Residence permits

Regulations for EU-citizens and Non-EU-nationals

If you want to live, work or study in Switzerland, you will probably need a residence permit. Regulations depend on your country of origin and other factors.

The following chapter gives you an overview of the regulations both for EU citizens and Non-EU nationals. For the information for Non-EU nationals, just have a look at the end of the chapter.

EU nationals

The bilateral agreement on the free movement of persons between Switzerland and the EU entered into force on 1 June 2002 and facilitates entry, residence and employment in Switzerland for EU-nationals as well as citizens from Norway, Iceland (EFTA members) and - conditionally - Liechtenstein.

EU-citizens have complete freedom of movement within Switzerland and Swiss citizens within EU-countries. Since the 12th of December 2008 the Swiss Confederation is a full member of Shengen.

Self-employment

Your status as a European citizen, theoretically gives you the right to settle in Switzerland and to set up your own business, provided that you do so assuming full responsibility and at your own risk. For more information, go to the website of the Federal Office of Immigration, Integration and Emigration.

Non-EU residents

Since the Swiss-EU bilateral agreement for free labour movement, non-EU-citizens can only get a Swiss work permit if their future employer proves there is no Swiss or EU national available to do the job.

However, there are exceptions to this rule for highly qualified specialists and top executives. If you do get a work permit, this will usually be defined in your residence permit.

The types of residence permits for non-EU citizens are very similar to the permits given out to EU nationals, only that they are harder obtain and to renew.

(1) Short-term residence permit (L-Permit)

A short-term residence permit L (Kurzaufenthaltsbewilligung EG) is valid for up to one year and can be renewed. It is linked to a specific job and company and you may not be granted a new permit if you change jobs. After 24 months the residence permit ends definitively.

(2) B residence permit (B-Permit)

A B-Permit is normally valid for one year and can be renewed. To Non-EU-nationals, it is only issued in specific circumstances (i.e. if you’re a highly trained specialist in a profession where there’s currently a shortage of qualified people from Switzerland or the EU).

(3) Settlement C permit (C-Permit)

A C-Permit is given out for permanent residency in Switzerland and can be renewed indefinitely. To Non-EU-citizens, it is normally only given out after 10 years of residency in Switzerland. There are some exceptions for spouses of Swiss citizens and other groups. The C-Permit allows you to freely change jobs, employers and/or become self-employed.

(4) Border crossing G permit (G-Permit)

A G permit (Grenzgängerbewilligung/permis frontalier) is issued to people living in another country but working in Switzerland. There are many people commuting to Switzerland for work, as the cost of living in neighbouring countries is significantly lower than in Switzerland. Unlike L, B and C permits, a G permit doesn’t entitle you to any residential rights in Switzerland. A G permit is renewed annually and cannot be converted into a residential permit.

Further reading

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Other comments

  • Fulvio Bergazzi, 24 January 2013 Reply

    Better a specialist as a relocation company.

    Hello, this is just a comment and not an advertise. I'm from Italy and relocate to Switzerland due to an international employment. My employer recommended me to use relocation companies in Switzerland. I was firstly very happy because they was friendly and it was a good service for moving my personal goods to my apartment. But when I asked some questions about residence permit or help with the inscription in the Gemeinde, it was very horrible. I tried 3 different relocation companies without success and costs me lots money.

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    I advice always foreigners to contact directly a specialist for residence permit and not relocation companies.

    You win money, stress and can be certain that your file is managed by specialists.