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4 November 2022

Work and residence permits for Non-EU and EFTA nationals

Due to the constantly growing demand for qualified labor, foreign workers are a cornerstone of Swiss immigration policy. Switzerland as a location is essentially characterized by a high wage level, liberal economic and labor policies, stability, security, as well as the high quality of life.

In our blog post of October 7, 2022 we laid out the prerequisites for gainful employment for EU/EFTA nationals. Here we will discuss the entry requirements for non-EU/EFTA nationals.

While EU/EFTA nationals benefit from easier access to gainful employment through the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons (FMPA) (see blog post of October 7, 2022), non-EU/EFTA nationals (so-called third-country nationals) are only admitted to the Swiss labor market under the strict requirements of the Foreign Nationals and Integration Act (AIG). How to obtain a desired work permit will be explained in more detail below.

Barriers to labor migration

Anyone wishing to be admitted to the Swiss labor market from a non-EU/EFTA country must apply for a residence permit from the relevant cantonal labor market and migration authority before taking up employment. Essentially, there are different admission requirements depending on the planned type of employment:

Paid-employment

In order to be able to work for an employer in Switzerland as a third-country national, it is not the employees themselves but the employer who must submit a permit application in advance. The submission by the employer states that a permit will only be granted for a specific job. However, such an application will only be successful if the following criteria are met:

  • The permit must be in the overall economic interest of Switzerland. This requires in particular the consideration of the current labor market situation as well as the future and sustainable economic development.
  • Only qualified workers are admitted to gainful employment. This includes, in particular, managers, specialists with a master's degree or a degree from a university of applied sciences and several years of professional experience.
  • Employees from third countries can only be employed if it is proven that the vacant position cannot be filled with suitable domestic or EU/EFTA employees despite search efforts (so-called national priority).
  • The employer must comply with the wage conditions customary in the location, profession and industry. In particular, the amount of compensation must be customary for the profession and industry. This serves to ensure the equal treatment of foreign and domestic employees.
  • There must still be free capacity in the quota (determined by the Federal Council). The maximum number of immigrants for gainful employment purposes is determined annually on the basis of economic and labor market indicators.

Posting

Special rules apply to third-country nationals who are employed by an employer abroad and are posted to Switzerland for a limited period of time, usually on a project basis, to perform work on the employer's behalf and for the employer's account. In this case, too, the permit can only be applied for by the foreign employer. However, a prior period of employment of at least one month with the foreign employer is required for approval.

For the granting of the work permit, the requirements are similar to those for employed persons but the criterion of priority for nationals is waived, since the posted workers are only temporarily in Switzerland and return to their home country after their assignment.

Self-employment

Self-employed persons are all persons who work under their own name and for their own account, are under their own authority and bear the entrepreneurial risk themselves. Third-country nationals who wish to pursue such gainful employment must apply for a permit, which requires meeting the following conditions:

  • The permit must be in the overall economic interest of Switzerland. This is usually the case if a service is offered for which there is a high demand and for which there is no excess supply.
  • From a financial point of view, the activity must be expected to generate enough income to cover all the person's operating and living costs.
  • From an operational point of view, the equipment and/or business premises required for the gainful activity must be available or be able to be procured by the time the gainful activity commences. This requires sufficient start-up capital.
  • The self-employed person must be a qualified worker (i.e. with a master's degree or a degree from a university of applied sciences and several years of professional experience).
  • There must still be free capacity in the quota (set by the Federal Council). The maximum number of immigrants for gainful employment purposes is determined annually on the basis of economic and labor market indicators.

If you have any questions about work and residence in Switzerland, our immigration team will be happy to help.

Authors: Urs Haegi, Jeannine Dehmelt and Christian Ammann

Category: Immigration

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