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What You Need to Know About Relocate to Switzerland

It takes a minimum of three months to process the visas and work permits you need to work in Switzerland. You would first need to apply at your country’s Swiss consulate then wait for a notice from the Federal Office for Migration on whether or not your application has been approved. Citizens of EU countries can work in Switzerland for up to 90 days a year without needing a permit. However, your employer must register your employment with the cantonal office and you must inform them of your plans. You must also be enrolled in either a French, German, or Italian language course to be granted any visa.

Visa and Work Permits

Regardless of whether you are an EU or EFTA citizen, anyone wishing to reside in Switzerland for more than 90 days must obtain a residence permit. You will need a Swiss work visa if you want to be allowed to work in Switzerland. The Swiss work visa is a long-stay visa, also known as national or D-visa. It allows the holder to work in Switzerland for the duration indicated in the visa. Different sets of rules apply for EU or EFTA citizens and non-EU or EFTA citizens.

Eligibility Criteria for a Swiss Work Visa

As a non-EU or EFTA citizen, you are allowed to apply for a work visa if you meet the following conditions:

  • You are a skilled and qualified worker with a university degree, several years of work experience, and specific expertise.
  • You already have a job waiting for you in Switzerland.
  • There is no one available from the EU/EFTA who could take the job.
  • The annual quotas for Swiss work visas allow it.

You can simultaneously apply for a work visa while your employer applies for your residence permit.

How to Apply for a Swiss Work Visa

  • Find a job in Switzerland
  • Complete the Swiss work visa document file
  • Your employer applies for your residence permit in Switzerland
  • You apply for the Switzerland work visa in your country

Completing the Swiss Visa Document File

Applying for a Swiss work visa requires that you visit the Swiss embassy in your own country to schedule an appointment. You personally need to fill out the application and pay the non-refundable application fee. You will need to submit three copies of each document for processing.

These documents include:

  • Three completed and signed long-stay visa application forms in either German, French, Italian, Spanish or English. You can either find the form in your local Swiss consulate or online
  • Valid passport with at least two blank pages. It must have been issued within the last 10 years and be valid for a minimum of three months after you intend to leave Switzerland
  • Three copies of the relevant pages in your passport (pages 1-4 and the last page showing the issue and expiry date as well as copies of all previous visas)
  • Four recent and biometric passport size pictures
  • Your employment contract
  • Proof of your professional employment or practice
  • Copies of your qualifications (diplomas, certificates, etc.)
  • Details about your previous education, such as subjects, grades, and the dates you attended the university
  • Your CV
  • All documents that are not in German, French, Italian, or English must be translated.

Applying for the Work Visa

After securing a job in Switzerland, the Swiss visa application process is as follows:

  • Your employer applies for a residence permit on your behalf at the local cantonal employment services. There are no separate work and residence permits in Switzerland, as you can be gainfully employed with a residence permit.
  • Your employer has to prove to the cantonal authorities that there were no suitable candidates from the EU or EFTAA for the job. They will then review your application and refer it to the Federal Office for Migration (FOM) for approval. Their decision will be based on your age, language skills and how well they think you will be able to adapt to Swiss culture.
  • While your employer applies for your Swiss residence permit, you need to apply for a Swiss work visa also known as a long-stay or a national visa, from your home country. A long-stay (national) visa is usually issued to most non-EU or non-EFTA nationals in order to be able to enter Switzerland.
  • You, your employer and the cantonal offices, will be alerted once the FOM has decided on your application for a residence permit. A favorable result from the FOM means that the cantonal offices may now inform and coordinate with the Swiss embassy/consulate.
  • The Swiss embassy in your country will then issue your Swiss work visa. You may then leave for Switzerland and are given 14 days to register at the Resident’s Registry Office through the local cantonal migration offices.
  • Lastly, collect your Swiss residency permit. You are now officially allowed to live and work in Switzerland.

Citizens from the EU and EFTA countries can freely enter Switzerland for up to three months without a visa. However, staying and working for longer than three months requires applying for the corresponding permit. Namely, a residence permit that also allows you to work. It is easier for EU and EFTA citizens to apply for a residency permit as there is no restriction to the number of visas that Switzerland issues to EU and EFTA immigrants.

Types of Residence Permits

  • Permit L

Permit L for short-term residence may be used up to one year and is tied to the terms of an employment contract. This means exclusively working for that specific company or employer. Extensions may be granted for another year in certain cases, but one cannot stay longer than two years with a Permit L.

  • Permit B

Just like Permit L, Permit B is issued for a one year stay but may be renewed annually. However, you can only work for the same employer and cannot leave your canton with this type of permit. It is called an initial residence permit because once you have lived in Switzerland continuously for 10 years with a Permit B, you become eligible for a permanent residence permit or a Permit C.

  • Permit C

Once you have lived in Switzerland for ten continuous years, you are now eligible to apply for a permanent Swiss residence. This time, Permit C allows you to work for any employer, change jobs as you like and live anywhere in Switzerland. Permit C is also the only type of Swiss residence permit which allows you to become self-employed.

Switzerland has 26 cantons which have the authority to issue residence permits to foreigners who want to live there. The required documents when applying for a residence permit may vary from canton to canton.

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