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Moving to Lugano

Lugano is a city with some of the most beautiful scenery in Switzerland; taking the plunge and moving there will not disappoint. Here in our guide, you will find information on visas, permits, and housing to help you with your relocation.

At a Glance:

  • EU/EFTA citizens do not need a visa to enter or work in Lugano. Unless their country of origin has signed a visa-waiver agreement with Switzerland, all other third-country nationals need a type C or B visa.
  • Anyone, including EU/EFTA nationals staying for more than three months, must have a permit in order to work in Lugano. In the case of third-country nationals, your employer will apply for a work permit on your behalf.
  • There are three main types of residence permit: type L (issued for three to twelve months), type B (issued for twelve months to five years), and type C (issued for five years or more).
  • Around 60 percent of the Swiss population rent instead of buy their properties. Whether or not expats may buy property without a special permit depends on their nationality, residence status, and the intended use of the property.
  • The cost of renting in Lugano is not cheap, and certain neighborhoods are more expensive than others. Massagno is particularly popular with newcomers to the city. 

Lugano — An International City

In 2018, almost 40 percent of Luganese residents were foreign nationals, so moving there as an expat will mean you are surrounded by an international community. Due to the city’s location in Switzerland’s Ticino canton, which borders Italy, the main language is Italian, spoken by approximately 90 percent of the population. German is the second-most spoken language with 11 percent.

Visa Requirements for Lugano

Moving to Lugano involves negotiating Swiss red tape. Your need for a visa and/or residence permit depends on your nationality, the reason for your move, the intended length of your stay, and whether you plan to work while in Lugano.

Entering without a Visa

If you are a citizen of an EU/EFTA member state, you do not need to obtain a visa to enter Switzerland, even if you intend to live and work in the country.

Some countries outside of the EU/EFTA area have also signed visa-waiver agreements with Switzerland (please see the list of nationalities as provided by the State Secretariat for Migration). If you are a citizen of one of these countries, do not intend to find gainful employment in Switzerland, and plan to stay for less than three months, you can enter without a visa.

Schengen and National Visas

Nationalities from countries which are neither in the EU/EFTA nor have a short-stay visa-waiver agreement with Switzerland require at least a Schengen visa, which is also referred to as a Category C visa. The visa allows you to enter Switzerland for stays of a maximum of 90 days within a six-month period. You can apply at your nearest Swiss representation.

If you are moving to Lugano for a longer period of time or are planning to take up employment, you will need to apply for a national visa (Category D).

For more information, please refer to our in-depth article on Swiss visas.

Work and Residence Permits

Strictly speaking, there is no such thing as a Swiss work permit: rather, residence permits include information on whether the holder is allowed to work in Switzerland as well.

Permits for Third-Country Nationals

If you are not an EU/EFTA national, then you can usually only apply for your residence and work permit if you already have a job offer in Lugano. Your employer applies on your behalf and has to prove that there was no suitable Swiss or EU/EFTA candidate available to fill your position.

To allow your employer to carry out the application process for you, you need to supply them with your CV, diploma, references, etc. Only once your permit has been approved by the Ticino canton will a Swiss mission be able to grant you a visa. The actual permit will be issued when you register with the cantonal authorities within 14 days of your arrival. Bring at least your passport, rental contract, visa / proof of an approved permit, employment contract, and passport photos.

Permits for EU/EFTA Nationals

If you are an EU/EFTA national, you can move to Lugano even without a job offer. For short stays of up to three months, EU/EFTA nationals do not require a permit to work. However, they still need to register their residency, and their employer has to notify the authorities as well.

For stays of more than three months, even EU/EFTA nationals require a residence permit, though they face less red tape than third-country nationals. Go to the local migration office (the Ticino website is only available in Italian) at Via Lugano 4, 6501 Bellinzona and make sure to bring your valid ID, employment contract, and rental contract with you. You should be issued your residence and work permit on the spot. If your employment contract is for at least one year, you will receive a permit valid for up to five years.

Types of Permits

There are three main types of residence permits available:

  • L permit: This type of permit is only issued for three to twelve months. As EU/EFTA nationals do not need a work contract to apply, they often use this permit when coming to Switzerland to look for a job.
  • B permit: Usually issued to non-EU/EFTA nationals for twelve months or to EU/EFTA citizens for five years.
  • C permit: Issued for five years or more. This type of permit allows you to settle in Switzerland permanently and is therefore only granted to those who have continuously lived in Switzerland for at least five or in some cases even ten years.

The Swiss government imposes restrictions on the number of permits granted to foreigners on a yearly basis. This does not generally apply to EU/EFTA nationals, although Bulgarians, Romanians, and Croatians may still face some annual quotas.

You can find more information on visas and work and residence permits in our Visas & Administration guide and also on the Swiss Federal Office for Migration website.


We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete.

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Andrey Vasilyev

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