Becoming a Swiss resident

The Swiss C permit is the equivalent of Swiss permanent residency, allowing a foreigner to work and live in Switzerland without any restrictions. The permit C holder does not need an authorization to change employment or to work as an independent. Additionally, the C permit does not restrict employment to a specific canton (art. 34 LEI).

The fast-tracked C permit can be obtained after 5 years of residency with a B permit if the following integration requirements are met:

  • language proficiency
  • stable employment situation
  • no debts
  • no criminal background


On the applicant’s request, the C permit is granted on two conditions:

  • If the applicant has lived in Switzerland for at least 10 years on a B permit (permits N and F are not taken into account) and if the last 5 years have been spent in the country without any interruption (art. 34 let. a LEI).
  • If there is no reason for the permit to be refused (criminal record, debts, threat to national security).

In some cases described below, a C permit can be granted immediately or after having lived in Switzerand for five years. 

Other details…

Years spent in Switzerland on an L permit during the five first years only can count towards the ten years required to obtain a C permit. 

Holding a C permit allows holders to apply for Swiss citizenship after 10 years of residency and good integration (art. 9 LN).

The C permit expires after 6 months spent outside Switzerland. However, an authorization of absence can be requested in some cases to suspend a C permit for a period of maximum 4 years while living abroad.

Legitimation card holders (CDL) are not eligible to obtain a C permit, except in specific circumstances such as when retiring or for children holding a B permit having lived and studied for more than 12 years in Switzerland.

The C permit is immediately granted to:
  • Children under 12 of a Swiss citizen or C permit holder in the context of a family reunification process (art. 42 al. 4 and 43 al. 6 LEI);
  • Professors teaching at university level.

From the 1st January 2019, the new law LEI has included the possibility to downgrade from a C to a B permit when the applicant has breached the law or does not fulfill the integration requirements.

Downgrading can be enforced when:

  • The applicant lied about important aspects when applying for the C permit
  • The applicant was involved in criminal proceedings or was under custodial sentence
  • The applicant represents a threat to national and international security
  • The applicant and his dependents have been relying on social assistance and receive social benefits
  • The applicant does not respect the integration agreement concluded with cantonal authorities (art. 62 LEI).

Thus, authorities will now use integration agreements as a tool to regulate the level of integration of applicants who arrived in Switzerland through family reunification, for example (art. 58 let. b LEI).

The fast-tracked permit or “permis C anticipé”:

The required time of 10 years of residency in Switzerland may be shortened when the applicant is well integrated (art. 34 al. 4 LEI).

Thus, a C permit can be granted after 5 consecutive years in Switzerland while holding a B permit if the following requirements are demonstrated:

  • Successful integration of the applicant and family members aged 12 years and over;
  • Respect of the Swiss legal system and Constitutional values;
  • Knowledge of French (for the canton of Geneva) at A2 written B1 spoken level (an official French certificate is required);
  • Willingness to participate in the economic and social life of the country and to adapt (being employed or proof of a study plan);
  • When the applicant was previously granted a C permit for at least 10 years and has not lived abroad for more than 6 years.

The years spent under a B study permit are not accounted for the fast-tracked C permit unless the applicant has obtained a B work permit after his studies for a minimum of 2 years.

The C permit is automatically granted after 5 years of legal residence in Switzerland to:
  • Spouses of Swiss nationals or holders of C permit as from the date of marriage in Switzerland or the date of entry into Switzerland in the case of marriage abroad;
  • Citizens of Germany, Austria, Belgium, Danemark, Spain, France, Greece, Italy, Liechtenstein, Netherlands, Portugal (Directives LEI published on the 1st January 2021, Chapter

Holding a C means that after 10 years of residency in Switzerland you are eligible to apply for Swiss naturalization if you meet all the integration requirements.  From 2018, the law on naturalization, LN, requires all applicants to hold a C permit in order to be able to apply for citizenship.

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This website aims to provide general information regarding Swiss law and should not be regarded as a legal opinion. For more specific advice, do not hesitate to contact us.