third country nationals

third country nationals

This page provides information about working permits for third country nationals who want to work in Switzerland. Third country nationals means citizens from other countries than Switzerland as well as all citizens from those countries with which Switzerland has concluded the Free Movement of Persons Agreement (at present, the EU and EFTA states).

Who is admitted?

  • Workers from third states are admitted in limited numbers to the labour market in Switzerland.

  • Third state nationals may only be admitted if a person can not be recruited from the labour market of Switzerland or a EU/EFTA member state. Swiss citizens, EU/EFTA citizens, foreign nationals with a longterm residence permit or a residence permit allowing employment are given priority. Employers must prove that they have not been able to recruit a suitable employee from this priority category, despite intensive efforts. (The employer must explain to the authorities why the search for a suitable candidate was not successful.)

  • However, exceptions to the admittance requirements may be made in certain cases, e.g. highly qualified scientists with a degree obtained in Switzerland in areas or sectors in which there is a lack of potential labour.

I have a Swiss university degree...

  • To find employment, foreign nationals who have earned a Swiss university-level diploma (i.e. a bachelor or a master degree or a PhD) will be entitled to stay in Switzerland for six more months from the time of completing their education or postgraduate studies. This six-month-period applies for EU/EFTA as well as for third country nationals.

  • The request must be made by the degree-holder to the commune of residence. (It is not delivered automatically or tacitly.) The degree-holder must be able to show that

    • he/s he has successfully passed the final exams and
    • he/she has sufficient revenue and somewhere to live.
  • Validity: The six-month period runs from the date at which success has been notified, even if the request is submitted afterwards or if you complete your studies before your student permit expires. This type of residence permit is not renewable. This means that you will need to leave the country when it expires (unless you have a legitimate reason to stay in Switzerland).

I want to do a PhD in Switzerland...

  • A PhD is considered as an education by Swiss authorities, even if you are employed as a PhD student (Doktorand/in, doctorant-e), assitant or researcher by the university and if you have a work contract. You don’t need a work permit to get a residence permit.

  • Apply to the migration authority of the canton in which you wish to do your PhD (list of all cantonal migration authorities). You can also ask the secretariat of the insititute where you are going to start your PhD. The secretary might help you to get a residence permit.

How to get a work permit?

You have found a job in Switzerland. Now, you need a work permit. How to proceed?

In Switzerland, employers are responsible for obtaining the work permit. They submit an application to the competent cantonal labour market or migration authority. These authorities also answer questions about the procedure and the application documents to be submitted.

Can I set up my own business?

  • Holders of a valid C permit, the spouse of a C permit holder or the spouse of a Swiss citizen have the legal right to establish their own business in Switzerland.
  • All other persons have no legal right to set up their own business. They must submit an application to the respective cantonal authorities. Apart from the necessary personal requirements, it is decisive in the evaluation that the company will have a "lasting positive effect or influence on the Swiss labour market".
  • If the application is accepted by the cantonal authorities, the entrepreneur is granted at least a short-term residence permit for third-country nationals (L permit) or a residence permit (B permit). (Both permits are subject to the L and B permit quotas set annually by the Federal Council.)

Categories of residence and work permits

On the website of the State Secretariat for Migration SEM you will find all the necessary information on the various residence permits for third-country nationals.

Useful links