As a foreign resident, what is my status in your country?
Two significantly different regimes govern Swiss residence and work permits:

  • For EC nationals of the first fifteen EU member states, plus Cyprus, Malta, Norway, Liechtenstein and Iceland (EU17/EFTA), rules are based on the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons between Switzerland and the European Community including Cyprus and Malta.
  • For third-country nationals: Please note that new EU countries are still subject to limitations. Work permits for non-EU nationals and for nationals of new EU countries are subject to significant quantitative limitations (quotas) for the new EU countries.

There are no quotas for the other EU/EFTA members coming to work in Switzerland under Swiss employment contract.

1a. Biometric data:
The Schengen area is defined according to the Agreement of Schengen and is made up of the 22 member states of the European Union and 3 associate states: Iceland, Norway and Switzerland. These agreements authorize freedom of circulation for citizens of these countries or those residing there and who possess a residence Permit. As of January 24, 2011, the new residence permit must be biometric. The previous cards, which are non-biometric, will remain valid until their expiration date. The individual in possession of a Biometric Residence Permit and a valid passport of their country of origin is then free to travel within the Schengen area without a visa.

People concerned
The Biometric Residence Permit is compulsory for the members of States that do not belong to the EU, to the European Free Trade Association (AELE/EFTA) or to the States that cannot benefit from the agreement on free circulation of individuals.

Procedures (necessary documents)

  • For the first delivery of a permit:
    After announcing yourself to the residents’ registration office in the commune where you live and on payment of the emolument, the file is transmitted to the Population Service (OCP). You will then receive a letter inviting you to go to the biometric center to proceed with the registration of the biometric data.
  • For the extension of a permit:
    After receiving your request for an extension of the permit and on payment of the emolument, the Population Service (OCP) will send you a letter inviting you to go to the biometric center. In all cases, you must then present yourself at the biometric center without delay and in possession of:
  • The letter of invitation (communication from OCP)
  • Passport
  • Payment fee

Once the biometric data is registered and the decision is made by the OCP and/or the Federal Migration Office (ODM) whether to issue or renew the permit, the card will be made and sent to your home by registered letter.

The biometric data is valid for five years. In the case of important physical modification (child) it is possible, upon renewal of the permit, to request a new anticipated registration of the biometric data.
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What kinds of visas are available?
The following categories of work permits are available:

  • 120 days permit with sporadic trips in and out of the country
  • Short-term residence and work permits (L Permits) for stays of up to one year
  • Long-term (annual) residence and work permits (B Permits)
  • Cross-border Commuter Permit (Permit G)
  • Permanent Residence Permit (Permit C)
  • Ci permit (work permit for family members of an international civil servant)

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What is required to obtain these visas?

Procedures for EU Nationals
B Permits are usually valid for five years and L Permits (short-term residents) are valid for up to one year. June 1, 2007 saw the introduction of the third phase of a five-phase implementation of the bilateral agreement between Switzerland and the EU on the free movement of persons. This significant step witnessed the lifting of the preferential quota system, which was introduced as phase one in June 2002. The fifteen original EU member states that formed part of the agreement signed in June 1999 (Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Finland, France, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Sweden, Spain, United Kingdom) will no longer require prior authorization in order to enter and work in Switzerland where the intention to stay is for a period greater than four months and where the employee’s contract of work will be held with the Swiss entity. As a result, the immigration requirements for employees moving to Switzerland under a one-way transfer or permanent/localized move have become much simpler. International long-term and short-term assignments, however, will still be required to obtain a work permit under the existing rules. The new law is also valid for Cyprus, Malta, Norway, Lichtenstein and Iceland. Prior authorization from the relevant Swiss migration authorities is still required for employees arriving to work in Switzerland for a period of up to 90 days and for the 120 days permit with sporadic in and out trips. For cross-border permits, restrictions on where an individual can commute from under a cross-border permit (cross-border areas) have been removed for nationals of EU 17/EFTA countries.

Procedures for Non-EU nationals and nationals of new EU countries
For non-EU nationals and nationals of new EU countries, the quota system is stringently applied. The authorities involved have wide discretion in their decision-making process. They usually make high demands on the qualification of the future employees (university degree, e.g., three to four years of work experience and appropriate salary). Please note that work permits for employees who only work up to four months in Switzerland are not subject to quotas.

Issuance of the Work Permit
Non-EU nationals and nationals of new EU countries do need a work and a residence permit in order to start working in Switzerland. The following categories of residence and work permits are available:

  • Short-term residence and work permits (L Permits) for stays of up to one year
  • Annual residence and work permits (B Permits)

The standard duration of the application procedure is usually six to ten weeks, depending on the canton where the application is submitted. Standard required documents for a work and residence permit application are:

  • A copy of passport (for the employee and any accompanying family members)
  • A current résumé (CV)
  • Copies of higher education certificates
  • Copy of signed employment contract
  • Copy of birth certificate
  • Copy of marriage certificate

Most third-country nationals do need a visa in order to legally enter Switzerland and to take up employment. The visa needs to be picked up at the Swiss Embassy in your home country before entering Switzerland.

Criminal Record

Non-EU nationals usually need to provide the competent authorities with a Criminal Record. This document is a compulsory requirement for the work permit and residence application. Because of the fact that in each country there is another authority in charge of the issuance of Criminal Records, the employee has to provide it himself with the mentioned document.

Border Commuter Permit (Permit G)
A border commuter permit is usually valid for five years. The restriction on where an individual can commute from under a cross-border permit was removed in June 2007 for nationals of EU17/ETFA countries. Cross-border areas remain for nationals of new EU countries. Non-EU persons have to domicile for at least six months in the relevant cross-border area before the application can be submitted.

Permanent Residence Permit (Permit C)

After a continuous residence period of five years for EU and EFTA nationals and after ten years for most non-EU nationals, foreigners should normally be entitled to a permanent residence permit. A permanent residence permit entitles the foreigner to work without limitation or condition in Switzerland and to stay indefinitely, provided there is no reason for cancellation of the C permanent
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Are spouses permitted and/or likely to find work?
NON-EU citizens:
For B permit holder: The accompanying spouse (legally married) of a B work and residence permit holder is entitled to work in Switzerland. Once the accompanying spouse of the B permit holder has found a job in Switzerland, it is his/her employer’s responsibility to announce this employment to the relevant migration authorities. The accompanying spouse (legally married) of an L permit holder needs prior authorization from the Swiss migration authorities to be entitled to work in Switzerland.
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What are the main forms of identification and how does a newcomer obtain them?
For long-term assignments, you are encouraged to bring important original documents, such as birth certificates, marriage licenses, insurance policies, medical prescriptions, employment information, academic certificates and entry permits. Please refer to the Swiss Federal Office for Migration website for a list of identity document provisions according to nationality.
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Are there any other important permits I must obtain, or places where I must register right away?
It is necessary to register with the Office Cantonal de la Population (OCP) as soon as you arrive (within 14 days). In Geneva, you can do that online or per post. Your Crown consultant will gladly inform you about the process.

When registering, you should provide the following items:

  • original signed and valid passports or national identity card for each family member
  • clear copies of passport information page(s) or national identity card per person
  • two recent identical passport-sized photographs per person (35 x 45 mm; the photograph must show the full face centered in the middle of the photo without sunglasses, hat or other head covering unless for ethnic or religious reasons; be clear and of good quality; be taken against a light background and be printed on normal photographic paper)
  • original marriage certificate
  • copy of marriage certificate
  • your original birth certificate (may be requested at some town halls)
  • original birth certificate showing parentage for each child
  • copy of birth certificate for each child
  • Local hires: copy of your Swiss employment contract and work authorization, if applicable (see above)
  • Expatriates: copy of your assignment letter and work authorization
  • confirmation of health insurance (can be submitted later as well)
  • copy of your lease agreement
  • ”Annonce d’arrivée” forms for you and for your family members (can be downloaded or completed during registation)
  • registration fee in cash (approx. 80 chf per person)

It is also advisable to arrange a Swiss driving license as soon as possible, although you have a maximum one year in which to do this.
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What items should I avoid bringing into the country?
Please do not bring the following items into Switzerland:

  • Firearms and ammunition
  • Alcohol (over 25%) in excess of 12 litres and 200 litres of wine
  • Any articles derived from protected species, including fur skins, ivory, reptile leather and goods made from them
  • Controlled drugs
  • Indecent or obscene videotapes, films, books, magazines and other articles
  • Flick knives and certain offensive weapons
  • Counterfeit currency
  • Radio transmitters (walkie talkies, citizen band radios, cordless telephones, etc.) that are not approved for use in Switzerland
  • Radar detector

Please contact Crown Geneva to obtain more information on restricted items.
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Is there anything else I should know about entering and remaining in the country legally?
If you respect the above, you should be able to enter and leave Switzerland without any problems.
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Crown Relocations has made every effort to present accurate information. However, regulations, rates and other variables are subject to change and Crown Relocations cannot accept responsibility for the errors that might result. Should you have any questions or need additional information, please contact your local Crown representative.