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Immigration to Switzerland: check if you need a visa

Guide bySgier + Partner

Here are some basics about immigration to Switzerland. Find out if you can live and work in Switzerland the easy way, or whether you'll need to go through a lengthier immigration process and/or apply for an entry visa. 

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Basic facts about immigration to Switzerland

  • Visiting Switzerland as a tourist, you are authorised for up to 90 days without registration. It is however, forbidden to work during this period.

  • Working in Switzerland for more than 8 calendar days per year requires a work permit. To work in Switzerland, all non-Swiss generally require some form of immigration authorisation – usually a work permit or a combined work and residence permit.

  • If you are not from an EU/EFTA country then you may also require a visa to enter Switzerland.

Video © 'Welcome To Switzerland'

What you need to know about immigration to Switzerland

Requirements to immigrate to Switzerland

EU/EFTA citizens with a local permanent employment contract do not need to apply for a visa. To receive a work/residence permit, register with the Swiss immigration authorities upon arrival. As the registration process varies by canton, ask the town hall in the commune of your future home which authorities you should contact

Non-EU/EFTA citizens require a work authorisation and potentially also an entry visa. These must be obtained prior to leaving your home country

Non-EU/EFTA citizens over 18 planning to stay in Switzerland more than 1 year will be required to provide a copy of their criminal record (or a confirmation that they do not have one) from the police or justice authorities in their home country

How to prepare for immigration to Switzerland

Gather certified copies of all standard immigration documents:

  • Birth certificates and marriage certificates

  • Work contract, or for students, a confirmation of admission to a higher education institution

  • Swiss lease contract or rental agreement

  • Non-EU/EFTA citizens are advised not to travel in and out of Switzerland during the permit application process

  • Do not pack your immigration documents with your household goods shipment as you will need them upon arrival

Local registration upon arrival is the final step of the immigration process. It will only be successful if the correct immigration process for each individual family member has been followed.
 

How to proceed when immigrating to Switzerland

Scenario 1: You are being transferred by your company or hired to a new employer in Switzerland: Contact your HR department for required procedures

Scenario 2: You are researching the possibility of finding a job in Switzerland: Contact a Swiss immigration specialist to clarify your immigration status before your start your job search.

Scenario 3: You are relocating with an independent business activity: Contact a Swiss immigration specialist to clarify your immigration status.

Scenario 4: You are relocating for non-professional reasons: Contact a Swiss immigration specialist to clarify your immigration status.

Expected timeframe for the immigration process

Non-EU/EFTA citizens need to begin their immigration process 2 to 3 months before their target move date

EU/EFTA citizens with a local permanent contract will only need to register upon arrival

The final work permit document will be issued between 2 and 4 weeks after your registration date
 

Get help for the immmigration process

Contacting an immigration specialist is highly recommended for non-EU/EFTA citizens and for EU/EFTA citizens arriving without a permanent local work contract.

If you do not already have access to a professional immigration services provider through your employer or your relocation services provider, we recommend that you locate and contact the leading Swiss immigration provider Sgier + Partner before proceeding.

Sgier + Partner offers an immigration case assessment for CHF 99, meaning you get clarity quickly about your immigration status.

Book an Immigration Case Assessment