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Residence Permits for Switzerland

Switzerland has become a popular choice among expats. After all, the country offers lots of opportunities as well as a high standard of living. Find information on varying visas, residence permits, Swiss regions, and city profiles here in our InterNations Guide.
The alphorn is a national symbol of Switzerland.

Retrieving a Residence Permit

Everyone, including EU nationals, requires a residence permit if they intend to stay in Switzerland for more than 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. Among EU/EFTA nationals, only Bulgarians, Romanians, and Croatians may face quotas set on a yearly basis.

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. Since 2011, all third-country nationals will receive a 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 or to non-EU/EFTA nationals for up to a year. An employment contract with a company in Switzerland (valid for at least one year) or proof of financial independence is necessary to obtain this residence permit. You can only live in the canton from which you received the permit.
  • The C Permit allows foreign nationals to permanently settle in Switzerland. Most EU/EFTA citizens will be granted this permit 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 to qualify for a C Permit, although this may vary depending on other factors. Once a foreigner has be granted the right to settle in Switzerland, they are no longer limited to the requirements of their work permit with regards to their choice of employer.
  • The Ci Permit applies to family members, i.e. spouses, and children (up to the age of 25) of employees of intergovernmental organizations or foreign representations. A Ci Permit automatically grants its holder the right to work in Switzerland for the duration of the assignment.
  • The G Permit is required if someone wants to take up employment in Switzerland, but their main place of residence remains outside the country. Usually, this type of permit is granted to so-called Grenzgänger, cross-border workers who live outside of Switzerland but commute to the country 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 intend on staying in Switzerland for a period of more than three months but less than a year. This type of permit is often used by those coming to Switzerland to look for work as a work contract is not a requirement, at least not for EU/EFTA citizens. For expats from third countries, immigration caps apply.

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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