connect, grow & thrive.

Working in Switzerland

Daunting or do-able?

Getting a job as an ex-pat in Switzerland can appear a daunting task. Daunting maybe but definitely do-able! The first thing to know is that as of writing (April 2014) there are still opportunities for ex-pats to get work in Switzerland.

Here are a few facts to start with:

Switzerland has a duel system for allowing foreigners to work while in the country.

The first concerns citizens from the European Union and/or the European Free Trade Association (EFTA)

As a citizen of an EU/EFTA member state, you may enter, live and work in Switzerland. Special restrictions apply to citizens of EU-8 member states & to the citizens of EU-17.

Check here if you don’t know which category you’re in.

You do not require authorization for short-term employment of up to three months or 90 days per calendar year. This may be extended to 6 months while a person is actively looking for work. It is required to register your employment status with the canton.

For employment longer than three months, you will need to apply for a residence permit with the communal authorities where you live.

For this you need a:

–       valid ID card or passport

–       copy of your rental agreement

–       passport photo

–       a copy of your employment contract

For self employed

– accounting records, in order to prove that you can earn a decent living.

This means that, yes, a foreign person can start a business in Switzerland as long as s/he already has an entry permit and can show financial independence.


The second category is for citizens of all other countries (so-called Third States). If you are from the USA; Canada, Australia or New Zealand, India and other commonwealth states, the Far East, the Middle East, African states and Asia you are in this category.

Citizens from these countries must have a guaranteed work contract from an employer as well as the appropriate work visa before entering the country to live.

An employer must prove to the authorities that the applicant from these countries is the best candidate for the job vacancy, versus a Swiss or European worker. Therefore top managerial positions and professional workers with university degrees and good experience have a better chance at getting a work permit.

Joint ventures, temporary teaching positions, managerial or specialist transfers, highly qualified scientists, or certain jobs involving art and culture, among others, can also obtain work permits under special circumstances.

Knowledge of the local language at intermediate level is often a requirement, but this depends on the position offered.

Family members of a permit holder are allowed to stay and reside in Switzerland as well. Family members include a spouse, descendants under 21 or dependents over whom custody or care is granted.

You can find more information here.

Cantonal authorities are responsible for issuing permits, not the central government

A note about students

All Swiss universities offer their courses in accordance with the Bologna system.
If you or your child holds a foreign or international high school education degree, you may apply. Registration for foreign students is approximately €50- €80 and tuition fees for foreign students range from approx €750 to €3,000 per semester depending on the school.

The Swiss Government awards various postgraduate scholarships to foreign scholars and researchers. These scholarships provide graduates with the opportunity to pursue doctoral or postdoctoral research in Switzerland at one of the public funded university or recognized institution.
For more information look here.

How we can help.

If you need more information you can contact our advisor who is leading our new Job Integration For Foreigners effort: JIFF; or come to our next Information Coffee Morning where we are glad to advise you to the best of our ability.

(Please note that we are not an employment office).

Charlie Hartmann is the managing director of the Livingin organisation which focuses on helping international residents connect, grow and thrive in Switzerland.