Residence and Working in Switzerland

Switzerland know several forms of residence permit:

  • L permit (3 – 12 months), usually granted to non-EU/EEA citizens or for simple jobs
  • B permit (5 years or 1 year)
  • C permit (permanent, after 5 years)
  • G permit – for cross border EU commuters (from any other EU country)
  • 120 Day Permit – within a 12-month period for EU citizens

Based on the agreement of free movement between Switzerland and the EU, EU citizens can apply for the B permit if they are employed in a company, have a residence and a health insurance. The B permit is issued and renewed if there is an employment in place, a residency and a health insurance. For self-employed or employed in their own company, there is additional bureaucracy as the authorities try to avoid misuse. Service providers from the EU have the right to enter and to claim residence for a maximum of 90 Working days per calendar year.

Because of the Cross Border Service provision (Posted Workers Act), it is possible for every employee of an EU company or for EU self-employed persons, to work more than 8 days and up to 90 days annually in Switzerland by submitting an online notification at least 8 days in advance. Swiss work conditions must be met, and for some industries, this is restricted further (construction, security, hotel and catering etc.).

To protect the wage level and the labour market, the so called “Accompanying Measures“ are in place since 2006:

  • Employers must register EU employees 8 days in advance online and are obliged to respect work time regulations and minimum wages.
  • Self-employed from the EU also must register 8 days in advance, but they have to prove their entrepreneur status.
  • EU companies can perform services in Switzerland for up to 90 working days per calendar year (=90 days per company and 90 days per employee). For posted employees, there is an obligation to register 8 days in advance (identity of workers, place of work, gross salary, duration of work).
  • To check if they respect minimum wages, work time etc., often a deposit is required, the following inspections are frequently, very tough and often result in the seizure of the deposit.
  • frequently there is an order from the Swiss company to an EU company that asks an EU subcontractor to send employees to Switzerland (some advisors recommend in such a case to expect to lose the deposit because the legal costs to fight against the bureaucrats can be expensive)

For Non-EU citizens and for citizens of Croatia, there is a quota of residence permits issued every quarter. Decisions are made by the cantonal migration authorities. Priority is given to senior executives and technical specialists with university qualification and several years of experience. Because of the quarterly quota system, timing is relevant, and we recommend that all papers are ready and submitted at the beginning of a new period. After the employer submits a request, a recommendation of the cantonal authorities is needed, but there is a final decision by the federal authorities.

The Swiss Federal Act on Acquisition of Real Estate by Persons Abroad Lex Koller restricts the acquisition of Swiss residential and other non-commercial real estate by foreigners to purchase residential apartments, except for own purposes in case of a C permit.  In addition, there are detailed rules to avoid circumvention, in particular with legal persons.

Outlook: Switzerland and the EU have bilateral agreements in place. To replace them, there were tough negotiations between Switzerland and the EU for a “framework agreement”. Although it seemed in 2018 that an agreement was reached, critical open points remained: wage protection, Union Citizens Directive (social benefits for all citizens) and state aid (limitations in the EU). Also, Switzerland resisted to dynamic changes of the agreement (automatism to take over new EU regulations) and to the EU-dominated mechanism for settling disputes. In May 2021, the Swiss government decided to stop the negotiations.

(Updated August 2021)

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