Business immigration in Switzerland: overview

A Q&A guide to business immigration in Switzerland.

This Q&A gives an overview of the key factors affecting business immigration, including information on the jurisdiction's sources of immigration law; relevant government entities; requirements for unsponsored and sponsored immigration; requirements for sponsors; civil and criminal penalties for sponsors; common issues and concerns; dependants; settlement and citizenship; recent trends and proposals for reform.

To compare answers across multiple jurisdictions, visit the Business Immigration Country Q&A tool.

The Q&A is part of the global guide to business immigration. For a full list of jurisdictional Q&As visit


Relevant governmental entities

1. What are the relevant government entities (agencies, departments, branches, bodies, and so on) relating to immigration in your jurisdiction?


Switzerland has a dual system for granting residence and/or work permits to foreign nationals. Different requirements will apply to citizens of the EU member states prior to the 2007 enlargement (EU-25) and citizens of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) member states.

Citizens of an EU-25/EFTA state can freely enter Switzerland, but within 14 days they must apply for work and/or residence authorisation at the Residents' Registry Office in charge if they intend to stay for up to 90 days within a six-month period.

Citizens of a third state (that is, a state which is not an EU-25, EFTA or EU-2 state) can only be granted a residence and/or work permit under strict conditions. The request is screened by the relevant cantonal employment service, which makes a preliminary decision. Applications approved by the cantonal employment service are forwarded to the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) for a second approval. Once the SEM has approved a request, it will forward the application to the Cantonal Migration Authority in charge. If the Cantonal Migration Authority issues the third approval, it will advise (by consent of the SEM where people from nations subject to visa requirements are concerned) the appropriate Swiss diplomatic representation abroad to issue a visa. Applicants for a work and/or residence permit must collect their visa at that specific Swiss diplomatic representation. Once the third state national has entered Switzerland with the respective visa, he or she must register at the Residents' Registry Office in charge within 14 days after entering Switzerland.


EU-25/EFTA citizens can enter Switzerland without visas or work permits, while third state nationals must have already obtained a residence and/ or work permit before entering Switzerland. Both the EU-25/EFTA nationals and the third state nationals must register at the Residents' Registry Office in charge within 14 days after entering Switzerland.

The Residents' Registry Offices are organised on a communal level and the relevant office will be the one located in the area where the person lives. The registration is done at the local community office (Gemeindebüro/ maison communale) in the rural areas or at an area office (Kreisbüro/bureau d' arrondissement) in cities. Larger cities sometimes have a special residence registration department (Einwohnerkontrolle/ contrôle d' habitants).

Once the foreign national has registered with the Residents' Registry Office in charge, it will forward all the documents received to the Cantonal Migration Authority. Cantonal Migration Authority will then issue the residence and/or work permit for the EU-25/EFTA citizen or the third state national who has obtained a visa (see above, Overview).

Cantonal Employment Service is mainly involved with granting work permits to a third state national. It also runs assessments of employment relationships for citizens of EU-2 states.

SEM is responsible for the:

  • Control of permits which were granted to citizens of EU-27 and EFTA states.

  • Approval of the first application for a sole residence permit (without an authorisation to work) of citizens of EU-27/EFTA member states.

  • Consent procedures relating to the work and/or residence permits for third state nationals.


The Cantonal Migration Authority is the first instance for enforcement of immigration matters. It initiates measures and actions applicable to foreign individuals who have forfeited their right of residence and failed to leave the country on a voluntary basis. Decisions of the Cantonal Migration Authority are open to challenge before the relevant cantonal courts and can be appealed before the Swiss Federal Supreme Court.


The right of residence in different cantons and in Switzerland is governed by federal law, prepared and passed by the United Federal Assembly. The federal laws can enable the Swiss Federal Council to issue ordinances which include more detailed provisions.


Sources and conflicts of law

Sources of law

2. What are the principal sources of law relating to immigration in your jurisdiction?

Switzerland has a dual system for granting foreign national's residence and/or work permits (see Question 1). While the admission and residence of EU-27/EFTA citizens is governed by the Free Movement of Persons Agreement between the EU and Switzerland (see below), third state nationals can only be admitted if they meet the requirements of the applicable Swiss legislation, mostly the Federal Act on Foreign Nationals.

Domestic statutes, rules and regulations

The main provisions applicable to the immigration of third state nationals into Switzerland are included in the:

  • Federal Act on Foreign Nationals.

  • Decree on Admittance, Residence and Employment.

Case law

The Federal Act on Foreign Nationals provides for a general hardship clause which refers to foreign individuals who do not meet the requirements to obtain or maintain a residence and/or work permit. The clause provides exceptions from the requirements to obtain/maintain a permit in case of a "severe personal hardship". Permits issued using a personal hardship clause can be granted to foreign individuals who are temporarily admitted and have resided in Switzerland for more than five years. Therefore, even an unsuccessful but temporarily admitted asylum seeker can obtain a permit because of a severe personal hardship.

The Swiss Federal Council has developed extensive case law with regard to the question in which cases foreign individuals are in such a severe personal hardship. Permits granted on personal hardship reasons are regarded as exceptions based on considerations of humanitarian need. Therefore, the term is interpreted in a very restrictive way. The foreign individual's personal situation must be different from the average situation of other foreign nationals. The immigration authorities must not consider whether the stay in Switzerland is legal or illegal when deciding on a case of personal hardship. The authorities take into account the following factors:

  • How well the applicant is integrated.

  • The applicant's respect for Swiss law.

  • The applicant's family and financial situation.

  • The applicant's efforts to participate in the Swiss economic life.

  • The proposed duration of stay in Switzerland.

  • The applicant's state of health.

  • The ability to re-integrate into the country of origin.

International law and international treaties

On 21 June 1999, the EU and Switzerland signed seven bilateral agreements including the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons, which came into force on 1 June 2002. The right of free movement is complemented by the:

  • Mutual recognition of professional qualifications.

  • Right to buy property.

  • Co-ordination of social security systems.

The same rules also apply to citizens of EFTA member states.

Following the EU enlargement on 1 May 2004, the agreement was supplemented by the additional protocol containing provisions for the gradual introduction of the free movement of persons in the ten new EU member states. The protocol came into force on 1 April 2006.

In a referendum on 8 February 2009, the Swiss electorate approved the continuation of the Free Movement of Persons Agreement after 2009 and Protocol II on extending the Agreement to Romania and Bulgaria.

While the Free Movement of Persons Agreement and its additional protocol lifted restrictions on EU-25 and EFTA citizens wishing to live or work in Switzerland, the citizens of Bulgaria and Romania remain subject to restrictions until 31 May 2016.

Croatia became the 28th member state of the EU on 1 July 2013. The agreement was extended to Croatia through Protocol III. However, in 2014 the Swiss electorate adopted a popular initiative aimed at stopping mass immigration. As a result, the Federal Council could not sign Protocol III in its original version because it violated the new constitutional provisions. From 1 July 2014, Croatian nationals are subject to separate quotas on access to the Swiss labour market. The admission of Croatian nationals to Switzerland is therefore still subject to the provisions of the Federal Act on Foreign Nationals.

Conflicts of law

3. What potential conflicts (if any) arise between the various sources of law?

Both the Foreign Nationals Act and the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons provide for a right of family reunification. This enables citizens covered by these acts to move their direct family to Switzerland.

Under the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons, an EU-25/EFTA citizen can move the following family members to Switzerland:

  • Spouse.

  • Children (if they are under the age of 21 or receive support).

  • Parents or grandparents.

  • Spouse's parents or grandparents.

This applies regardless of the nationality of these family members.

In contrast, under the Foreign Nationals Act, the family reunification covers only children under 18 years old and the spouse.

As a result, within the framework of the family reunification EU-25/EFTA citizens can move their parents to Switzerland regardless of their citizenship, however Swiss citizens can only move their parents if the parents hold an EU-25/EFTA citizenship. If they hold a citizenship of a third state, they must apply for a permit themselves (for example, as a pensioner).

The Swiss Federal Court is aware of this discrimination of Swiss citizens compared to EU-25/EFTA nationals but does not have the power to change it. The Swiss Parliament does not currently intend to amend the law. Various cases addressing the issue have been brought before the Swiss Federal Court, which has always stated that it cannot judge against what is clearly stated in legislation. Recently, the Swiss Federal Court indicated that it would not change its opinion before the judgement of the European Court for Human Rights is passed condemning Switzerland for the discrimination of Swiss people regarding the family reunification (BGE 136 II 120).


Business immigration

Unsponsored business-related immigration

4. What are the primary options available for unsponsored work and investment in your jurisdiction?

There are no differences between unsponsored or sponsored business-related immigration in Switzerland, but there is a dual system for granting foreign national's work permits. The admission and residence of EU-27/EFTA citizens is governed by the Free Movement of Persons Agreement between the EU and Switzerland, and third state nationals are admitted if they meet the requirements of the Foreign Nationals Act.

EU-25/EFTA citizens

Under the Free Movement of Persons Agreement, citizens of an EU-25/EFTA member state are treated like Swiss citizens. They can take up residence in Switzerland and pursue gainful employment or live on their own means. To work in Switzerland, EU-25/EFTA citizens must:

  • Have a passport and a copy of their employment agreement.

  • Not be considered a threat to Swiss internal or external security.

  • Register with the relevant Residents Registry Office (see Question 1).

There are following work permits for EU-25/EFTA citizens:

  • Type L EU/EFTA (short-term residence permit): a permit for up to a year, usually issued if the foreign national has an employment agreement for less than 12 months.

  • Type B EU/EFTA (residence permit): a permit for up to five years and extendable.

  • Type G EU/EFTA (cross-border commuter permit): for those who live in an EU/EFTA member state but work in Switzerland. If the employment contract is for less than a year, the permit lasts as long as the contract; if the contract is for 12 months or more, the permit is valid for five years.

  • Type C EU/EFTA (settlement permits): allows staying in Switzerland indefinitely although the status needs to be confirmed every five years. The permit can be granted after living in Switzerland for :

    • five years, if the applicant is from Belgium, Germany, Denmark, France, Liechtenstein, Greece, Italy, Netherlands, Austria, Portugal, Spain, Finland, United Kingdom, Ireland, Iceland, Luxemburg, Norway and Sweden; or

    • ten years, if the applicant is from other EU/EFTA states.

EU-2 citizens

The citizens of Bulgaria and Romania will remain subject to restrictions until 31 May 2016. Until then, the same requirements as provided in the Foreign National Act apply to the admission of citizens of Bulgaria and Romania when granting access to the Swiss labour market.

Third state nationals

Under the Foreign Nationals Act, third state nationals must pass through a multilevel procedure on a cantonal and federal level to obtain a work and residence permit (see Question 1). Cantonal quotas limit the number of permits that can be issued. Third state nationals are granted access to the Swiss labour market only if it is proven that no suitable Swiss national or EU/EFTA national could be found for the vacant position. Further, the salary and working conditions must be in accordance with the conditions customary to the region and the particular sector. Residence permits can be issued to managers, specialists or other qualified employees only. In addition, a sustainable integration into the Swiss employment market and the social environment of the applicant must be expected based on various factors including the language abilities. In some cases, not all personal requirements must be met. For example, a residence and work permit can be issued in case of management transfers within international companies, even if the relevant person is not fluent in one of the Swiss national languages (German, French, Italian and Rhaeto-Romanic).

A third-state national will be allowed to start working when he/ she has been:

  • Admitted to the Swiss employment market.

  • Registered with the Residents' Registry Office in charge.

The following work permits can be granted to third state nationals:

  • Permit L (short-term residence permit). This permit allows staying in Switzerland for up to one year. It is tied to the terms of the employment contract and can be extended for a further year.

  • Permit B (initial or temporary residence permit). This permit is valid for one year but can be extended annually, as long as there are no reasons for it not to be reissued, such as being a recipient of welfare benefits. These permits are issued on a quota basis and are tied to the same employer. The permits often specify that the third state national lives in the canton that issued the permit and cannot move out of that canton.

  • Permit C (settlement permit). This permit is for third-state nationals who have lived in Switzerland for ten years. The US and Canadian citizens can apply for a settlement permit after five years in Switzerland.

A Swiss employer, employing either EU/EFTA or third state nationals without a valid work permit can be punished by:

  • Imprisonment for up to three years.

  • A fine of up to CHF100,000.

The respective employer may not be granted any work permits for foreign employees in the future.


EU-25/EFTA states. All citizens of EU/EFTA countries (with the exception of Rumania and Bulgaria until 31 May 2016) can live and work freely in Switzerland. This means that they can also become self-employed.

Third state nationals. As a general principle, only the following third state nationals can establish their own business in Switzerland:

  • Third state nationals holding a C-permit (settlement permit).

  • The spouse of a third state national who is a C permit holder.

  • The spouse of a Swiss citizen.

Other third state nationals cannot become self-employed in Switzerland. To obtain the respective permit, they must submit an application to the competent cantonal authorities. Apart from the necessary personal requirements, the company must have a "lasting positive effect or influence on the Swiss employment market".

A lasting positive effect on the Swiss labor market is assumed if the new company or the self-employed person contributes to the industry-specific diversification of the regional economy, preserves or creates several jobs for local staff, makes substantial investments and generates new orders for the Swiss economy. Therefore, third state entrepreneurs must have a very clear business idea before they move to Switzerland. A convincing business plan will be the best foundation for a successful evaluation process.

If the application is accepted by the cantonal authorities, the third state entrepreneur will receive at least a short-term residence permit for third country nationals (L permit) or a residence permit (B permit). Both permits are subject to the L and B permit quotas which are set annually by the Federal Council.


There are no special provisions applicable to entrepreneurs. See above, Self-employment.


There are no special provisions applicable to investors.

Business visitors

A person is considered as a business visitor in Switzerland whenever his/her stay in Switzerland is work-related (for example, business meetings, training sessions or business trips are considered as working).

Generally speaking, all employees of non-Swiss companies working in Switzerland must:

  • Have a work permit.

  • Use the notification procedure where applicable (see below).

Employee who work for less than eight days in Switzerland are exempt from the work permit requirement (see below) but must have a relevant visa.

EU-25/EFTA business visitors. Under certain conditions, EU-25/EFTA citizens working or providing services in Switzerland and third-state employees posted to Switzerland by EU-25/EFTA companies do not need a work permit but can instead benefit from an online notification procedure, which is based on Free Movement of Persons Agreement between the EU und Switzerland.

The notification procedure applies in the following cases:

  • Companies located in an EU-25/EFTA state and posting employees to Switzerland can use the notification procedure for up to 90 individual working days per company (on an aggregate basis) per calendar year. The registration under the notification procedure must take place at least eight days before taking up work in Switzerland. Registration is required for work lasting no more than eight days per calendar year except for the following industries where registration is always compulsory:

    • construction;

    • gardening and landscaping;

    • hospitality;

    • cleaning;

    • security services;

    • itinerant workers;

    • erotic services.

  • Croatian nationals and third country nationals can be posted using the notification procedure if they are directly employed by the sending company and have held a valid EU-25/EFTA work permit for at least 12 months. Posting of workers only applies to a company's own employees and not to temporary workers hired from an agency.

  • EU-25/EFTA nationals employed by a Swiss employer for a period of less than three months per calendar year must be registered before they start working. 

  • Self-employed service providers based in an EU-25/EFTA state can use the notification procedure for up to 90 working days per calendar year. Registration must take place at least eight days before taking up work in Switzerland. No registration is required for work lasting no more than eight days per calendar year except for the industries listed above, where registration eight days in advance is always compulsory.

  • For all situations not mentioned above (especially services or employment lasting more than 90 days or three months per calendar year) the notification procedure cannot be used and a work permit is required.

Further regulatory requirements may need to be complied with, depending on the professional activity that the business visitor intends to exercise in Switzerland.

In case of a breach against the notification procedure (for example, if an employee is working in Switzerland without the registration under the notification procedure), the employer can be punished with a fine of up to CHF5,000. If a fine is not paid, the Swiss authorities can ban the employer from posting its employees to Switzerland. The employer can also be banned from posting employees to Switzerland if it repeatedly breaches the duty to register its posted employees under the notification procedure.

Third state business visitors, not covered by the Free Movement of Persons Agreement between the EU and Switzerland. Third state citizens working or providing services in Switzerland (including business trips and business visitors) and third state employees posted to Switzerland by a company domiciled outside of the EU/EFTA area must have a work permit. No work-permit is required for work lasting no more than eight days per calendar year, except for the following industries:

  • Construction.

  • Hospitality.

  • Cleaning.

  • Gardening and landscape business.

  • Security services.

  • Itinerant workers.

  • Erotic services.

A work permit can only be granted to managers, specialist and other qualified workers and if:

  • Their activity is in the general interests of the economy.

  • The standard working conditions including minimum salary levels are complied with.

If a work permit is requested because of project work of a specialist up to four months/120 days or because of an intragroup transfer of executives, the chances that a work permit will be granted are fair. For intragroup transfers, work permits are granted only if the respective executive has been working with the third country company for at least one year at the time of making an application.

For short-term projects, a short-term permit of up to four months or up to 120 days per calendar year (if multiple entries are required) can be granted. Such short-term permits are not subject to annual quotas so the chances for receiving this kind of permit are higher. For longer projects a short-term permit can be issued for a maximum of 12 months. In exceptional cases, the permit can be renewed for a maximum of 12 months based on a well-founded application, unless there is a change of employer. These kinds of permits are subject to annual quotas.

Sponsored business-related immigration

5. What are the options available for sponsor-based employment in your jurisdiction?

There are no differences relating to unsponsored or sponsored business-related immigration. See Question 4.

Requirements for sponsors

6. What are the requirements for becoming a sponsor of employment-based migrants and what is the role and reporting duties of sponsors?

There are no differences relating to unsponsored or sponsored business-related immigration. See Question 4.

Civil and criminal penalties for sponsors

7. What are the types of civil and criminal penalties that sponsors may face for non-compliance with the rules?

As Switzerland does not differentiate between unsponsored or sponsored business-related immigration, Swiss law does not provide for civil or criminal penalties for sponsors. Swiss law provides for civil and/or criminal penalties for employers not complying with the statutory provisions. They can be punished with fines or further penalties if they engage employees without a valid work permit or do not comply with the conditions of the notification procedure (see Question 4).

Common issues or concerns for business immigration

8. What common issues or concerns may arise under business immigration in your jurisdiction?

Usually, the "priority requirement" (see Question 1) within the context of business immigration of third state nationals leads to certain issues. Third state nationals can only be admitted if a vacant position cannot be filled with a person from Switzerland or another EU/EFTA member state. Priority is given to Swiss citizens, foreign nationals with a long-term residence permit or a residence permit allowing employment, as well as all citizens from those countries covered by the Free Movement of Persons Agreement between the EU and Switzerland. In the application process to obtain a work permit for a third state national, employers must prove that they have not been able to recruit a suitable employee from this priority category, despite intensive efforts.

Vacant positions must be registered with the Regional Employment Offices (RAV) and in the European Union's Employment Services co-operation network (EURES). Further, the employer must explain to the competent authorities why the search for a suitable candidate by means of the recruitment channels used in the specific industry (such as specialist journals, employment agencies, online job listings or corporate websites) was not successful. Suitable proof includes job advertisements in newspapers or written confirmation from head-hunters. It is recommended to create an overview of all the candidates applying for the job, including their country of origin and a short description which qualifications for the particular position were lacking.

Obtaining a work and residence permit requires time and should be done as early as possible. The process usually takes:

  • Up to three months for regular work permits.

  • Up to two months in case of four- month/120 days permits.



9. What persons qualify as dependants (for example, family members)? What are the general requirements and restrictions for bringing dependants into your jurisdiction for sponsored and unsponsored business-related immigration?

Swiss law provides for family reunification, which aims at allowing families to live together when one of the family members moves abroad.

Persons qualifying as dependants

Different provisions apply to Swiss citizens, EU-25/EFTA nationals and third state nationals (see Question 3).

The Free Movement of Persons Agreement between the EU and Switzerland provides for a right of residence and reunification for the following family members of Swiss citizens and EU-25/EFTA nationals:

  • Spouse or partner in a registered partnership.

  • Children and grandchildren under the age of 21 or older if the applicant pays for their living expenses.

  • Parents and grandparents if their living expenses are covered by the applicant.

If the applicant is enrolled in an education and training programme, he or she can only bring his/her spouse and dependent children under the family reunification programme.

Family reunification of third state nationals under the Foreign Nationals Act covers the following family members of C permit holders:

  • Spouse.

  • Children under 18 years old.

To reunify the permit holder must prove the family relationship.
Decisive criteria include having parental custody and regular contact with the child.

Third state nationals holding a B permit have no legal claim to a family reunification. However, the cantonal authorities have discretion to allow such reunification and decisions are made on a case-by-case basis.

General requirements and restrictions

The following requirements must be met for a successful family reunification:

  • The applicant must provide an apartment which is large enough (according to Swiss standards) to accommodate the whole family.

  • The whole family must live together (unless there are good reasons for an exemption).

  • If the applicant is self-employed or not employed, he/she must further prove that he/she has adequate financial resources to cover the living expenses of the whole family.

On arrival in Switzerland, family members of the applicant must present the following documents:

  • Valid identity card or passport.

  • Visa (if applicable).

  • Certificate issued by the authorities in the country of origin proving that the applicant is a family member.

  • A letter issued by the competent authorities of the country of origin, confirming that the applicant pays for the living expenses of the family member (if this family member will be dependent on the applicant).

Family reunification under the Free Movement of Persons Agreement between the EU and Switzerland

Regardless of the nationality of the family member of an EU-25/EFTA citizen applying for a family reunification, the respective family member will receive an EU/EFTA residence permit (even if the person is a third state national). This permit will have the same period of validity as the residence permit of the applicant. Family members can take up employment but they must register with the cantonal immigration and employment market authorities.

Family reunification for third state nationals

In principle, any application for a family reunification of a third state national must be exercised within five years. However, the application for a family reunification relating to children over 12 years old must be exercised within 12 months. These time limits for family members of third state nationals start to run with the grant of a permit or with the constitution of the family relationship. Any application for family reunification which will be exercised later (that is, after five years or after 12 months in case of children over 12 years old) can only be approved if the applicant has important family reasons for exercising the rights with delay.

A spouse or partner and children (between 12 and 18 years old) of a third state national holding a C permit will be issued with a residence permit B with the same duration as the C permit. Family members can work but they must register with the cantonal immigration and employment market authorities.

After the dissolution of a marriage or the family household, the right of a spouse and the children of a C permit holder to be granted a C permit or to have their B permit extended subsists if:

  • The marriage lasted a minimum of three years.

  • They have been integrated successfully.

To be deemed to have successfully integrated, third state nationals must:

  • Respect Swiss institutions and the principles and values of the federal constitution.

  • Demonstrate willingness to participate in economic life.

  • Learn one of Switzerland's languages.

Spouses and children of B permit holders can apply for an extension of an existing permit after the dissolution of the marriage or the family household but they do not have a legal claim to obtain such an extension. Approval of the application for extension will depend on the circumstances of each case and in principle is left to the discretion of the competent authority.


Settlement and citizenship

10. What is the general time frame and processes for obtaining permanent residence and citizenship in your jurisdiction for sponsored and unsponsored business-related immigration?

General process and time frame for obtaining permanent residence

As a general principle, EU-25/EFTA nationals obtain a C permit after five years of legal residence in Switzerland.

Third state nationals can usually only obtain a C permit after ten years of legal residence in Switzerland. Citizens of a few third state countries (such as the US or Canada) can obtain a C permit after five years of legal residence in Switzerland.

General process and time frame for obtaining citizenship

Swiss citizenship is acquired by birth or adoption. In addition, it is possible to obtain citizenship in Switzerland by either a regular or a facilitated naturalisation.

Foreign individuals can be naturalised if they have lived in Switzerland for 12 years. The years lived in Switzerland between the completed 10th and 20th year are counted twice when calculating the 12-year period. That is, a child who moved to Switzerland at the age of six years old will have reached the 12-year threshold at the age of 14 (four years from age six to age ten, and another four years (double counted) from age ten to age 14.

An applicant must apply for citizenship at three levels: confederation, canton and commune.

The requirements at the federal level are the same for everyone. The applicant must:

  • Be culturally and socially integrated into the Swiss society.

  • Be familiar with Swiss customs and traditions comply with Swiss law.

  • Not be a threat to Swiss security.

The State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) will make its decision based on reports from the relevant canton and commune.

If the SEM approves an application, the applicant will be granted a federal naturalisation permit. This alone does not entitle him or her to Swiss citizenship. Further, the applicant must meet the naturalisation requirements of the competent canton and the commune. These requirements vary from place to place. The whole process can take up to three years to complete and during this time the applicant cannot move to another commune.

The facilitated naturalisation is the sole responsibility of the SEM. The applicant will first be given a hearing and has a right of appeal. Applicants who want to be naturalised through facilitated naturalisation must:

  • Be integrated into their Swiss environment.

  • Comply with the Swiss rule of law.

  • Not be a threat Switzerland's internal or external security.

Facilitated naturalisation particularly benefits foreign spouses of Swiss nationals and children of a Swiss parent who do not yet hold Swiss nationality.

Foreign spouses of Swiss nationals who have lived in Switzerland for a year can apply for facilitated naturalisation after three years of marriage, if they have lived in Switzerland for a total of five years. People who have close ties with Switzerland can apply for facilitated naturalisation even if they live abroad. In such cases, however, they must have been married to a Swiss spouse for at least six years.


Present climate and future legislation

Present climate and trends

11. What are the recent trends, both political and social, that have impacted your jurisdiction with regard to immigration policy and law?

As Switzerland voted in favour of the initiative against mass immigration in 2014, the Federal Council enforced a considerable reduction of the work permit quotas for non-EU nationals (third state nationals) and for assignees from EU/EFTA countries on 1 January 2015. The non-EU/EFTA quota for short-term work permits (L permits) and for long-term work permits (B permits) were reduced by 1000 each. The total number of L permits in 2015 was limited to 4000 (down from 5000 in 2014) and the total number of B permits was reduced to 2500 (down from 3500). For EU/EFTA assignees, the quota for L permits was limited to 2000 (down from 3000) and the quota for B permits to 250 (down from 500).

The Swiss People's Party (SVP) believed that parliament watered down its initiative against mass immigration by calling for the deportation of foreign individuals found guilty of a crime. The party launched the enforcement initiative which follows the law to the letter. On 28 February 2016, 58.9% of Swiss citizens voted against the enforcement initiative. The extremist popular initiative was given a surprisingly clear rebuff thanks to a widespread and exceptionally strong mobilisation of various civil society coalitions.

Future legislation

12. Are there any anticipated changes in the immigration laws of your jurisdiction?

On 4 March 2016, Switzerland and the EU signed a deal to include Croatia in the Free Movement of Persons Agreement. The agreement was concluded even though Swiss lawmakers disagree with Brussels over how to implement a binding Swiss referendum in favour of immigration quotas that would violate the Free Movement of Persons Agreement between the EU and Switzerland.

The Swiss government announced a plan limiting the flow of migrants from the European Union if no agreement with Brussels on the issue will be reached before February 2017.

Currently, it is difficult to assess how the relationship between Switzerland and the EU will develop in the near future.


Online resources

State Secretariat for Migration (SEM)


Description. Detailed overview of requirements to enter and live in Switzerland.

Cantonal Employment Services and Cantonal Migration Authorities


Description. Overview of all the Cantonal Employment Services and the Cantonal Migration Authorities.

Federal Department of Justice and Police FDJP (notification procedure)


Description. Homepage to register short term stays of business visitors using the notification procedure.

Contributor profiles

Ueli Sommer, Partner

Walder Wyss Ltd

T +41 58 658 55 16

Professional qualifications. Lawyer, Switzerland.

Areas of practice. Employment law; immigration (recommended by Chambers and Partners)

Non-professional qualifications. LLB, Zurich University, 1995; PhD, Zurich University, 1999; LLM, University of New South Wales, Sydney, 2001.

Languages. German, English

Professional associations/memberships. Board member of the European Employment Lawyers Association; senior vice chair of the Discrimination Committee of the IBA.

Publications. Regularly publishes in legal journals and gives speeches at national and international congresses.

Philippe Nordmann, Partner

Walder Wyss Ltd

T +41 58 658 14 50
F +41 58 658 59 59

Professional qualifications. Lawyer, Switzerland.

Areas of practice. Immigration law; employment law (recommended by Chambers Europe and Who's Who Legal).

Non-professional qualifications. LLB, University of Basel, 1995; PhD, University of Basel, 1997; LLM, Cardozo School of Law, New York, 2002.

Languages. German, English, French

Simone Wetzstein, Associate

Walder Wyss Ltd

T +41 58 658 56 54
F +41 58 658 59 59

Professional qualifications. Lawyer, Switzerland.

Areas of practice. Employment law (special focus on gender discrimination law); immigration law

Non-professional qualifications. LLB, University of Zurich and University of Haifa, 2010

Languages. German, English, French, Hebrew

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