Applying for a work permit

Applying for a work permit for your employee starts at cantonal immigration and employment authorities in the canton where the company is based. 

For non-EU citizens, once cantonal authorities have assessed and approved the application, it is sent to the SEM (Secrétariat d’Etat aux Migrations) in Bern to be examined at the federal level for the final decision.

The type of permit delivered (L or B) covers the length of the work contract submitted. An L permit can be valid up to 1 year and can be renewed once. The B permit is usually delivered for 2 years, renewable.

Quotas are applied for non-EU workers. Only skilled highly qualified specialists can be hired from a non-EU country (including the UK).

To obtain a work permit for an non-EU specialist, the employer must be able to prove that the job was first advertised on the local and EU job market and that the employer did everything to recruit first a candidate based locally or within Europe.

European workers can simply submit their permit application with the copy of the work contract and start working.

Work permit procedure

European citizens

European citizens from a member country of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) are allowed to come to Switzerland and look for a job for a period of 3 months without holding an authorization. However, they must declare their arrival to authorities within 14 days. If their work contract is temporary and for less than a year, they will be granted an L permit (short-term). This can be renewed once for a maximum of one year. If the contract goes over a year or has an indefinite term, they will be granted a B permit for five years. It can then be renewed for five years.

Non-European citizens

For non-European citizens seeking a work permit, things are more complex as explained in our article “Non EU/EFTA citizens: applying for a work permit”. They must find a job from their country of residence and secure a position before coming to Switzerland.

The employer must apply for the employee’s permit, after having proved that no one else on the European and Swiss job market matches the advertised position (art. 21 LEI). The employee must wait until the application has been approved before being allowed to travel to Switzerland to start working. The process can take up to 6 months. The application is evaluated by cantonal work authorities before being sent to the SEM in Bern for a final decision. An L permit can be granted for a maximum of one year and renewed for a year. A B permit is initially granted for a year and can then be renewed for two years at a time.

UK citizens

The procedure for UK citizens is slightly different. Indeed, cantonal authorities can deliver the permit without it having to be sent to the SEM. Furthermore, quotas applied to UK citizens are different than those applied to other non-european citizens.  

Work permit applications in Switzerland, how to?

ALEXA answers the following questions:

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