Settling in Switzerland

Switzerland has signed an agreement with the EU/EEA countries on the progressive abolition of work permits. Until 01.07.2007 it has although still been a requirement that the Swiss employer must seek work and residence permit for foreign employees. The work permit is no longer only valid with the employer that the employee is hired from, that is, it is now possible to change jobs within the permission of the given work period.

The changes mean that job seekers are free to go to Switzerland and look for work. However, in order to gain work legally, you must obtain a residence and a work permit through your employer on the basis of a written contract. If successful, this entitles your residence, work permit as well as insurances.

Residence and work permit
Today, everyone who is staying more than three months in Switzerland must obtain a residence and/or work permit. The application is usually done through the employer and the license is issued by the cantonal migration office.

A distinction is made between different funds depending on whether you are a trainee, frontier, asylum seeker, refugee, EU citizen, etc. the most commonly used are the following:

Aufenthaltsbewilligung B: This is assigned to people who wish to work and/or reside in the country. It will be issued to all applicants within the EU once the employer submits a labour contract with a term of 12 months or more. The grant has a maximum term of five years and there are no restrictions regarding the work or choice of residence.

Niederlassungsbewilligung C: Is issued for a constant case after an uninterrupted stay of five years in Switzerland. There are no conditions connected to the issue.

Recent bilateral agreements between the EU, EFTA and CH imply a faster paper-work process when applying for residence and work. Despite the agreement, a quota system still exists in regards to the number of foreigners who are allowed traveling to Switzerland. The country has introduced a liberalisation, although with a so-called “valve clause”. Read more here

Arriving in Switzerland
If your employer has not applied for a residence work permit, you must notify your entry to Switzerland within 8 days after the arrival. This is done at the municipal office and you must bring:

  • Passport
  • Proof of health insurance
  • Passport photo
  • Birth certificate and marriage certificate
  • Work Contract
  • Copy of lease or otherwise of residence in Switzerland

Your local authority will then forward your papers to the central office in your canton.

Self-employed in Switzerland
As an EU citizen, in theory you have the right to move to Switzerland and start your own business. However, you must have a local work authorisation in order before you can start.

New job in Switzerland
If you start looking for a job after your three-month stay in Switzerland ends, and the search turns out to last longer than expected, you must apply for a residence permit until you have found the job (usually three more months).

Inactive people (pensioners and students) in Switzerland
Through the contact with the local municipality/canton, you will receive upon request all necessary information and funds. The residence permit is valid throughout Switzerland, however, you must inform the municipality if you move. There are finally two conditions that must be met to obtain a residence permit:

  • You must possess financial funds to support yourself and your family
  • You must have arranged a health insurance

Students also have to explain why they want the studies carried out in Switzerland and prove the enrolment at a school or college in their home countries.

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