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Residence Permits for Switzerland

Moving to Switzerland has become a popular choice among expats. After all, this little country offers lots of opportunities and a high living standard. You will find more info for expatriates, including a country profile as well as advice on visa types and various Swiss regions, here on InterNations.
The alphorn is a national symbol of Switzerland.

Retrieving a Residence Permit

Everyone, including EU nationals, requires a residence permit if their stay in Switzerland exceeds three months. In an effort to limit immigration from non-EU/EFTA countries, Swiss authorities impose strict annual limitations on the number of residence and work permits granted to foreigners.

A residence permit can be obtained from the Cantonal Migration Office responsible for your place of residence in Switzerland. A list of all cantonal migration and labor market authorities can be found on the website of the Federal Office for Migration.

All such permits are issued in form of paper identity cards to EU and Schengen nationals. As of 2011, all third-country nationals will receive a new biometric foreigner’s identity card in compliance with EU regulations. The biometric data (two fingerprints and a passport photograph) will be stored in an invisible chip on the card and deleted after five years once the person has left the country

Which Residence Permit Fits You?

The following types of residence permits are available for expats:

  • The B Permit is issued for an initial period of five years to EU/EFTA citizens. An employment contract with a company in Switzerland (valid for at least one year) or proof of financial independence is necessary in order to obtain this residence permit.
  • The C Permit grants foreign nationals the right of settlement. Most EU/EFTA citizens can become permanent residents after a continuous period of five years spent in Switzerland. (However, this does not apply to people from Cyprus, Malta, and the Eastern European EU member states.) Nationals of all other countries need to have lived in Switzerland for ten years in order to qualify for a C Permit. Once a foreigner has acquired the right to settle in Switzerland, he/she is no longer tied to the conditions imposed by their work permit regarding their choice of employer.
  • The Ci Permit applies only to family members, i.e. spouses and children up to the age of 25, of employees in intergovernmental organizations or foreign representations. A Ci Permit automatically grants its holder the right to work in Switzerland.
  • The G Permit is required if someone wants to take up employment in Switzerland, but their main place of residence remains outside the country. Most often, this type of permit is granted to so-called Grenzgänger, cross-border workers who commute to Switzerland on a daily or weekly basis for work. They are required by law to return to their country of residence at least once a week. A G Permit is valid for the duration of the employment contract, but no longer than five years.
  • The L Permit is for foreigners who are planning to stay in Switzerland for a period of more than three months but less than a year. As a work contract is no eligibility requirement, this permit is often used by those who come to Switzerland in order to look for work. However, the immigration caps apply here as well.

 For more information on these different types of residence permits, their requirements, as well as how to become a Swiss citizen, please refer to our in-depth article on Swiss residence permits.


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

Andrey Vasilyev

"I was able to connect with other expats in Zurich who enjoy cycling as much as I do and organize weekly rides."

Elin Gustavson

"At the first InterNations event that I attended, I met my wonderful partner. We now live together in a flat next to the Limmat."

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