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 (either at least CHF 2,100 per month, or a total of CHF 12,600) 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. (In other words, if you submit your request two months after having been informed of your successful completion, you will only have four months on your permit.) 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?

Work permit applications can only be submitted by the employer. You therefore need a job, i.e. a confirmation from a Swiss employer that offers you employment.

Step Responsible What to do?
Application submission (future) employer The employer must make sure that all requirements regarding professional qualifications and salary and work conditions are met and clearly show why you qualify. He/she submits the relevant application documents to the cantonal employment service.
Cantonal application screening Cantonal employment service Screens applications according to the directives and makes a preliminary decision. Applications approved by the canton need to be submitted to the Federal Office for Migration for final approval.
Federal application screening Federal Office for Migration Processes applications according to criteria relevant to the whole of Switzerland. The applicant, employer and both cantonal offices receive a formal written decision from the Migration Office. The decision is subject to a charge, payable by the employer.
Issuance of visa Cantonal migration authority Advises the appropriate Swiss diplomatic representation abroad online to issue visa. Applicants are requested to collect their visa at that specific Swiss representation.
Registration The employee Registers himself with the residents’ registration office not longer than 14 days after his entry into Switzerland. Only then is he allowed to take up his employment.

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

The following categories of residence and work permits are available:

  • Short-term residence and work permits for stays of up to 1 year (renewable once) are restricted to a maximum period of 24 months for the purpose of vocational further education or for activities of limited duration.

  • Year round residence and work permits "B" for stays of more than 1 year (renewable) are initially issued, as a rule, for the duration of 1 year and basically can be extended every year. Permits falling under the federal quota system are primarily granted to qualified specialists.

  • Permanent residence and work permits "C” are usually granted after an uninterrupted stay in Switzerland of 10 years. This permit is not subject to any labor market restrictions and the holders have practically the same rights and opportunities as native workers, except the right to vote and elect.

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