Questions & Answers

From which states may I recruit personnel?

Nationals of EU-27 and EFTA states have complete freedom of movement. They can be recruited without any problem by Swiss employers because EU-27 and EFTA nationals have unrestricted access to the Swiss labour market.

Specific conditions have to be fulfilled in the case of individuals from all other states (Croatia and third countries) before they can be granted access to the labour market.
Conditions that may apply: priority for nationals, conditions for salary and employment, personal qualifications and quotas.

Where should an application for a work permit be submitted?

The application should be submitted in the canton where the place of employment is located.

Which documents do I have to submit to receive a work permit?

For information please see the information sheet application documents.

As an employee may I apply directly for a work permit?

No, the application always has to be submitted by the employer.

What does the term precedence mean?

The precedence for domestic employees means that foreigners can only be admitted to take up gainful employment if it can be proven that no qualified worker can be found who is already on the domestic or European labour market.

Employees on the domestic labour market: Swiss nationals, permanent foreign residents, foreign nationals with residence permits permitting gainful employment.

European employees: EU/EFTA nationals not resident in Switzerland.

What is meant by salary and employment conditions customary for the location, profession and sector?

For more details about salaries customary for the location, profession and sector consult the Salary calculator of the Swiss Federal Statistical Office (Salarium) or the "Lohnbuch des Kantons Zürich" (Author Philipp Mülhauser) (German).

Is it possible to change employment if you have a residence permit (B permit)?

There is no general answer to this question. However, what is relevant is whether there are any restrictions. Please fill out the Application to take up/change employment form.

Up to now our candidate for the position has worked in another canton. May we nevertheless send the Application to change employment to the Canton of Zurich?

No, in this case application must be made to the canton which issued the original work permit.

Then an application can be sent to us with the appropriate documents (the written approval of the first canton). We then check whether the requirements for taking up employment in the Canton of Zurich are fulfilled.

Why does the “Request on employment change” have to be sent in by post?

No information is given on the phone or by e-mail for reasons of data privacy. Please use the Request on employment change form.

Our new employee has “only” been issued a short-term residence permit. Why has this type of permit been issued?

No general answer can be given to this question because the decision to issue either a residence permit or a short-term residence permit depends on the individual application and the specific circumstances presented in the application.

Can I obtain information about applications pending for third parties?

No, not unless you are able to submit the appropriate authorisation.

Which office is responsible for issuing cross border commuter permits?

The Office for Economy and Labour, Work Permit Unit is responsible for third country nationals.

The Migration Office of the Canton of Zurich is responsible for permits for EU/EFTA nationals

Which zones are deemed border zones for a cross border commuter permit?

The border zones around Switzerland are as listed below:

- Basel-Stadt and Basel-Land;

- Solothurn;

- the districts Moutier and Wangen in the Canton of Berne;

- the district of Delémont in the Canton of Jura;

- Aargau, excluding the district of Muri;

- Zurich, excluding the districts of Affoltern and Horgen;

- Schaffhausen;

- Thurgau;

- St. Gallen;

- Appenzell I.Rh. and A.Rh.

Is it possible to employ an au-pair from a third country?

No. 

Is there any age limit to be observed before you can work in Switzerland?

Yes. Usually gainful employment is only permitted on completion of the 15th year (Art. 30 ArG).

Is it possible to work in the Canton of Zurich with a B residence permit (family reunification) issued by another canton?

Yes, provided there are no restrictions on the residence permit.

Is it possible to work in the Canton of Zurich with an L permit (short-term residence permit; family reunification)?

Persons who enter the country in the family reunification process who have a short-term residence permit are not entitled to work. Taking up employment requires a work permit. The application for the work permit has to be handed in by the employer.
The following conditions apply:

  • Conditions for salary and employment (Art. 22 AuG)
  • Personal qualifications (Art. 23 AuG)

Where can I find information about illegal employment?

You can find information on this topic on the homepage of the State Secretariat for Migration SEM as well as the Working conditions homepage.

How long does it take before a decision is made about a work permit application?

This usually takes between 2 and 4 weeks. Please note that more time is required when a number of offices are involved in the permit process.

Where can I find further information about taking up residence or working in Switzerland (questions concerning foreign nationals)?

Information is available from the Federal Office for Migration and the Cantonal Office for Migration.

If necessary consult the Federal Department for Foreign Affairs.

Is it necessary to obtain a work permit for EU-27 and EFTA nationals?

No, because the principle of complete freedom of movement applies for EU-27 and EFTA nationals.

However, if nationals from these countries intend to work in Switzerland for more than 90 days, they have to register with the residents registration office before starting work.

Residence is regulated by the Migration Office on the basis of an employment contract from a Swiss employer and registration with the residents registration office, so no additional work permit is required.

Registration with the residents registration office is not necessary in the case of gainful employment lasting up to 90 days per calendar year, but you must register here: Registration procedure.

Do EU-27 and EFTA nationals need a work permit to work in a self-employed capacity?

No, a permit is not required. Registration with the residents registration office is all that is required.

What do EU-27 and EFTA nationals have to do to receive a residence permit for Switzerland?

The Migration Office of the Canton of Zurich is responsible in this case.

Does an EU-27 or an EFTA national domiciled in Switzerland require a permit to change employment?

No, because the principle of complete freedom of movement applies for EU-27 and EFTA nationals.

Do family members of EU-27/EFTA nationals require a work permit?

No, family members of EU-27/EFTA nationals do not require a work permit.

Where can I get the form for EU-27/EFTA cross border commuters?

This form is issued by the Cantonal Migration Office and can be found on the office's homepage.

Registration Procedure

What needs to be done if EU-27 or EFTA nationals work in Zurich for a short time?

Employees (including third country nationals) who are sent on postings to Switzerland by companies domiciled in an EU-27/EFTA state do not require any permit to stay and work in Switzerland for a maximum period of 90 working days per calendar year.

The registration procedure applies in this case.

The same applies to self-employed persons, provided the self-employed person is a citizen of an EU-27 or EFTA state.

When can an employee start work?

Registration has to take place 8 days before starting work. This means that after notifying the authority by means of the registration procedure the individual concerned has to wait 8 days before starting to work.

What needs to be done if the 90 days granted under the registration procedure are not enough?

In most cases of this type, the work concerned is provision of a service (posting) and an application for a work permit will have to be submitted. Service providers who are not self-employed should read Application documents for assignments.

I have a question about the registration procedure. Who can I contact?

If you have a question about the registration procedure please contact the Working Conditions Unit.

Before taking up gainful employment

What conditions does a third country national have to meet so that a work permit can be issued?

Access to the Swiss labour market from outside the EU/EFTA area is restricted to experts, managers and other qualified personnel.

Further requirements to be considered include:

- presedence for domestic and European employees;

- customary salary and employment conditions;

- availability of quotas.

Does a third country national with a residence permit for an EU state also require a work permit?

Yes, the answer to the previous question applies in this case too.

Where can I get answers to questions about visas?

The Federal Office for Migration, the Federal Department for Foreign Affairs and the Cantonal Office for Migration can give further help.

Do family members of third country nationals also require a work permit?

Family members from third countries with a permanent residence permit or a residence permit (C or B permit) do not require a work permit.

On the other hand family members with a short-term residence permit (L permit) do require a work permit to take up gainful employment.

May the spouse of a third country national, who has a residence permit (B permit), also work in a self-employed capacity?

Yes, and no further work permit is required. This rule applies only as long as the main permit bearer has a residence permit.

Self-employed persons have to register with the Sozialversicherungsanstalt (SVA; Social Insurance Institute) and a trading permit may be required depending on the field of work.

Citizens of former Yugoslavia (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia) no longer require a visa if they want to enter the country as tourists for 3 months. Does this mean nationals from these states can work for 3 months without a permit?

No. Discontinuation of the tourist visa requirement does not affect conditions for gainful employment.

During gainful employment

Is it possible to change a short-term residence permit (L permit) into a residence permit (B permit) before the 24-month period expires?

No, this is not possible. Before consideration can be given to converting this permit into a residence permit, the entire 24 month quota has to have been exhausted.

Who is responsible for applying to extend a short-term residence permit? Where does application have to be made? Which documents are required?

According to Art. 11 para. 3 AuG, the application has to be submitted by the employer to the Office for Economy and Labour, Work Permit Unit.

What we require to consider the application:

- the reason (cover letter)

- Application form: Application to take/change employment

- copy of a valid employment contract

- copy of the foreigner's permit

Holders of F or N permits

What conditions does an individual with an F permit have to meet to receive a work permit in Zurich?

As a rule only persons who are domiciled in the Canton of Zurich or in the bordering cantons receive a work permit. The conditions pertaining to the salary customary in the region and sector must be met.

What conditions does a person with an N permit have to meet to receive a work permit in Zurich?

The person concerned must be domiciled in the Canton of Zurich and the situation on the labour market for bearers of an N permit must also be taken into consideration.

Students and Graduates

The person concerned must be domiciled in the Canton of Zurich and the situation on the labour market for bearers of an N permit must also be taken into consideration.

This principle is only applied under special circumstances; this means that the Swiss degree has to be highly specialised and rare, and employment can only take place in sectors with a significant shortage of qualified personnel.

Do third country nationals require a permit to work part-time during their studies?

Yes, the employer has to submit an application.

Under which conditions may students take up gainful employment?

You can read the conditions in the Directives on the alien sector (German) under headings 4.4.4 to 4.4.6.