For members


Is a job offer enough to work in Switzerland as a non-EU/EFTA citizen?

If you come from a non-EU/EFTA state and would like to work in Switzerland, you will need to meet a range of admission requirements to be granted access to the Swiss employment market.

Citizens from non-EU/EFTA states must meet strict criteria to work in Switzerland. Photo by Bryan Dijkhuizen.

When it comes to hiring talent from outside its borders, Switzerland follows a dual system which favours workers from EU and EFTA states under the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons.

Each year, Switzerland admits only a limited number of highly qualified employees from other countries – known as third states – to the labour market.

According to the State Secretariat for Migration, experience has shown that workers with a degree from a university or an institution of higher education with several years of professional work experience under their belt have better long-term professional and social integration prospects than those with lower qualifications.

But does a job offer alone suffice to work in Switzerland as a non-EU/EFTA state citizen?

In short, no.

As exciting as the prospect of a new life in Switzerland may be, a job offer itself is sadly not enough to make you eligible for a work permit in Switzerland if you are a citizen of a non-EU/EFTA country.

In Switzerland, the admission of non-EU and non-EFTA state nationals is limited with the Federal Council determining the quota for permits on an annual basis. in 2023, the government has issued 8,500 permits for third-country employees (with the exception of UK nationals — see below).

Your employer will need to respect the principle that Swiss and EU/EFTA workers enjoy precedence when it comes to employment.

Your employer will need to apply one for you by showing that your qualifications and experience are in the best interest of the country’s economy.  in addition, they must prove that work  salary conditions are met prior to you being granted a permit.

What if I am a UK citizen?

Since January 1st, 2021, UK nationals are no longer citizens of the EU and are therefore subject to the same rules that apply to third-country nationals, including quotas.

However, they have a separate quota contingent — 3,500 permits set aside just for them. 

Are there any exceptions to the admission requirements?

Yes, in some cases legally regulated exceptions can be made that may allow you to work in Switzerland even if all admission criteria are not met.

For instance, senior managers or specialist staff being transferred by an international company may be allowed to work in Switzerland.

Similarly, employees in training as well as those are hoping to move for an internship or further education may also be allowed to work in Switzerland, so long as they work for a multi-national company (knowledge transfer) or are placed there (compulsory placement) while studying.

Those pursuing doctoral and post-doctoral studies in Switzerland may also seek employment in the country, though whether or not they can remain here after graduating is still being worked out on the legislative level.

Additionally, au-pairs and from non-EU/EFTA states between 18 and 25 years old may also move to Switzerland for up to 12 months.

What if I am a family member hoping to work in Switzerland?

If you are a family member of a Swiss national or an individual with a residence permit, you will not need to go through an additional permit process to take up employment or become self-employed.

Do I need a visa and residence permit to work in Switzerland if I already have a permanent residence permit for an EU/EFTA state?

If you are a citizen of a non-EU/EFTA state and hold a permanent residence permit for that state, you will still need to meet the admission conditions as everyone else who enters Switzerland directly from a third state country.

In Switzerland, being in possession of a permanent residence permit for an EU/EFTA state as a non-EU/EFTA citizen does not automatically grant you entrance to access to the Swiss employment market.

Generally, all non-EU/EFTA nationals will need an entry visa which can be obtained from Swiss authorities in your country after you have been granted a residence permit.

Although there are a couple of exceptions to this that are worth knowing about.

Can my employer second me to Switzerland for an indefinite period?

No, your employer may not second you to a job in Switzerland for an indefinite period.

However, if you are an employee of a corporation that has its registered office in an EU-27/EFTA state, your employer can in fact second you to a job in Switzerland for up to 90 days per calendar year.

In this case you will need to have previously been integrated long-term in the regular employment market of either an EU or EFTA member state, that is you must have a temporary or permanent residence permit for at least 12 months.

Your placement in Switzerland will then be governed by the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons (AFMP) between the EU and Switzerland and must be reported to the Swiss authorities.

If you are seconded to work in Switzerland for up to 90 days from a non-EU/EFTA state on the basis of the AFMP, you will not need a visa for your stay.

You will, however, be required to have on hand a valid, recognised travel document as well as a valid residence permit that has been issued by a Schengen member state.

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For members


Can a non-EU / EFTA citizen live permanently in Switzerland?

Third-country nationals face strict rules to even get a job in Switzerland. Can they hope to ever live here?

Can a non-EU / EFTA citizen live permanently in Switzerland?

Unlike their counterparts from the European Union and EFTA states (Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein), who have an almost limitless access to Switzerland’s labour market and residency in general, people from third countries face more restrictions in this regard.

According to the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM), in order to even aspire to work in Switzerland, third-country nationals must be highly qualified — that is, be a manager, specialist or another skilled professional. “This means, essentially, that you should have a degree from a university or an institution of higher education, as well as a number of years of professional work experience.”

Also, “your future employer must prove that there is no suitable person to fill the job vacancy from Switzerland or from an EU/EFTA state.”

Only then can you be eligible for a limited number of work permits — 12,000 in all — set aside for third-country nationals, including UK citizens.

READ ALSO: Who do Switzerland’s 12,000 work permits for non-EU citizens go to?

If your permit is not renewed on yearly basis, you will have to leave the country.

Is there a way you can legally remain in the country permanently?

In fact, there are several. Whether you fulfil all the conditions to qualify for any of them is another matter.

For instance:

Your employment is so valuable to your company, and Switzerland’s economy in general, that your permit is renewed each year.

This is often the case with international companies — they routinely employ specialists from abroad (including from third countries), and they are able, after meeting the SEM criteria mentioned above, to extend their employees’ permits from one year to another.

If you manage to extend your stay in Switzerland this way for 10 years, you will be eligible for a C permit which, in turn, will enable you to remain in the country indefinitely (unless you are American or Canadian, in which case you can apply for a C permit after five years of continuous residence).

You are married to a Swiss or an EU / EFTA national

If you married a Swiss, you will be allowed to live with your spouse in Switzerland (first with a B permit and after five years with a C), and will be able to apply for Swiss citizenship (through simplified naturalisation).

If your spouse is a EU or EFTA citizen, you can stay in Switzerland for as long as your husband / wife lives here.

However, if you get divorced, you may, under certain circumstances, lose your residency rights.

READ ALSO: What happens to your Swiss passport in case of divorce?

You are (very) wealthy

The Swiss are very pragmatic people.

The little known Article 30 of the Federal Aliens Act enables foreigners from outside Europe to move to Switzerland — but only if they are sufficiently wealthy, which means they can prove that they have financial means to live in Switzerland without having to work or resort to welfare benefits.

Based on this law, cantons can issue B permits to these people, if local authorities deem that there is a “significant fiscal interest” in such a move.

What exactly does “significant fiscal interest mean?” 

This term is defined by each canton.

For instance, the lowest annual tax rate for a non-EU foreigner is 287,882 francs in Valais, 312,522 francs in Geneva, and 415,000 Vaud. 

Given the strict criteria, very few foreigners from outside the EU / EFTA actually move to Switzerland under this legislation.

In 2021, the last year for which statistics are available a total of 352 foreigners with this special permit lived in Switzerland. They came mostly from China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, the United States, and Brazil.

READ ALSO: How multi-millionaires are ‘buying’ Swiss residency permits