Integration – Eligibility for a C Permit

Before you can apply for a C Permit:

If you are moving to Switzerland for longer than three months you are required to apply for an L Permit or a B Permit. An L Permit is granted for foreign nationals who have an employment contract valid for three to twelve months and are considered short term residents.

The B Permit is valid for five years with a requirement to renew it yearly and is available for foreign nationals who have an employment contract for a year or longer. You are also eligible for the B Permit if you are married to a Swiss national or someone with a C Permit. The B Permit allows you to work but you will not be eligible for unemployment benefits until you have worked for two years. Citizens from Germany, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Spain, France, Greece, Italy, Liechtenstein, Netherlands and Portugal receive a B permit for five years. B Permit holders are considered resident foreign nationals.

Requirements for a C Permit:

  • Successful integration: participation in the economic, social and cultural life of Switzerland; familiarity with local customs; language; employment, proof of education or a study plan.
  • Citizens of the European Union (EU) countries and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) countries can apply after five years of consecutive residency with an L or B Permit.
  • Citizens from Germany, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Spain, France, Greece, Italy, Liechtenstein, Netherlands and Portugal will automatically receive a C Permit after five years of consecutive residency.
  • A spouse of a Swiss national or C Permit holder, from date of marriage in Switzerland or entry into Switzerland, automatically receives a C Permit after five years consecutive residency.
  • Third-country nationals (non EU/EFTA) must have lived in Switzerland with an L or B Permit for 10 years consecutively.
  • For non EU/EFTA countries, an early settlement C Permit after five years is possible if successful integration of all members of the family aged over 12 can be shown.
  • Americans and Canadians can apply for a C Permit after five years of consecutive residence.
  • Knowledge of language spoken in the canton of residence – level A2/B1 for spoken and A1/A2 for written, corresponding to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR). Required to sit a language proficiency test. Levels are dependent on canton.
  • No criminal record, debts or threat to national security.
  • Haven’t received social welfare benefits for the previous three years.
  • Applicant possessed a previous C Permit for minimum of 10 years and has not lived abroad for more than six years.

Benefits of a C Permit:

So once you have made it through the maze of the varying requirements to get the C Permit you definitely deserve some benefits. And there are some worthwhile benefits of making it through. The C Permit is almost equivalent to permanent residency and allows you to work and live anywhere in Switzerland without any restrictions. It also means that you don’t need permission to change employment from one job to another or from one canton to another, like the B Permit, see ‘Important to know’ below. It also allows a C Permit holder, or their spouse, to establish their own business.

Additionally, social assistance and welfare benefits are accessible, it is possible to purchase property, qualifications are recognised and you can receive grants. For those who find themselves in the unfortunate position of a separation or pending separation, you will be able to stay in the country independently of your ex partner.

After enjoying 10 years of your relatively restriction free permit you will then be eligible to apply for Swiss naturalisation/citizenship and a Swiss passport. The notable differences between citizenship and the C Permit are the opportunity to vote, to stand for election and depending on age, possible military service. The most significant advantage of citizenship is that you are able to leave Switzerland for any length of time without losing your Swiss status.

Additional information for a C Permit:

  • C Permit holders are known as settled foreign nationals.
  •  The more integrated you are the easier it will be to upgrade your residence status. Read here for some examples of why people were denied citizenship.
  • The C Permit will need to be renewed every five years if you stay in Switzerland and don’t apply for naturalisation/citizenship.
  • If you leave Switzerland the C Permit expires after six months but you can apply for authorisation of absence and suspend the Permit for maximum four years while living abroad.
  • Family reunification is possible for both EU/EFTA and non EU/EFTA nationals with an L, B or C Permit.
  • Children under 12 years with a Swiss citizen or C Permit holder parent, in the context of a family reunification process, are eligible to apply after five years.
  • For children between the ages of 10 and 20 years old, the years on a B Permit count as double years.
  • Professors teaching at university level are eligible to apply after five years.
  • Residence as a student or temporary worker does not count towards consecutive years of residence required but there can be exceptions.
  • If you are form both EU/EFTA and non EU/EFTA countries and would like to apply for a Permit, without taking up employment, you need to prove that you have sufficient financial resources and do not require social welfare assistance and have adequate accident and health insurance.

Important to know:

Swiss cantons are mostly independent from each other. Not only do they have their own unique cultures and traditions but they have unique political systems that include regulations for residency, issuance of permits and naturalisation/citizenship. This has a bearing specifically on the B Permit. If you wish to change employment that is in another canton, the new employer must apply for permission from the new canton and show that there wasn’t a Swiss or EU/EFTA citizen more suitable for the position. This can be complex depending on what country you are from, EU/EFTA or non EU/EFTA, and if the B Permit is tied to the employer or an open permit and the cantonal regulations.


Cantonal immigration and employment market authorities links in German.

Grant of settlement Permit C in Luzern in German.

Foreign Nationals and Integration Act, FNIA in English.

Lily Töngi-Andrews

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