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How to Get a Switzerland Work Visa & Work Permit: Requirements & Procedure

Key Takeaways

  • A work visa in Switzerland is relatively complex for applicants outside the EU/EFTA, as an employer must satisfy the authorities that the job is unsuitable for an EU/EFTA applicant. 
  • The process for non-EU/EFTA applicants is relatively complex, with local governments (cantons), the Swiss federal government, and Swiss Embassies/Consulates all having a hand in the decision. 
  • When applying for a Switzerland work visa, it is worth considering whether a specialist visa support or recruitment agency might be helpful to guide you through the bureaucracy.

Switzerland is one of the most economically successful countries in the world. This, coupled with high salaries, low-income tax, and a high standard of living, makes Switzerland a significant destination for international employees

As Switzerland is not a member of the EU (though it is a member of the European Common Market and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA)), the work visa rules in Switzerland can be somewhat different than elsewhere in Europe. This means that it is crucial for all businesses considering sponsoring a work visa in Switzerland to consider the applicable rules and regulations carefully. The same goes for those interested in applying for such a visa. 

Here, we look in detail at the requirements for Switzerland work visas and the steps you need to go through to acquire them. 

It is worth noting that, even though Switzerland is not an EU member, bilateral treaties generally give EU citizens the right to work in Switzerland (except Croatia), which is under temporary restrictions). 

What are the different types of Switzerland work visa?

There are several types of work visas available in Switzerland, each with its own specific pre-requisites.

  • The work visa for non-EU/EFTA applicants is only available for “highly qualified individuals” (e.g., specialist workers and managers), and generally speaking, those who have degrees/technical qualifications and significant work experience. A job offer must be in hand, and the sponsoring employer must be able to show that no EU/EFTA applicant could be found for the role. Note also, that there are annual quotes for these visas. 
  • The short-term work and residence permit is for EU/EFTA applicants who are coming to Switzerland for a short period of time. The permit is valid for up to 12 months and can be issued for several different purposes, including seasonal work, cross-border commuters, and trainees. Note, where employment is for less than 90 days in a calendar year, no visa is required at all (though the employer must register the employment here). The application is made to the local Swiss canton. 
  • The L permit is for EU/EFTA citizens who are coming to Switzerland for work but may not yet have a long-term job offer. The permit is valid for one year and allows the holder to look for work in Switzerland during this time.
  • The B permit is similar to the L Permit, but it allows EU/EFTA nationals to reside in Switzerland for up to five years, renewable. Applicants need either a long-term/indefinite contract of employment, or to be able to show that they have the financial means and necessary insurance to support themselves on an ongoing basis. 
  • The C permit is for EU/EFTA applicants who have lived in Switzerland for at least 5-10 years.  It allows the holder to live and work in Switzerland indefinitely and is hence known as the ‘settlement permit’. It is the equivalent of what is often called ‘permanent residence’ in other countries. 
  • The G permit is for cross-border commuters (e.g., from Germany or Italy) and allows applicants to work in Switzerland for five years, renewable, as long as they return to their country each day (or at least once per week). 

What is the process for applying for a work visa in Switzerland?

The process for applying for a work visa in Switzerland differs depending on the specific type of work visa that is being applied for, as well as the skills and experience of the applicant. However, generally speaking, the process proceeds as follows:

  • Job offer — applicants from outside the EU/EFTA must have a valid job offer from a Swiss employer. 
  • The employer applies for a residence permit with the local canton (the Swiss equivalent of a province or state). The employer must prove that no Swiss, EU or EFTA citizen was suitable.
  • The local canton forwards the application to the Federal Office for Migration, who will make the final decision as to whether the applicant should get the residence permit.
  • Visa application form submission by the candidate to the Embassy or Consulate in their location.  
  • The accompanying documents for the application themselves, including multiple copies of the passport, multiple copies of the job offer and employment contract, and proof of qualifications and work experience. 
  • Fees need to be paid before the application will be processed.
  • The Federal Office for Migration makes a decision on the residence application and forwards this decision to the Embassy/Consulate.
  • A visa decision by the Embassy or Consulate will be confirmed by mail or email and generally be received soon after federal government approval. 
  • When entering Switzerland, employees have 14 days to register their arrival at their local cantonal office. 
New credit card format for European (EU-EFTA) residence permits
New Credit Card Format for European (EU-EFTA) Swiss Residence Permits

Applying for a Switzerland Work Visa — help is at hand

Applying for a Switzerland work visa as a non-EU/EFTA citizen is quite difficult. While the rigorous bureaucratic process itself is challenging, the biggest barrier is having a job offer in hand from an employer willing to meet the strict requirements for sponsorship. 

Many find that the use of a Swiss or international recruitment agency is beneficial in tracking down an appropriate job and a willing employer. For more information, take a look at our guide to outsourced recruitment

FAQs

The processing time for a work visa in Switzerland varies, but in our experience, a visa can often be acquired in four to six weeks, as long as all the necessary documentation is provided to the canton, Federal Office for Migration, and the relevant Embassy or Consulate. 

In Switzerland, you typically need sponsorship from an employer to apply for a work visa. Your employer must also have obtained a positive employment recommendation from the local canton and Federal Office for Migration. 

This means that before an individual applies for a work visa, the employer must be able to confirm that the position the applicant will be filling is a qualified position and that no suitable candidates were found among the EU/EEA citizens.

The employer will also be responsible for submitting the necessary paperwork and paying the fee. Note that some visas do not require sponsorship, such as the G permit for cross-border commuters.

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