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Working in Switzerland

If a job in a stable and wealthy economy is your goal, you might want to consider working in Switzerland, a country with one of the highest GDP per capita. InterNations offers you advice on expat work in Switzerland, including info on work permits, taxes, and social security.
Switzerland is mostly known for its banks and for its financial sector.

According to the Index of Economic Freedom, Switzerland is one of the most capitalist and competitive economies in the world. Nevertheless, most employees benefit from good working conditions and a solid welfare system.

Worldwide, Switzerland qualifies as one of the richest countries if measured by per capita income. With an unemployment quota of circa 3.1% in 2015, Switzerland is doing well in comparison to other Western European economies. However, it pursues rather protectionist policies with regard to non-EFTA nationals coming there for employment.

Step One: Your Work Permit

Every foreign national working in Switzerland must have a valid work permit. Work permits are usually granted together with residence permits. They are applied for by the employer rather than the prospective employee.

EU and EFTA nationals enjoy a special status with regard to working in Switzerland. Thanks to the “Agreement on the Free Movement of People”, ratified by Switzerland in 2002, basically no restrictions are imposed on the numbers of EU and EFTA nationals. However, in April 2012, the Swiss government did impose an annual cap on work permits for employees from Eastern European EU member states. About one year later, in June 2013, a similar quota regulation was applied to job seekers from all EU member states. The quota is renewed every year.

For work assignments of three months or less, EFTA and EU nationals (with the temporary exception of Bulgarians and Romanians) usually need no official permit. However, employers are required by law to register their short-term EU employees working in Switzerland. This can be done online via a form provided by the Federal Office for Migration.

EU citizens whose period of working in Switzerland exceeds three months require formal permits for residence and work. In general, EU and EFTA nationals have little difficulty in obtaining their work permit - quotas notwithstanding. However, when you apply for a job in Switzerland, get in touch with the cantonal immigration office to find out if the quota limit has already been reached.

Work Permits for Non-EU Nationals

Working in Switzerland is far more complicated for people from countries outside the EU and EFTA. In fact, it may even seem well-nigh impossible. The application process for those who want to work there can be long-winded and complicated, especially for the employer.

In order to obtain a work permit, the company and employee must fulfill several conditions. (However, some exceptions are made for third-state nationals holding a Swiss university degree or for those relocating to Switzerland on an intra-company transfer.) Below is a list of the basic conditions required for those planning on working in Switzerland:

  • There is a cap on the number of third-state nationals working in Switzerland. Work permits are therefore subject to the annual quota of residence permits available.
  • The potential employer has to prove that the vacancy was sufficiently advertised and that no candidate from Switzerland or the EU was qualified or willing to do the job.
  • The salary and working conditions of the potential employee must conform to local and industry-specific standards in order to protect residents of Switzerland from wage dumping.
  • The applicant must possess the personal and professional qualifications required for working in Switzerland in general and for that specific job in particular. It’s mainly specialists and executives from third states that can be found in Switzerland.
  • The applicant’s potential for integration is assessed according to various criteria, including age and language skills.
  • Copies (and translations) of all diplomas and relevant qualifications must be submitted together with the application for a work permit.


For more information on Swiss visas and residence permits, please refer to our respective in-depth articles.


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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