Swiss residence permit for EU/EFTA citizens

In order to live and work in Switzerland as a foreign person, many official hurdles must be overcome. The access of foreign persons to Switzerland is controlled and restricted by a close-meshed network of rules.

When processing applications from abroad, Switzerland initially distinguishes between citizens from an EU/EFTA country and all other countries. The rules for citizens from an EU/EFTA country are explained in detail below. We have set out the rules for other nationals in a separate article.

The different types of permits

In principle, a distinction is made between five types of permits for EU/EFTA nationals. The short-term residence permit, the residence permit, the permanent residence permit, the cross-border commuter permit and the permit for residence with gainful employment. It is important to note that the respective residence permits of EU/EFTA nationals automatically include the authorization to carry out gainful employment. The residence permit includes the work permit, so to speak. However, it is also possible to forgo gainful employment altogether - in this case, stricter requirements apply for obtaining a residence permit (see section II Obtaining a permit).

This is in contrast to third-country nationals (non-EU/EFTA nationals), for whom the granting of a residence permit does not automatically include a work permit. Very restrictive requirements often apply to third-country nationals and refugees in particular in order to obtain a work permit. However, the various residence permits for EU/EFTA nationals are described below:

Short-term residence permit (permit L)

The short-term residence permit (L permit) is to be issued if a person is only staying in Switzerland for a limited period of time. A short stay within the meaning of this definition exists if the person entering Switzerland stays for less than one year. This may be with or without gainful employment. If the person entering Switzerland is a national of an EU/EFTA country, they are entitled to this permit if they have been gainfully employed for between 3 months and 1 year. In view of the free movement of persons (Bilateral Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons FZA), a person who has been employed for less than 3 months does not require a permit.

Residence permit (Permit B)

Persons who are staying in Switzerland for a specific purpose and for a longer period of time are entitled to a residence permit (Permit B). The permit is valid for five years. A residence permit is issued depending on whether a person is gainfully employed in Switzerland or not. In the case of gainful employment, the permit is issued if the person entering the country is able to prove that he has an indefinite contract or a fixed-term contract with a minimum duration of one year. If the person entering the country does not wish to pursue gainful employment, he or she is only entitled to a residence permit (Permit B) if the person concerned can prove that he or she has sufficient financial resources and adequate health and accident insurance. At the end of the five-year authorisation period, the authorisation is renewed for a further five years if the necessary conditions continue to exist.

Settlement permit (C permit)

The permanent residence permit (Permit C) as an unlimited permit is granted to foreigners only after they have resided in Switzerland for five or ten years without interruption (with a Permit B). After five years, the permit is granted to those applicants After five years, the permit is granted to applicants who come from the "original" 15 EU member states. EU citizens from newer states, on the other hand, only receive the settlement permit after ten years. The settlement (Permit C) is automatic and unconditionally. Reference can be made to the explanations given above regarding the granting of a residence permit (Permit B). For the settlement permit, as well as for the short stay and residence permit ensures the mobility of permit holders in Switzerland.

Residence permit with gainful employment (Ci permit)

Family members (i.e. spouses and children up to the age of 25) of civil servants, members of foreign representations and members of intergovernmental organizations are entitled to a residence permit with gainful employment (Ci permit). However, the duration of the permit depends on the duration of the main permit (e.g. the permit of the civil servant or member of a foreign representation). Diplomats and other members of foreign representations have a special residence status under international law in accordance with the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.

Cross-border commuter permit (Permit G)

Cross-border commuters as holders of this special cross-border commuter permit (Permit G) can be persons who are resident in an EU/EFTA state but who have a exercise gainful employment. It is necessary to return to the foreign residence at least once a week. This permit is issued by analogy with the residence permit B if a person is able to prove an employment contract of indefinite duration or an employment contract of more than one year. In this case, the period of validity of the cross-border commuter permit is five years. If the employment contract is limited to a period of less than one year, the cross-border commuter permit lasts as long as the employment contract, whereby employment for a period of less than three months only requires a registration procedure.

Obtaining a residence permit

Rules for persons without gainful employment

Pensioners, students or private individuals who move to Switzerland without working here (see the following section for rules for persons in gainful employment) must register in their municipality of residence within 14 days of arrival in Switzerland. (Please note that according to the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons FZA there is no obligation to obtain a permit and register if the planned stay is less than 3 months). When registering, you can apply for a residence permit without gainful employment (B permit) by presenting a valid passport or identity card. However, it is necessary to prove that you have sufficient financial means and health and accident insurance to avoid any dependency on social welfare. Sufficient financial resources are deemed to exist if a Swiss person in the same situation could not apply for social assistance (or a pensioner could not apply for supplementary benefits). For further information, those affected should contact the cantonal migration authorities and follow the SKOS guidelines. It is also important to note that for stays of 3 months or more in Switzerland, compulsory health insurance must be taken out with a Swiss health insurance company.

Rules for persons with gainful employment

In the event that the person entering Switzerland intends to take up gainful employment in Switzerland, the following procedure must be observed: Residence permits are issued to gainfully employed persons if they apply for a residence permit within 14 days of arriving in Switzerland and in particular before taking up employment. In particular, a valid identification document and a declaration of employment from the future employer or the employment contract with exact details of the workload and duration of the contract must be submitted. The procedure for self-employment is naturally somewhat different. In this case, the documents certifying the commencement of self-employment (HR entry and green capital) are used. The conclusion that the person concerned may only take up gainful employment after a permit has been granted therefore also seems obvious. Furthermore, the authorities can check at any time whether the self-employed activity is sufficient to secure the person's livelihood. If such gainful employment is no longer guaranteed and there are no other means of securing a livelihood, the person concerned may lose their residence permit.

As a side note, it should be added in this context that the currently polarizing issue regarding the structure of the framework agreement on accompanying measures between Switzerland and the EU concerns a different topic: The main issue here is the 8-day notification period for foreign companies that post workers to Switzerland or employ foreign workers in Switzerland before taking up gainful employment in Switzerland. These accompanying measures are intended to avoid the increased risk of wage dumping due to the free movement of persons. However, this issue concerns foreign companies as employers and not the individual employees and their residence status in Switzerland.


The diagram shows that the bilateral agreement on the free movement of persons between the European Union and Switzerland has made it possible to achieve a great deal in terms of mobility and the attainment of a residence permit has been simplified. Nevertheless, there are a considerable number of different types of permits, which do not make the approval process easy. The free movement of persons does not mean that the Swiss authorities no longer control and manage the entry and residence of EU/EFTA citizens. The administrative rules are and remain to be observed.