Moving to Lugano as an expat is a decision that puts you in the company of many people just like you. In fact, in 2013, 30.8% of Luganese residents were foreign nationals. Therefore, moving to Lugano should not be too difficult, as there will be many who can sympathize with your experiences.
You will also get the chance to practice Italian after your move, as the city is located in Switzerland’s Ticino canton, which borders Italy. The majority of the population speaks Italian, with German being the second most popular language, followed by Serbo-Croatian.
Moving to Lugano involves negotiating Swiss red tape, of which there is — unfortunately — quite a lot. Your first task is to decide how long you will live in the city. After this, your visa will depend on whether or not you are an EU/EFTA national, and whether or not you will be gainfully employed in Lugano.
If you are moving to Lugano with no intention of being gainfully employed, plan to stay for less than three months, and are a member of a country with which Switzerland has signed an agreement (please check here), you can enter Lugano without a visa.
All you need for this time period is a valid passport and a travel insurance policy, with a minimum worth of 30,000 CHF.
In Switzerland, a Schengen visa is referred to as a Category C visa. You are eligible for this if you are moving to Lugano for a maximum of 90 days, and you are not an EU/EFTA national. You can apply at your nearest Swiss representation.
If you are moving to Lugano for a longer period of time, you will need to apply for a Category D visa.
If you intend to work after moving to Lugano, then you will need a work permit. Most long-term visas (Category D) are only issued along with a work permit. Everyone needs to obtain this work permit, though procedures are different for non-EU/EFTA nationals.
If you are not an EU/EFTA national, then you can only apply for your work permit after you have a visa. First, you must already have a job offer in Lugano. Your employer will then apply for your work permit, and 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 will need to supply them with your CV, diploma, references, etc. Once your permit has been approved, the Ticino canton will then transfer it to the Swiss mission, where you can collect it with your visa.
If you are an EU/EFTA national, you can move to Lugano once you have your job offer. Once you are there, you have three months to obtain a work permit. Go to the local migration office (the Ticino website is only available in Italian) at Via Lugano 4, 6501 Bellinzona.
Make sure you bring a valid ID, employment contract and rental contract with you. You should be issued your work permit on the spot. If your employment contract is for at least one year, you will receive a work permit valid for up to five years.
Residence permits are usually issued alongside work permits, and can be applied for at the same time. There are three main varieties of residence permits available:
Please note that as of 1 June 2013, the federal government has temporarily introduced annual quotas for type B residence permits for new employment candidates from the EU-17 member states.
To obtain a residence certificate, you have to register with the municipal authorities within 14 days of your arrival. This is mandatory, regardless of your country of origin. Bring your passport, rental contract, work/residence permit, employment contract and passport photos to your local registry office. EU/EFTA nationals obtain their residence permit upon registration.
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