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Visa Requirements for Geneva

Moving to Geneva, Switzerland’s most global city, is an exciting experience for most expats. Our InterNations Guide, will help you find essential information on visas, residence permits, and accommodation, as well as other important advice for your relocation to Geneva.
The city of Geneva belongs to the French-speaking part of Switzerland.

Visa Waiver Agreements

In addition to bilateral treaties and the Schengen visa, there are several visa waiver agreements. They grant different nationalities outside the EU the right to enter Switzerland for up to three months (or in some cases longer) without applying for a visa. Among these countries are Australia, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, and the USA.

A comprehensive list of visa waiver countries is available online from the Federal Office for Migration. If in doubt, please consult your local Swiss Embassy or Consulate before moving to Geneva.

Applying for a Visa

Documents required to support your visa application may vary, but they are likely to include at least the following:

  • Your passport, which mustn’t be older than ten years, should be valid for at least three or six more months, and contain two blank pages.
  • You need health insurance cover for the entire period of your stay unless you are planning to become a resident of Switzerland.
  • You have to show proof of sufficient financial means to support yourself during your stay.

All visa applications and supporting documents must be submitted to the nearest Swiss embassy or consulate in your normal country of residence.

Please note that a visa simply grants you the right to enter the country. Only together with a residence permit does it make you a legal resident of Switzerland. In order to work in Geneva, you also need a work permit.

Information on Residence Permits

All foreign nationals, including EU/EFTA citizens, who come to Switzerland for a period exceeding three months have to apply for a residence permit. This can be done at the Cantonal Migration Office for Geneva in Onex (Route de Chancy 88), which provides the service étrangers et conféderés.

EU nationals should have no problems obtaining the residence permit they need. However, please note that Swiss immigration authorities impose strict annual limitations on the number of so-called third-state nationals (i.e. from non-EU countries), as well as on the citizens of some EU member states. Thus, not all of them will be granted a residence permit.

Types of Residence Permits

  • B Permit: Most EU/EFTA nationals will be granted this five-year residence permit if they can provide proof of employment or financial independence. To third-state nationals, a B Permit is initially issued for one year and only within the annual limits on foreign employment. There are currently temporary limitations on the number of Croatian citizens who will be granted this permit.  
  • C Permit: With this permit, EU/EFTA nationals are granted the right to settlement after five years of continuous residence in Switzerland. Third-state nationals must have lived in Switzerland for ten years before they can obtain a C Permit. Once a foreigner has been given the right to settle, their permission to remain in the country is no longer tied to a specific job, and they are treated like Swiss nationals for tax purposes.
  • Ci Permit: Spouses and children (up to 25 years of age) of foreign representatives or employees in intergovernmental organizations are entitled to this residence permit. It automatically grants the holder the right to take up gainful employment.
  • G Permit: Strictly speaking, this is not a residence permit. It mainly serves cross-border workers who are employed in Switzerland but whose main place of residence remains outside the country, e.g. in France or Germany. A G Permit is granted for a maximum of five years. Permit holders must return to their country of residence at least once a week.
  • L Permit: Foreigners with an employment contract of less than a year will receive an L Permit. Please note that the usual limitation regulations on work and residence permits for third-state nationals apply. EU/EFTA citizens may reside in Switzerland on an L Permit without a job offer if they have the financial means to support themselves. An L Permit is often used by people who come to Switzerland in order to look for a job.

Learn more about Swiss residence permit from our extensive guide on Switzerland.


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