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Are you allowed to work in Switzerland? Work Permits explained.


EU/EFTA Nationals are allowed to enter, live and look for work or establish themselves as self-employed. Special rules apply to citizens of Bulgaria and Romania and will remain in place until 2016.

Work permits for EU/EFTA nationals come in several categories:

Short Term – usually ranging from 3 to 12 months and are given to people who work in the country for less than one year. People looking for work also receive this permit after being in the country for 3 months. If you plan to work in Switzerland for less than 3 months in a year you may not need a work permit at all it is worth checking with the Federal Migration Office - https://www.bfm.admin.ch//bfm/en/home.html

Initial Residence Permit - these are given to individuals who have unlimited employment or jobs lasting at least 12 months. They last for 5 years and will be automatically extended for another 5 years if the employment continues. People with enough financial means will also be granted these without having a job. Think movie stars etc etc… People who wish to be self employed can get these permits as well providing they have the financial means to support themselves.

Permanent Residence Permit – EU and EFTA Nationals can get a permit valid for an indefinite stay after a regular and uninterrupted stay of 5 years in Switzerland. It allows free movement within the cantons and change of employer.

Cross Border Commuter – If you live in a border zone and work in another border zone you can get a cross border commuter permit, these are no longer needed for most EU Nationals.

NON-EU Citizens

Anyone from a non-EU country will need a work permit to work in Switzerland. These require a solid job offer and the job has to be one that cannot be filled by a Swiss or EU citizen. The most likely recipients of permits are as is often the case those that are highly skilled and with good qualifications. Again these come in several categories:

Short Term - typically up to a year, but possibly up to 24 months. The holder will be limited to which cantons they can live and they have to work for the same employer.

Initial Residence Permit – This lasts for a year and is extended from one year to the next. These are limited by quotas and again restrict where the holder can live and it is tied to the employer.

Permanent Residence Permit – Once an individual has stayed in Switzerland for 10 years (five for US and Canada citizens) they can apply for this type of permit. The holder is free to move between cantons and change employer.
For more information about permits for non-EU citizens please visit the Federal Migration Office - https://www.bfm.admin.ch//content/bfm/en/home/themen/arbeit/nicht-eu_efta-angehoerige.html

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