Settling in Switzerland on a permanent basis

The Swiss C permit is the equivalent of Swiss permanent residency, allowing a non-Swiss citizen 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 C permit is granted on request of the applicant on two conditions:

  • If the applicant has lived in Switzerland for at least 10 years on a B or L permit (permits N, F are not taken into account) and if the last 5 years have been spent in the country without any interruption (art. 34 al.2 let. a LEI).
  • If there is no reason for the permit to be refused (criminal record, debts, threat to national security).

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.

Other details…

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

C permit on arrival

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.

Permit downgrading

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).

C permit after 5 years

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:

    1. 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;
    2. Citizens of Germany, Austria, Belgium, Danemark, Spain, France, Greece, Italy, Liechtenstein, Netherlands, Portugal (Directives LEI published on the 1st January 2021, Chapter

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