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The legitimation card (carte de légitimation) or CDL, is an authorization to work delivered by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFAE) to foreign citizens employed by UN organizations, diplomatic missions, international and intergovernmental organizations as well as international conferences and Courts in Switzerland (art. 11 OLEH). CDL holders are allowed to travel in the Schengen area for a period of 3 months.

The Carte de légitimation

This authorization allows the beneficiary to exercise his duties without a visa or work permit in Switzerland. Thus, CDL holders are not regulated by the law on Foreigners and Integration (LEI). The DFAE or Federal Department of Foreign Affairs is in charge of the delivery and restitution of these authorizations through the Swiss Mission.

Different types of CDL exist (category B, C, D or E, etc) depending on the holder’s position within the organization. Each family member travelling with the main applicant receives the same type of authorization.

An important aspect lies in the fact that holders of  a C permit who are already living in Switzerland at the time of their employment with a UN organization or intergovernmental organization must return their current permit to cantonal authorities as they are required to hold a CDL during their functions. They can request their permit back once they have terminated their functions, subject to the type of permit they were holding previously.

The period spent in Switzerland with a CDL is accounted for if the holder is retiring in Switzerland at the end of his functions and for a naturalization procedure.

Termination of a CDL permit

Different types of situation can lead to the termination of a CDL:

First, once the primary CDL holder has terminated his work assignment in Switzerland, authorizations are cancelled after a short period of courtesy (two months) allowing the CDL holder to get organized for the next mission. Dependents are not allowed to stay in the country once the main applicant has terminated his functions in Switzerland.

A six-month courtesy period can sometimes be requested to the Swiss Mission to obtain a prolongation when children are in the middle of school year. During this extended period of courtesy, employment is not allowed and Ci permits are not valid anymore.

Children reaching their 25th birthday are not entitled to benefit from a CDL anymore and in most of cases must leave the country or apply for a B permit allowing them to live in Switzerland. Some exceptions apply for children who are enrolled at university or another higher education institution. In this case, they may apply for a student permit before their CDL expires.

Lastly, if a CDL holder applies and receives a L, B or C permit, the CDL will be immediately terminated and immunity privileges will not apply anymore.

Divorcing under a CDL

If you are married with a CDL holder and are in the process of divorcing, you are allowed to maintain your CDL or Ci permit until the end of the procedure. It is the main applicant’s employer who must notify the Swiss Mission of the change of status. The employer provides the new address of the separated spouse and children to the Swiss Mission.

Once the divorce is pronounced, the employer must notify the Swiss Mission and retrieve the CDLs of the spouse an children. A courtesy period of two months must be requested in written to the Swiss Mission to allow the spouse and dependents to prepare their departure.

If you are planning to stay in Switzerland after the divorce, you must request your own B permit to authorities following the regulations of the law on Foreigners and Integration (LEI). A minimum of three years of marriage spent in Switzerland is required by authorities to apply for your own permit (art. 50 LEI)

The Ci Permit

The CDL holder is allowed to travel with his spouse and dependents under the age of 25  during his duties in Switzerland. Consequently, family members are equally granted a CDL, allowing them to reside lawfully in the country at the same address than the main applicant (art. 22 OLEH).

If dependents wish to work in Switzerland, a Ci permit should be requested to replace the CDL. In this case, it is the Office Cantonal de la Population et des Migrations (OCPM) for the canton of Geneva who is responsible for delivering these permits in the canton.

A work contract signed by the two parties is required to apply for the Ci permit.

The Ci permit functions  the same way as a Swiss work permit, allowing the holder to work full-time without any restrictions in the canton. Ci permit holders are not subject to work restrictions applying to non-European workers such as job market priority processes and quotas. Ci permits can be delivered for employed or self-employed activities for a maximum period of 2 years, renewable.

Pathways to a C permit

Access to C permit

At the time of retirement, a CDL holder over 55 years old who has lived in Switzerland for at least five years before retiring is allowed to apply for a B or C permit. A courtesy period of three months must be requested by the organization employing the applicant before the end of the contract, in order to leave the CDL holder enough time to apply. Proof of sufficient funds to cover living costs and good integration in the commune of residency must be demonstrated. A good level of French or German is also mandatory. It is up to the SEM in Bern to grant the C permit or not to the CDL holder and his spouse.

Children over 21 years old with 12 consecutive years of residency in Switzerland from the date they received a CDL can request a C permit if they live separately from the family and are well integrated in Switzerland, depending on the SEM appreciation (Chapter Directives LEI p. 164).

Access to naturalization

Under the current law LN, access to naturalization is challenging for children holding a CDL who have lived in Switzerland for more than 12 years. The issue lies in the fact that from 2018 all applicants must hold a C permit to request the citizenship (art. 9 al. 1 let. a LN). Despite being fully integrated and sometimes born in the country, a child holding a CDL cannot be granted a C permit before the age of 21

Work permit applications in Switzerland, how to?

ALEXA answers the following questions:

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