FAQ – Frequently asked questions
I am a citizen of a non-EU/EFTA state, and I have been offered a job in Switzerland. Can I start work right away?
No. A job offer in Switzerland isn’t enough to make you eligible for a work permit. Your employer must respect the principle that domestic and EU/EFTA workers enjoy precedence, and must also show that personal qualifications (specifically professional qualifications) as well as work and salary conditions are met. Furthermore, there must still be permits available under the relevant quota. An overview of the admission criteria can be found here:
Your employer must submit an application for a work permit to the competent cantonal immigration or labour market authority. Click on this link for further information about the latter:
Cantonal immigration and labour market authorities
I am a citizen of a non-EU/EFTA state, and I hold an indefinite residence permit for an EU/EFTA state. Do I need a visa and a residence permit to work in Switzerland?
Yes. The fact that you hold a residence permit for an EU/EFTA state does not entitle you to work in Switzerland. You are subject to the same admission conditions as people who enter Switzerland directly from a third country. As a rule, non-EU/EFTA nationals must have an entry visa, which they can apply for from the Swiss representation abroad in their country after they have been granted a residence permit.
More information on visa requirements can be found her:
Information for Entry to Switzerland (e.g. Visa obligation)
Stays of up to 90 days
If you are an employee of a company that has its registered office in an EU-27/EFTA state, your employer can second you to Switzerland for up to 90 days per calendar year, providing that you have previously been integrated long-term in the regular labour market of an EU or EFTA member state (i.e. you have held a temporary or permanent residence permit for at least 12 months). Your stay will be governed by the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons (AFMP) between Switzerland and the EU. Third-country nationals seconded to work in Switzerland for up to 90 days on the basis of the AFMP do not need a visa if they hold a valid, recognised travel document and a valid residence permit issued by a Schengen member state. The placement in Switzerland must be notified to the authorities. For more information, please click here:
Working in Switzerland
For further information for Croatian citizens, please click here:
You will also find information on residence permits issued by Schengen member states by clicking on the following link:
Stays of more than 90 days
However, if you are seconded to Switzerland by your employer for a period of longer than 90 days per calendar year, you must apply for a permit.
Under Art. 55 of the Ordinance on Admission, Period of Stay and Employment (ASEO), holders of a short-term («L») residence permit may be allowed to change job if they cannot continue to work for their current employer or if they cannot reasonably be expected to do so. However, they must remain within the same sector as well as the same profession, and the change of job will be permitted only if it has not been necessitated by the employee's own behaviour. Applications for changes of job should be sent to the competent cantonal authority.
As a general rule, holders of ‘B’ permits can change job without further authorisation (Art. 38 para. 2 Foreign Nationals and Integration Act (FNIA)). However, if the residence permit has been granted to allow the holder to take up a specific job and is expressly linked to a condition relating to the labour market, an application to change job should be sent to the competent cantonal authority.
Further information can be found under sections 220.127.116.11 and 18.104.22.168 of the FNIA directives (available in German, French and Italian).
I am a citizen of a non-EU/EFTA state and I would like to work in Switzerland on a self-employed basis. What conditions apply to my entry into the country and to my work?
Individuals from non-EU/EFTA states may work in Switzerland on a self-employed basis. However, admission is conditional upon a review of labour market conditions, as set out in Art. 19 FNIA and, in addition to satisfying the personal and other requirements, the person must demonstrate that self-employment will have a lasting positive impact on the Swiss labour market (overall economic interest). The application must be accompanied by a number of documents to permit a review of the financial conditions and the business's operating requirements, as laid down in Art. 19 FNIA (cf. section 4.8.11 of the FNIA directives (in German, French and Italian)). These documents must include a business plan, setting out planned activities, an analysis of the market, how the workforce will develop (in both quantitative and qualitative terms) and recruitment options, as well as planned investments and forecasts for turnover and profit. Finally, organisational ties with other businesses must also be stated, and the memorandum and articles of association and the extract from the commercial register must be submitted along with the application.
I am a citizen of a non-EU/EFTA state and I would like to secure a residence permit so that I can pursue gainful employment in Switzerland. What do I need to do?
First of all, you need a firm job offer from a Swiss employer.
Your employer must submit an application for a work permit to the cantonal authority that is responsible for the labour market. Subject to a positive review of that application, the authority will issue a preliminary decision and forward the file to the SEM for approval. The SEM will then also examine the admission conditions and, if they are met, will make a decision that is then sent to the employer and to the competent cantonal immigration authority so that it can issue the permit.
Further details of the procedure can be found here:
The contact addresses for the cantonal labour market authorities can be found here:
Cantonal immigration and labour market authorities
What documents need to be submitted with the work permit application if I wish to pursue gainful employment?
Detailed information can be found here:
You should also contact the competent cantonal authorities for information, as they may require documents other than those listed here.
The process involves a number of different authorities: Swiss representations abroad, the competent cantonal immigration and labour market authorities, and the SEM. In general, in our experience you should expect to wait six to eight weeks for your file to be processed fully. The review may take longer in more complex cases, where a business is submitting an application for the first time, or if there are special circumstances.
Overview of the procedure
Information on the documents to be submitted with the application
The SEM has approved my application. Does that mean my foreign employee can now come to Switzerland and start work?
No. Approval from the SEM is not the same as authorisation for the foreign worker to enter Switzerland. Before that can happen, the competent cantonal immigration authorities must notify the embassy that it may issue the visa.
The main provisions are set out clearly and concisely in Art. 30 para. 1 j FNIA and Art. 48 ASEO, with more detail provided in section 4.4.10 of the FNIA directives (in German, French and Italian).
Au pairs from third countries (such as the USA, Canada and Thailand, etc.) cannot be admitted unless they have a placement that has been confirmed by an agency that is recognised and authorised by SECO (in German, French and Italian). Only those aged between 18 and 25 may be placed and admitted as au pairs.
I would like to employ a chef from a non-EU/EFTA state in my restaurant. What admission conditions must they meet?
The admission of speciality chefs is an exceptional case under Art. 23 para. 3 FNA on the grounds of their specific professional knowledge and their status as a specialist in a given sector in which their particular profile cannot be found in Switzerland or an EU/EFTA state.
According to section 22.214.171.124.2 of the FNIA directives, the specialist must also satisfy a number of requirements which are linked primarily to their professional qualifications. In this case, the candidate would have to demonstrate several years of chef training, leading to a diploma (or recognised equivalent training), as well as at least seven years’ professional experience as a speciality chef (including the training period). If the chef does not hold a diploma they will be required to demonstrate at least ten years’ professional experience. These conditions are set out in detail in section 126.96.36.199.2 of the FNIA directives (in German, French and Italian).
The speciality restaurant itself must also meet a certain number of requirements, which are set out in section 188.8.131.52.1 of the FNIA directives.
I am a professional sportsperson (footballer, basketball/hockey/volleyball player, etc.) from a non-EU/EFTA state, and I have been offered a two-season contract by a Swiss club. What conditions do I have to meet to be able to play in Switzerland?
The appointment of a non-EU/EFTA citizen by a sports club with the intention of competing in championships is regarded as gainful employment, which requires a residence permit and a work permit. The latter will be granted if a number of conditions are met by both the club and the sportsperson that it would like to employ.
The main condition linked to the club is that it must be in one of the top two leagues in the country. Furthermore, it may not subsequently loan players out to play in lower leagues. Details of the requirements that the club must meet are set out in section 184.108.40.206.1 of the FNIA directives (in German, French and Italian).
Meanwhile, the sportsperson must also satisfy a number of admission criteria, which are set out in detail in section 220.127.116.11.2 of the FNIA directives.
I am a citizen of a non-EU/EFTA state and I am required to complete an internship as part of my studies. I would like to do it in Switzerland. Do I need a work and/or residence permit, and what conditions must I satisfy?
Yes, you need a residence permit to pursue gainful employment, but it will not be granted unless your internship forms an integral part of your studies. Furthermore, applications are generally submitted via an organisation such as IAESTE or AIESEC, which places interns with Swiss companies and guides and supports foreign students while they are in the country. At the same time, they ensure that interested Swiss students have access to internships abroad.
I've studied in Switzerland and graduated from university here. Do I have the right to stay in the country to look for work?
Third-country nationals who have graduated from a Swiss higher education institution have a six-month period from the end of their course or training in Switzerland in which to look for a job which matches their qualifications. In derogation of the principle of precedence for Swiss and EU/EFTA nationals, they may be admitted if their work represents an overriding scientific or economic interest.
Recognised or Accredited Swiss Higher Education Institutions
Yes. If you are living in Switzerland to train or study at a university or university of applied sciences, the competent cantonal authorities may approve a supplementary activity in accordance with Art. 38 ASEO, subject to a number of conditions. Beginning no sooner than six months after the start of their course, foreign students may work for a maximum of 15 hours a week outside of the holidays. However, the university authorities must confirm that the student's work is compatible with their studies and will not delay their completion. In addition, an application must be submitted by the employer, and the employment must comply with the applicable regulations on pay and working conditions.
For further information, please contact the competent cantonal labour market and immigration authorities:
Cantonal immigration and labour market authorities
Each month, my employer produces a pay slip which shows various social security deductions. How can I check that the amounts concerned have actually been paid to the insurance schemes in question?
You can ask the social security organisation concerned to provide you with a statement of your account.
- For OASI and IV, contact your compensation fund or visit the OASI website:
request a statement of your individual account
- For information on OPA (pension fund, pillar 2) please contact the pension fund with which your employer is affiliated.
My employment in Switzerland is coming to an end and I’m returning home. Can I claim back my social security contributions?
Information on this issue is available in twelve languages on the website of the Federal Social Insurance Office (FSIO):
Swiss social insurance system: Sojourn in Switzerland and departure
I am a citizen of a non-EU/EFTA state, and am currently working in Switzerland. My husband has joined me and also wants to find a job. Is that possible, and are there any special conditions that must be met?
Under Art. 26 ASEO, members of the family of holders of a short-term residence («L») permit may be given permission to pursue gainful employment if an application is submitted by an employer, and if the rules on pay and working conditions, as well as personal qualifications, are satisfied.
Spouses and children of holders of permanent residence permits have the right to work, without needing to go through any additional authorisation procedure (Art. 27 ASEO). However, such employment is limited in duration by the validity of the original permit held by the spouse or parent.
Further details can be found in section 4.4.1 of the FNIA directives here (in German, French and Italian):
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