News & Events

How to get a Swiss work permit (2/2)

02/02/2021

Working in Switzerland for more than 4 months

Any person wanting to work and live in Switzerland for more than 4 months must be granted a work permit. The first article of this two-part blog series on Swiss work permits gave an overview and looked into work permit for a duration of up to 4 months.

This second article focuses on the requirements a person must fulfill when applying for a work permit in Switzerland to work for more than 4 months (L or a B permit). It highlights the differences between EU/EFTA and non-EU/EFTA nationals and examines the procedural steps to undertake when applying for a work permit.

EU/EFTA work permits

Permits and requirements

EU/EFTA nationals have access to an easier procedure to be granted Swiss work permits. Indeed, the agreement on the free movement of persons grants them an actual right to obtain a work permit. In other words, any EU/EFTA national who can prove his/her identity and demonstrate having a domicile in Switzerland as well as a valid employment contract to work in Switzerland will be granted a work permit.

Two different works permits can be delivered to EU/EFTA nationals:

The L-EU/EFTA permit

  • The L-EU/EFTA permit is delivered for an employment contract valid for a duration between 3 and 12 months and is linked to the employment duration. This permit can be prolonged up to a duration of 12 months.
  • For example, if a German citizen signed a work contract with a company in Zurich for a duration of 6 months, the Zurich authorities will grant him/her a work permit valid for 6 months starting at the beginning of his/her employment period which could be prolonged for another 3 months if the employer decides to prolong the employment contract for such a duration.
  • Unemployed people looking for a job in Switzerland can be granted an L-EU/EFTA permit for a duration of up to one year – please note that this special permit does not entitle permit seekers to social security benefits.

The B-EU/EFTA permit

  • The B-EU/EFTA permit is granted to people having an employment contract valid for a determined duration of a minimum of one year or for an indefinite period. The B-EU/EFTA permit is granted for a period of 5 years and can be prolonged for additional 5-year periods.

Procedure

The procedure is rather straightforward. The applicant must directly apply to the respective Cantonal authority which usually provides an online platform in order to start the process. For example, in Zurich, the permit seeker must register on the cantonal platform, transfer the required details, and plan a meeting with the authority.

In order to avoid the logistic difficulty imposed by the necessity to have a domicile in Switzerland to apply for a work permit, EU/EFTA nationals can ask the authorities to pre-proof their application and assure them that they will be granted a permit once they obtained a domicile in Switzerland. The permit seeker must explain his/her situation and demonstrate concrete plans to elect domicile in Switzerland. In practice, this can be done with a pre-lease contract for example.

The exception of Croatian nationals

Given the fact that Croatia is currently non-fully integrated into the EU, its citizens must comply with additional requirements to be granted a Swiss work permit. This regime is transitional and will end with the full integration of Croatia into the EU in 2027.

Croatian nationals must fulfill the requirements imposed by articles 20 to 24 of the FNIA but are exempted to fulfill the requirements of article 23 FNIA. Details on these requirements will be provided hereinafter.

Non-EU/EFTA work permits

The main difference between EU/EFTA nationals and non-EU/EFTA nationals resides in the fact that the latter do not have a right to be granted a Swiss work permit as the number of available permits per year is limited by law.  

Requirements

The requirements for non-EU/EFTA nationals are stated in the FNIA:

EmployeeSelf-employed
20 FNIA – QuotasXX
21 FNIA – PrecedenceX
22 FNIA – Salary and employment conditionsX
23 FNIA – Personal requirementsXX
24 – FNIA AccomodationXX

Quotas

  • As mentioned above, the number of work permits available per year is limited by law. If you would like additional details on the quotas, please check out our first article (add link).

Precedence

  • The precedence requirement states that a non-EU/EFTA national cannot be granted a work permit if the position he/she is applying to could have been given to either a Swiss resident or an EU/EFTA national.
  • The priority system established is the following:
    • Domestic employees (= Swiss national, people with a valid Swiss work permit)
    • EU/EFTA nationals
    • Non-EU/EFTA nationals
  • In practice, and to fulfill this requirement, the employer must demonstrate that the position has been advertised both to domestic and EU/EFTA nationals and that no applicant within these two groups could have been a suitable candidate for the position awarded to the permit seeker.

Salary and employment conditions

  • The salary and employment conditions (holidays, working hours, etc.) under which the permit seeker will be employed must be adequate for what is locally customary in the sector and for the profession of the open position.

Personal requirements

  • The permit seeker must be highly qualified. This notion notably entails specialists and managers. In practice, a key criterion is the salary the permit seeker will earn – a high salary indicates high qualifications.
  • The professional, social, and language skills of the permit seeker must indicate that there is a prospect of lasting integration in the Swiss job market and the social environment.
  • Exceptions to these personal requirements can notably be accepted if the permit seeker is an entrepreneur aiming to create job opportunities in Switzerland.

Accomodation

  • The permit seeker must have suitable accommodation in Switzerland, including sufficient rooms for family members that may join her/him.

Permits

Two permits are available for non-EU/EFTA nationals under the above-described requirements: the L and the B permit.

The L permit is granted for a duration of up to one year and can be renewed for additional one-year-periods. The L permit is granted when the permit seeker signed an employment agreement of less than one year. In such cases, the permit is delivered for the same duration as the employment agreement. In practice, authorities may also grant L permits to a permit seeker who signed an undetermined employment agreement with a growing company. The reason behind it is that the authority wants to ensure that the start-up will grow according to its business plan for the coming years before issuing a B permit to its employee.

The B permit is granted for a duration of one year and can be renewed for additional 2-years-periods. In contrast to the L permit, the B permit is granted to permit seekers who signed an undetermined employment agreement with a Swiss company. One of the benefits of the B permit is that it allows the family of the permit seeker to work in Switzerland without any additional authorizations.

The duration of the permit granted to a self-employed permit seeker depends on the professional project presented to the authority.

Procedure

First, the employer of the permit seeker must apply to the competent cantonal authority at the registered office of the company. A detailed questionnaire needs to be provided to the authority to demonstrate the fulfillment of the above requirements. The cantonal authority then takes a preliminary decision.

If this preliminary decision is positive, the cantonal authority forwards the case to the State Secretary for Migration (“SEM”) which renders a final decision on the grant of the work permit. During its assessment, the SEM is authorized to ask for more information or documents from both the employer and the permit seeker. The SEM is not bound by the preliminary cantonal decision.

If the SEM grants the work permit, the cantonal authority delivers an authorization to collect the visa to enter Switzerland. The permit seeker will then have to pick up the visa at the nearest Swiss embassy. The entire process lasts between two and three months.

Next, residence permit?

As mentioned, B permits must be renewed respectively every one, two, or five years and the permit seeker must always fulfill the requirements for the permit. The only way to avoid this administrative burden is to upgrade to a permanent residence permit; in other words, a C permit.

To be granted a C permit, a person must have lived 10 years in Switzerland with an L or a B permit and the last 5 years must have been uninterrupted. Additionally, the permit seeker must be integrated and speak at least one of the official languages. The criterion of integration is vague and depends on various aspects such as the personal and the professional life of the permit seeker. Exceptionally, and for good cause, the C permit may be granted following a shorter stay in Switzerland.

It is important to note that there is no difference between EU/EFTA and non-EU/EFTA nationals with regards to both the requirements related to the grant of a C permit and the rights linked with the granted permits. In any case, the permanent residence permit is granted for a period of 10 years and can be renewed for additional 10-years-periods.

How can we help you?

Applying for and being granted a Swiss work permit can be cumbersome and it is easy to get lost within the maze of administrative regulations and requirements.

We thank you for reading and we hope that this blog series gave you useful information when deciding to apply for a work permit in Switzerland.

If you have any additional questions, we are only one click or one email away. You can simply book a free call with us or to try our free assessment tool for non-EU/EFTA nationals.

Yoann Garraux

By Yoann Garraux

Legal Analyst

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