A C permit is the equivalent of permanent residency in Switzerland. It allows the holder to work and live in the country indefinitely without any cantonal or employer’s restrictions. A C permit is obtained after 10 years of residency or after 5 years holding a B permit while being strongly integrated (art. 34 al. 4 LEI).
A C permit is granted on the condition that the person is living in Switzerland on a permanent basis and is participating to the economic and social Swiss life.
In some cases, a C permit can be maintained for 4 years maximum if the holder decides to move overseas for study or professional purposes. This derogation must be justified in written to cantonal authorities at least 30 days before the departure date (art. 61 al. 2 LEI).
If a C permit holder is relocated overseas by his employer for a period longer than 6 months, the C permit can be also put on hold for a period not exceeding 4 years or not exceeding the period the holder spent under the C permit in Switzerland. After reviewing the request, an authorization of absence is delivered by cantonal authorities, allowing the permit to be suspended during the period spent overseas (directives LEI 2021).
If the holder of a C permit leaves the country for more than 6 months without freezing his permit, the C permit expires after 6 months. After that, the holder is subject to the usual admission conditions regulated by the law on Foreigners and Integration (LEI), and must apply for a new permit when coming back.
In some cases, if the time spent overseas did not exceed 6 years and if the holder lived in Switzerland for at least 10 years with a C permit before his departure, authorities can deliver a C permit 2 years after the person returns (art. 61 OASA).
Children of migrants who have lived in Switzerland all their life and retirees holding a C permit have also the opportunity to freeze their C permit for 4 years if they plan to return to their home country to check if they wish to settle back (directives LEI 2019).
To conclude, if a C permit holder officially declares his departure to authorities without requesting the suspension of his permit, the C permit is automatically cancelled from the date of departure of Switzerland. Therefore, if you are a C permit holder and you plan to move overseas for work or study purposes for more than 6 months, you should ensure to proceed to the suspension of your C permit by obtaining an authorization of absence from cantonal authorities to have the opportunity to come back within 4 years and have your C permit returned.
30/11/19 - Alexa Mossaz, immigration specialist