Staying in Switzerland

Understand whether you have rights of residency, and what you need to do to gain residency as a foreigner in Switzerland...

All foreigners living or working in Switzerland longer than three months require a residence permit. The type of permit required varies depending on an individual's nationality and reason for staying.

Residency regulations applying to nationals of the EU and EFTA are fairly straightforward with few restrictions. Residency procedures are more complicated and restrictive for third-country nationals (non-EU/EFTA citizens).

The Swiss Federal Government website, The Swiss Portal, has comprehensive information (in English) regarding the various types of residence permit relevant to a person's particular situation.

EU/EFTA nationals' rights of residence

The "Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons" existing between Switzerland and the EU allows all nationals of Member States the right of entry, of residence and the right to work, study or retire in Switzerland.

There are restrictions for citizens of EU-8 and EU-17 member states, and Bulgarian and Romanian nationals.

EU/EFTA nationals may enter Switzerland to search for work with no permit necessary for up to three months. If the search for employment is unsuccessful, a short-term residence permit can be issued for another three months' job search.

An EU/EFTA citizen who stays in the country longer than three months must obtain a residence permit which is issued by the local Cantonal Migration Office (Migrationsamt/Office Cantonale des Etrangers).

Non-EU nationals' rights of residence

Non-EU/EFTA nationals have no automatic right to live or work in Switzerland. Residency is granted based on an individual's circumstances. Application must be made to the Cantonal Migration Office before settling in Switzerland.

The Swiss Embassy of the country of current residence can provide further guidance.