All non-Swiss nationals wishing to come to Switzerland for the purpose of employment must have a valid passport – and a visa, if necessary, issued by the Swiss Embassy or Consulate at the home location. Your Swiss employer needs to have applied for and received agreement to the assurance of a work and residence permit before your arrival in the country. This document has to be requested from the immigration authorities either of the canton in which the employer is situated or of the canton where the employee will take residence. Different procedures apply depending on the country of origin of the applicant. It is also necessary for any accompanying spouse and children to have similar documents which confirm the right to reside in Switzerland.
There are different types of permits, depending on where you live and the length of your working contract.
The federal department of foreign affairs (through the relevant cantonal department) is responsible for examining and deciding whether applications for work permits made by companies employing foreign workers are admissible on socio-economic ground.
Decisions on applications are based in part on the number of permits allocated to the cantons by the federal government and the economic importance of the request, taking into account the situation in the labour market and on the employment conditions being offered to the workers.
Conditions and procedures are different for nationals of the European Community member states and European Trade Association (EFTA) member States, and for those of the other countries (“third countries”).
The B permit is the most common permit type for expatriates in Switzerland. It is a long-term work permit based on the economic interests of the company and the employee's qualifications. It is in principle, granted to employees who are part of an inter-company transfer for a long period, important internal projects, or who possess skills not available in the local market.
The C permit is a renewable, long-term residence permit that is granted only after an assignee has spent an extended period of time in Switzerland under a B permit. The C permit grants the permit holder most of the rights of a Swiss citizen, similar to a Greencard for a US resident, including the right to live in any canton in Switzerland.
The G permit is generally granted to workers who reside in neighbouring countries (France, Germany, Lichtenstein, Austria and Italy) and work in Switzerland.
The L permit is applicable to short-term assignments to Switzerland. It is designed for trainees, foreigners managing projects, or employees seconded for a short period of time. It is also used as a temporary measure when B permit quotas for the year have been exhausted.
Migraweb is a service produced by migrants for migrants and offers a wealth of information and useful links about everyday life in Switzerland.
Information about living in the French and German border regions
The G permit is generally granted to workers who reside in neighboring countries (France, Germany, Lichtenstein, Austria and Italy) and work in Switzerland.