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Switzerland: Labour Regulation

Work Permits

Residence and work permits are dealt with together in Switzerland. The available types of permit are the '120-day' permit, the class A, B or C permits, the fiscal deal permit and the political refugee permit. The class A permit (for 'blue-collar' workers) and the political refugee permit are not described further here; the 'fiscal deal' permit is described in Personal Taxation. Permits other than the '120-day' variety are subject to a quota system. However, agreements with the EU are gradually putting EU freedom-of-movement rules into place which will eventually allow EU citizens to by-pass the quota permit system altogether.

EU citizens now have:

  • a free choice of residence and work cantons;
  • the right to change jobs and employers; and
  • a right to work for their family members.

Eventually, EU-citizens will have complete freedom of movement within Switzerland and Swiss citizens within EU-countries. However, there was a fixed quota for work permits until 31 May 2007 with a maximum of 15,000 new long-term residence permits a year and 115,500 new short-term residence permits a year.

On 31 May 2007, quotas for EU citizens wishing to work in Switzerland were suspended. As of June 2009 Switzerland made a decision to extend the agreement. Freedom of movement will be fully introduced between Switzerland and the EU as of June 2014.

The '120-Day' Permit: This permit allows a managerial or specialist worker to work in a specified position for up to 120 days in a particular year; rotation among a number of individuals is not allowed.

The Class B permit: The class B permit is the most commonly issued permit and gives the right to live and work in Switzerland. It is the permit of choice for professional and managerial people, and for self employed individuals who wish to start their own company in Switzerland. The Class B permit has the following characteristics:

  • It is usually granted for a period of up to one year at a time;
  • If the permit is for work purposes then the applicant must have a job to go to in Switzerland;
  • The granting of his permit must not have the effect of depriving a Swiss national of employment. Since many trades in Switzerland are protected by guilds which prohibit the recruitment of foreign workers an application for a class B permit is not always successful;
  • The class B permit allows the applicant to bring his wife and children into the country but not his extended family;
  • The application is not prejudiced by inability to speak the official languages of Switzerland;
  • It takes about 3 months to obtain a Class B permit.

The Class C permit: The class C permit is a longer-term residency permit which gives the applicant almost the same rights as Swiss citizens and allows the applicant to buy real estate in Switzerland. To obtain a class C permit one must have had a class B permit for between 5 and 10 years depending on country of origin. The class C permit is the last step before applying for Swiss citizenship. It is subject to the same conditions as the class B permit.



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