Immigration Overview - Working in Switzerland Work and residence permits

To be able to live and work in Switzerland, foreigners must fulfill Swiss immigration requirements. Read about getting a visa for Switzerland, and learn about work and residence permits.

Swiss immigration regulations distinguish between entry visas and work and residence permits. The system also makes clear distinctions between EU/EFTA and other nationals.

Immigrating to Switzerland

Switzerland makes a clear distinction between visas, which allow applicants to either enter the country (usually for the purposes of business or tourism), and work and residence permits, which allow applicants to work and/or reside in Switzerland.

Multiple authorities, both in Switzerland and overseas, are involved in the Swiss work/residence permit application process. Each Swiss canton has a certain amount of autonomy over immigration into its canton.

What permits are required to work in Switzerland?

All non-Swiss nationals must obtain some form of immigration permission to work in Switzerland. This means a work authorisation, work permit, or work and residence permit is required.

Swiss immigration law is based on clear distinctions between non-European Union (EU)/European Free Trade Association (EFTA) nationals, and EU/EFTA nationals.    

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Non-EU/EFTA nationals working in Switzerland

Work and/or residence permit applications for non-EU / EFTA nationals are generally subject to quotas (depending on the length of the assignment). For non-EU/EFTA nationals the Swiss immigration process is fairly complex and decentralised.

Registering for a work permit

A work permit, a visa and a residence permit are generally required in Switzerland.

A complete work and residence permit application together with justifying documents and arguments must be lodged with the appropriate cantonal immigration authority.

Once this application is approved, a visa approval is issued*, which enables the applicant to collect a visa at the Swiss diplomatic post in the applicant's home country or other country of legal residence.

Upon entry to Switzerland, the applicant has to register with the cantonal immigration authorities to be issued with the final Swiss work and residence permit**.

Processing times for work and residence permit registration vary depending on the canton, but between eight and twelve weeks is generally the average. Swiss entry visas are normally issued within eight working days.


*exceptions apply for nationals of a limited number of countries, who do not need to collect an entry visa upon approval of the work permit application.

**except for short-term assignments up to four months / 120 days.


EU / EFTA nationals working in Switzerland

Although not a member of the EU, Switzerland has made several agreements which permit Swiss nationals to enjoy many privileges of the EU, and which also permit EU/EFTA nationals to enjoy privileged status in Switzerland.

Bilateral agreements on the free movement of people are in full force for the following countries:

Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom, Cyprus, Malta (EU countries); and Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway (EFTA countries).

Nationals of these countries still need to apply for Swiss work and residence permits, but the review and issuing process is fairly straightforward.

In addition, assignments for expatriated employees are generally subject to a prior work authorisation and to quota limits (depending on the length of the assignment).


Author: François Enzler

After more than 10 years’ experience in relocation in Switzerland, François is now heading the Packimpex Academy which provides over 30 different training courses specific to the needs of the relocation industry. His experience of the daily challenges faced by relocation consultants flows directly into the training courses designed and led by the Packimpex Academy.

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Tell us what you think
  • 12/27/14 8:28 PM

    is the immigration to Switzerland is available for Palestinian nationality? would you please advise?

  • 12/13/14 10:19 PM

    i am from india i want to work in switzerland.somebody can help me?

  • 12/13/14 5:08 PM

    i am twenty,somebody can help me,,

  • 12/13/14 5:07 PM

    i would like to share one thing that i want to seek living in Switzerland because of my personal interest from my childhood........would that i get it soon to give my full tendency of proffessional experiences in health and safety managment system

  • 11/22/14 10:25 AM

    Hello.My sister,brother and I were born in Switzerland and now we don't live there but can we move in our birthplace? because we don't want to live here,we want to move in Switzerland

  • 11/19/14 4:22 PM

    Hi,Im from ALGERIA I look for a work in swtzerland anyone can help me thanks

  • 10/31/14 10:23 AM

    Hi actually I am Indian. I discontinued my graduation
    and my age is 30yrs. I want to work in Swiss is it possible?can any one help me by your valuable suggestions.

  • 10/15/14 3:52 PM

    Hi all, as immigration is a tricky subject for non EU/EFTA nationals regardless of whether they are already resident in an EU country, we recommend contacting the professional immigration specialists directly. In each of your individual cases there are enough complexities that it is worth getting legal advice and not relying on word-of-mouth. Best regards Mike

  • 10/14/14 5:44 PM

    I am a British citizen and have been offered a job in switzerland. What I want to know if if my wife, who is a Canadian citizen, will be able to get a work permit allowing her to work in switzerland. We currently live in france and she has a carte sejour for France. Can anyone advise us?

  • 10/11/14 11:10 PM

    I'm mother of two little daughters 1 & 4 years old ,and looking for their better life circumstances with my husband because of unstable and unsecure situations in Middle East , also to improve our life and work

  • 9/21/14 7:48 PM

    Hope someone could help us to check how we can apply for an immigration visa to Swiss!! I live in Lebanon & my husband is now working in KSA! But as Christians we do not feel at ease staying in the Middle East & we are looking for any better place we can live in & have a family!! Appreciate your kind feedback, thanking you in advance.

  • 9/20/14 9:54 PM

    I love art and I want to work to make my wishes, I would like to be a great artist and architect, I am a student of architecture and heritage, the level is 2 master and thank you year.

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