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Entry Eligibility, Visa Requirements

Entry Eligibility, Visa Requirements

For EU/EFTA nationals, a passport or an official identity card is sufficient. Also, EU/EFTA citizens don’t need a visa, but depending on your country of origin, you may need one – the Swiss embassies and consulates and the Federal Office for Migration (FOM) are able to provide you with information on general entry conditions.

Residence Permits

Nationals from Bulgaria and Romania
Special interim provisions governing access to the labour market by nationals from Bulgaria and Romania apply until 2016.

Nationals from EU/EFTA Countries
Nationals from the old EU states (EU17 countries including Cyprus and Malta), the EU8 countries that joined the EU in 2004 and the EFTA countries benefit from full freedom of movement. For an overview consult EU/EFTA citizens in Switzerland

Short-Term Permit (EC/EFTA Permit L): For a limited stay (usually less than 1 year) in Switzerland. It may be issued for a total duration of 12 months and is granted to people who have a limited employment relationship of less than one year. Job seekers also receive an EU/EFTA L Permit after three months. The permit may be extended after a maximum of one year without EC/EFTA nationals having to interrupt their stay in Switzerland. They are allowed to change their place of residence and employment.

Initial Residence Permit (EC/EFTA Permit B): Granted to people who have an unlimited employment relationship or one lasting for at least 12 months. It has a period of validity of five years and can be extended if the conditions are still fulfilled. However, the first extension may be limited to one year if the person is involuntarily unemployed for longer than twelve consecutive months.

Permanent Residence Permit (EC/EFTA Permit C): Nationals from the 17 EU countries (except for Malta and Cyprus) and EFTA obtain this permit, of indefinite length, after a regular and uninterrupted stay of five years in Switzerland.

The cantons are responsible for issuing the permits. For detailed information on the application procedure (where to apply, which form to fill in, how long it takes, etc.), please contact the relevant office. For the location and contact details of the cantonal migration and labour authorities, consult:
Cantonal migration and labour authorities
Other Countries (‘Third States’)
Biometric Resident Permits: Third-state nationals, third-state nationals who are family members of Swiss citizens, third-state nationals who are family members of EU/EFTA citizens and citizens of EU member states that do not yet fully benefit from the provisions of the Free Movement of Persons Agreement (e.g. Croatia) receive a biometric resident permit that includes a microchip with biometric data (fingerprints and facial image).
Short-Term Residence Permit (Permit L): This permit may be granted to nationals from Third States for a stay lasting one year or more, up to the limit set each year by the Federal Council for nationals from Third States. Its term of validity is set to coincide with the employment contract.
In exceptional cases, this permit may be extended up to a total maximum duration of 24 months, provided the employer remains the same. People undertaking education and training in Switzerland may also be considered as short term stays, or ‘trainees’.

Initial Residence Permit (Permit B): For nationals from Third States, this residence permit does not, as a rule, exceed one year the first time. Initial permits authorising persons to take up paid employment will only be granted within the limits of the maximum numbers set each year. Normally, these permits are renewed from one year to the next, provided there are no conflicting grounds (e.g. infringements, dependency on social welfare, labour market). Only in certain cases is there a right to an extension of the annual residence permit.

Permanent Residence Permit (Permit C): Nationals from Third States may in principle obtain a permanent
residence permit after ten years of a regular and uninterrupted stay. Nationals from the USA and Canada are subject to special regulations, may choose their employer and taxes are no longer levied at source.

The cantons are responsible for issuing the permits. For detailed information on the application procedure (where to apply, which form to fill in, how long it takes, etc.), please contact the relevant office. For the location and contact details of the cantonal migration and labour authorities, consult:
Cantonal migration and labour authorities

Work Permits

In Switzerland, it is illegal to work in Switzerland without a permit, so you will need to ensure that you are eligible for a work permit if this is required by law. If you do work without a permit, you could be fined and will not be eligible to claim social insurance. Your employer must also abide by the law on undeclared employment otherwise they may also be punished.
The admission of foreign labour is regulated by a binary system. Nationals from EU/EFTA countries benefit from facilitated access to the Swiss labour market. For queries, formalities, application procedure, please contact the cantonal authorities: Cantonal migration and labour authorities.
With regards to the Third States, only skilled labour needed by Switzerland is admitted. In order to obtain a work permit in Switzerland, it is not actually enough to have an offer of employment. Your employer must first prove that he/she has not been able to find a Swiss citizen or a national from an EU/EFTA country to occupy the vacant position, that your qualifications are adequate and the working and salary conditions are met. Moreover, the number of permits issued is limited.

Nationals from EU17/EFTA and EU8 Countries and Cyprus and Malta
Employees from the old EU15/EFTA countries as well as Malta and Cyprus may stay for three months in Switzerland and take up paid employment without the need of a residence permit. There is only an obligation to report to the authorities. Should gainful employment last longer than three months, you must report to the authorities and apply for a residence permit.
Nationals from Bulgaria and Romania
Bulgarian and Romanian nations wishing to take up paid employment in Switzerland are subject to the following interim provisions:

  • Priority to indigenous workers
  • Control of wage and working conditions
  • Quotas for long-term and short-term permits

Notification of Arrival

Nationals from EU/EFTA Countries
If you intend to stay in Switzerland without working, you may stay for a maximum period of three months without notifying the authorities. If you stay for a period exceeding three months and/or if you wish to work, you should notify your commune of residence at the authorities (Gemeinde ‘commune’, Kreisbüro for the city of Zurich) within 14 days of your arrival. Notification must always be done before starting a job. Your nearest Kreisbüro can be found here (scroll down and put your address under Suche to find the nearest office). If you do not live in Zurich, contact the immigration office (Immigrationsamt) of your commune (google the place where you live, there is a website for each commune in Switzerland).

Other Countries (Third States)
If you are a national from a Third State, it is compulsory for you to possess a prior guaranteed job offer from a Swiss employer. From the moment you cross the border to take up residence in Switzerland, you have 14 days in which to register with the authorities in your commune (see above). Please present the following documents:

  • valid passport for yourself and for each member of your family accompanying you
  • certificate from your health insurance provider to prove that you are a member of a recognised health insurance scheme
  • passport photograph of yourself and each member of your family accompanying you
  • register office documents e.g. family record book, marriage certificate, birth certificates of minor children, etc.
  • employment contract or confirmation of enrolment at a university

Cross-Border Commuters

EU/EFTA Nationals
EU17/EFTA nationals as well as nationals from Malta and Cyprus may take up salaried or self employment on Swiss territory while keeping their main residence in an EU/EFTA country. There is also the possibility of residing in Switzerland during the week; however, notification of arrival at the commune of residence is required.
Cross-border commuters have to file an application for entry at the migration office of the place where they work. You must also present a valid identity card or passport.
For salaried cross-border commuters with an employer in Switzerland who are resident abroad, a confirmation of employment must be provided. Depending on the length of employment, a cross-border commuter’s permit is granted for five years or for the length of validity of the employment.

Nationals from Bulgaria and Romania
Bulgarian and Romanian nationals who reside abroad in a border zone and who work in a neighbouring border zone in Switzerland may apply for an EC/EFTA cross-border commuter’s permit G. The permit they receive is only valid for the border zone in Switzerland.

For cross-border commuters the following interim provisions apply:
 Priority to indigenous workers
 Control of wage and working conditions
 Quotas for long-term and short-term permits
These restrictions may remain in place until 2016.

Relocating Families
EU/EFTA nationals who have a residence permit for Switzerland may move their direct family dependents to Switzerland.

Up to Date Information
Information regarding residence permits, work permits and employment criteria can change. All candidates considering a role in Switzerland are advised to check the official websites to ensure they have the most up to date information available. Our consultants keep abreast of changes in these areas, and will be very happy to help in any way they can.

Useful websites:

  • Residence permits > topics
  • Cantonal authorities: >Directory of authorities
  • Company foundation: or

Living in Switzerland

There are plenty of websites to start your search for accommodation as well as local estate agents who can help. Here is a selection:

  • Homegate: Homegate
  • mmostreet: Immostreet
  • Immosearch: Immo Search
  • Immoscout: Immoscout 24
  • Estate agents: Die Immobilienmakler
  • Good short term option: Airbnb
  • Short term and long term option: Ronorp
  • For shared flats: WG Zimmer

Rental Conditions
In most cases you will need to pay a guarantee deposit into a frozen bank account equivalent to two months’ rent. As long as you leave the apartment as you found it (documented), your deposit will be returned with interest when you leave. Some landlords and agencies require a surety guaranteeing that a third person can pay your rent should you get into financial difficulties.

To terminate your contract, you will need to give the agreed period of notice. If you are able to give notice early, you are responsible for providing a list of solvent tenants to the owner. In the case of any dispute, the Swiss Tenant’s Association can help for a small fee –

TV and Radio Fees
Each household with a device via which one can listen to the radio or watch television (cable network, telephone network or satellite) is obliged to pay the fee. Registration needs to be made within 14 days of buying or importing a reception device and failure to register can result in a fine. Register here: Billag.


Public Transport
The Swiss public transport network is extremely efficient – all towns have a well-developed network of trams and buses, and in many cases ferries. Be careful, there are first and second classes. The second class compartments are perfectly acceptable. You can purchase half-fare cards (CHF 175.00 per year or CHF 330.00 for 2 years as of 2014), specific line cards, single or day tickets at the train stations or online: SBB. Also, train stations can provide timetable booklets and general advice. Timetables and routes are also available online: Timetable.

Travelling by Road
In Switzerland, people drive on the right hand side. The speed limit ranges from 50 km per hour in towns to 120 km per hour on motorways. Drivers intending to use the motorways and some main roads need to buy and display a motorway sticker costing 40 CHF per year. The sticker is widely available at shops, post offices or at the customs office on arrival in Switzerland. After one year in Switzerland, you must exchange your national driving license for a Swiss one.

Travelling by Air
The three largest international airports are Zurich-Kloten, Geneva-Cointrin and Basel-Mulhouse, and these serve most of the international airlines. There are smaller regional airports at Bern, Sion and Lugano. Easyjet flies to and from Basel-Mulhouse.

Education and Schools

Primary and Secondary Level
State schools are high quality and free of charge. Compulsory education (primary level and secondary level I) lasts from 8 to 9 years, depending on the canton. Secondary level II comprises vocational colleges, specialised middle schools and matura schools (giving access to university). These courses generally last around 3-4 years and lead to a Federal Diploma of Vocational Education and Training, a diploma or a “Maturität” certificate.

Tertiary Level
There are numerous professional colleges, universities of applied sciences, some private universities as well as ten cantonal universities in Basel, Berne, Fribourg, Geneva, Lausanne, Lucerne, Lugano/Mendrisio, Neuchâtel, St Gallen and Zurich) and two Federal Institutes of Technology (ETH in Zurich and Lausanne).

More information about education in Switzerland can be found on the following websites:

  • The Swiss education system:
  • State Secretariat for Education and Research:
  • Federal Office for Professional Education and Technology:

Looking for a School
If you are looking for a school for your child, at either pre-school, primary or secondary I level, you’ll need to contact the local authorities. For secondary II and Tertiary education you will need to contact the institution directly. Present your residence permit and your health insurance certificate.

  • Directory of authorities
  • Universities and universities of applied sciences:

Private Schools
Switzerland is renowned for the quality of its private schools, particularly those in the French-speaking part of the country. They are primarily attended by foreign children, and can be expensive. If you wish to apply for your child to attend an international school – e.g. the English school – you’re advised to contact the UK embassy in Switzerland (for the address and link, see at the end of the document).

  • Swiss Federation of Private Schools:
  • Association of Private Schools: or

Mobile Phones

Prepaid local SIM cards area available from the network operators Orange, Sunrise and Swisscom as well as from the local supermarket chains Migros (M Budget) and Coop (Prix Garantix) or from K Kiosk (ok.-).

Working in Switzerland

Health and Holidays

Medical Care
Outpatient medical care is mainly provided by doctors as well as by the outpatients department of public hospitals or private clinics. Patients have a free choice of doctors and direct, unlimited access to specialists. The cantons and the communes also provide a school medical service which regularly carries out check-ups in the state schools and is responsible for vaccinations, etc.

Dental care is primarily provided by private dentists and public dental clinics. Compulsory basic health insurance only reimburses costs for some types of treatment, check your policy. The school medical service checks the dental health of all the pupils at regular intervals, the cost of treatment is passed onto parents.

Listed medicines can only be obtained by prescription, the cost is reimbursed with basic compulsory health insurance after an annual excess of 10 % is paid. Any other unlisted medicines must be paid for by patients.

Health Insurance
All people living in Switzerland have to buy health insurance within three months of arrival. There are many providers and policies to choose from. In general, the insurance will cover most illnesses, accidents not covered by compulsory accident insurance, maternity benefits, outpatient treatment and medicines. Patients contribute to costs up to a certain limit, and are free to choose their doctor.
This website lists and compares a number of insurance providers

Sickness and Holidays
Sickness is paid from the 3rd working day at 80% of the average monthly salary with a doctor’s note.
Everyone in Switzerland must have their own private health insurance. This must be taken in the first 3 months of arriving in Switzerland.

Employees in Switzerland are entitled to 20 days of holiday a year plus bank holidays (in Zurich 10 a year). Standard contractors receive compensation for their vacation (8.33% of their gross salary) and bank holidays (3.20% of their gross salary). CLA contractors receive 3.20% public holiday compensation of their gross salary. For holidays, 8.33% is deducted from their gross salary each month and put into a fund which is then paid when the employee takes a holiday.

Taxes and Deductions
As each of the 26 cantons has its own tax laws, the amount due varies from one canton to another. In general, tax payers have to complete a tax declaration each year and based on the income and assets information included, the tax due is determined.

Source Tax
Foreign workers without residence permit C who are resident in Switzerland are subject to taxation at source which is deducted directly from their salary and depends on the employee’s age, whether they are married, number of children and their ages and where they live (not where you work). For gross salaries exceeding CHF 120,000, a tax return is required. Switzerland has agreements to exclude double taxation with many countries.

There are several compulsory social contributions deducted from the gross salary (see “Social Security”).

For more information about tax, please visit the following websites:

  • The Swiss System of Taxation: >Documentation >Publications
  • Tax calculator: >Services

Ex Pat Tax
Contractors who commute back and forth to the UK, maintain a limited company in the UK and keep a home there are entitled to a tax break called the Ex Pat Tax Allowance, of CHF 1500 per month is exempt from source tax.

Social Security System
The Swiss system of social security is split up into various categories. The federal social security consists of:

  • old age and survivors (AHV)
  • disability (IV)

Further insurances covering the social system are:

  •  continued payment for maternity and military service (Erwerbsersatzordnung EO)
  • unemployment (ALV)
  • occupational and non-occupational accidents (BUV and NBUV)
  • health and sickness (KTG)
  • company pension fund (“2nd pillar”) (Berufliche Vorsorge BVG)
  • family allowances (FAK)

Please note that some contributions are split between employee and employer and some are carried by the employee or the employer only. Anyone above the age of 25 living or working in Switzerland is compulsorily insured under the pension scheme for old age and disability.

Overview on Taxes and Deductions:
Name of Tax or Deduction Employee Employer
Source Tax 12-20% –
AHV (Old age and Survivors Insurance)/IV (Disability)/EO 5.15% 5.15%
ALV (Unemployment Insurance) 1.1% 1.1%
ALV2 (Unemployment Insurance for those earning over CHF 10.5 k/month) +0.5% +0.5%
FAK (Family allowance, varies from place to place) – 1.2 – 2.5%
BUV (Accident at work) 0.01%
NBUV (Accident not at work) 1.21%
KTG (Sickness Insurance) 0.56%
BVG (Mandatory pension depends on salary and age) 2-6% 2-6%
For an overview of social security in Switzerland, visit >Topics >Overview >Basics. For further details on the insurances, please read below.

Social Insurances

Old Age Insurance (OASI/DI)
Men aged 65 and women aged 64 are entitled to an old-age pension, which can also be taken one or two years early or deferred by up to five years.

Unemployment Insurance
To receive unemployment benefit, you must have worked in a position where you’ve contributed for at least one year out of the two years before unemployment, be resident in Switzerland, hold a work permit and have checked in with the local employment office for offers while looking for work. Through the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons, contribution periods in an EU/EFTA country are also credited.

Occupational Benefit Plan
Occupational pensions, or the ‘2nd pillar’ (BVG), supplement the OASI/DI. Together, they should equate to around 60% of the last salary. Occupational pension provision is compulsory for wage-earners already liable to OASI and who receive an annual income of at least CHF 20,520. Some people are not liable to the compulsory system, such as self-employed people, contractors where the contract is 3 months or less and certain other exceptions.

Old age occupational pensions are based on personal savings, and these savings are used to finance the old age pension. Occupational benefit plan: >Topics

Individual Provision
It is also possible to boost old-age provision by taking out separate private pensions (‘3rd pillar’). Linked individual provision entitles the saver to tax relief.

Maternity Insurance
Compulsory insurance for medical care covers certain maternity care elements such as check-ups during and after pregnancy, birth and hospital care for the mother and baby. The insured person does not make any contribution to the costs of these benefits.
New mothers are entitled to a maternity benefit equal to 80% of the last salary up to a maximum of CHF 196 per day for 14 weeks after birth. To claim this benefit, you must have been insured during the 9 months before the birth and worked for at least 5 months of this time.

Family Allowances
A family allowance of CHF 200 each month is paid for children under 16 years, and CHF 250 for children between 16 and 25 in occupational training. The cantons and employer may grant higher rates. Some cantons also grant birth or adoption allowances between CHF 850 and CHF 2,000 for each birth or adoption.

Online Resources and Useful Links

We have referred to a number of websites throughout this document – here is a summary of further websites which may be useful when considering relocating to Switzerland.

Topic Company/organisation Website/email
Country & population
Transport Swiss Travel Centre
Swiss Federal Railways
Automobil Club der Schweiz
Swiss International Airlines
Swiss Federal Roads Authority and

Government Swiss internet portal
Directory of authorities

Entry and stay ID and Visas
Swiss embassies and consulates
Federal Office for Migration

Relocating goods Residence in Switzerland
Cantonal immigration authorities > topics > contact address

Work permits Federal Office for Migration
Cantonal labour market authorities
EURES consultants

Health insurance > private > health

Employment Regional employment centres

Salaries UBS survey ‘Pricings and earnings’
Salary calculator in Switzerland>research

Old age insurance OASI/DI website
OASI/DI basic facts > topics

Unemployment insurance > private > work

Federal Office for Migration (FOM) – contact details
Emigration and Trainee Section Telephone: +41 (0)31 322 42 02
Quellenweg 6, 3003 Bern-Wabern/Switzerland Fax +41 (0)31 322 44 93

Embassy of the United Kingdom
Thunstrasse 50, 3000 Bern 15
+41 (0)31 359 77 00

Ex Pats Zurich

Legal note
The information in this document and on our website is for guidance only. Although we have taken care to ensure that the information provided is correct, and websites listed are active, we cannot guarantee the accuracy, reliability or completeness of this information. We assume no liability for the content of, or the services offered, on the websites listed. Use of these sites is at the users own risk. Information was published in 2011.