish to work in Switzerland, the following are the most relevant permits:

  • L-permit for temporary assignments of up to one year; 
  • B-permit for work assignments of more than one year, whereby the permit is (initially) limited to one year; 
  • C-permit after five years of regular and uninterrupted residence in Switzerland; 
  • G-permit (cross-border commuter permit) if the third-country national has a permanent right of presence in a neighbouring country and has been resident in the corresponding foreign border zone for at least six months.


Special case: professional internship

Switzerland has concluded so-called Stagiaires Agreements with Argentina, Australia, Canada, Chile, Japan, Monaco, New Zealand, Philippines, Russia, South Africa, Tunisia, Ukraine and the USA.

These agreements enable young professionals up to 35 years of age (Australia, New Zealand and Russia up to 30 years of age), who have completed  their vocational training or studies, to expand their professional (only in the specific profession or field of study) and language skills in Switzerland. Applicants receive a work permit for a maximum of 18 months.

Admission is also open to students from Canada, who must complete an internship during their studies, or to people from Japan with a university of applied sciences or university degree. 

Our immigration team will be happy to answer any questions you may have and provide you with competent support for recruiting foreign workers. 

Co-Author: Dimitra Prandekou

Categories: Immigration

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