The benefits of finding a job in Switzerland are juicy: high wages, at least four weeks holiday and an unemployment safety net that beggars belief. But with fierce competition and vital paperwork, you need to do your homework before setting out, writes Marcus Berry.

"/> The benefits of finding a job in Switzerland are juicy: high wages, at least four weeks holiday and an unemployment safety net that beggars belief. But with fierce competition and vital paperwork, you need to do your homework before setting out, writes Marcus Berry.

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SWITZERLAND LIFESTYLE GUIDE

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Finding a job in Switzerland

The benefits of finding a job in Switzerland are juicy: high wages, at least four weeks holiday and an unemployment safety net that beggars belief. But with fierce competition and vital paperwork, you need to do your homework before setting out, writes Marcus Berry.

Finding a job in Switzerland

With one of the best-paid workforces in Europe and an equally gold-plated social safety net, it’s easy to see why working in Switzerland is so attractive. These factors are enhanced by low crime, picture-book scenery and the very best winter sports facilities. 

There are hurdles however . . . The work force is small, competition is fierce and while EU/EFTA accords have eased employment restrictions for member states, job seekers from outside Europe will find their attempts hampered by red tape. 

 Job seeking sources

Nowadays the best job finding resources in Switzerland for English-speakers are online.

The Local’s own jobs section has listings of hundreds of English-speaking jobs across Switzerland. 

Sites such as Jobwinner.ch (Jobup.ch in French-speaking regions), or the more executive alpha.ch and MPB , are popular among both job seekers and employers. Depending on the canton you will find scores of offers from companies that require staff armed with an English mother tongue. 

The service provides a free system to download your CV and cover-letter and send them directly to the employer. It works. However, don’t expect too much from merely posting your CV on the site (another service) – much better to be proactive. 

Perhaps the best newspaper sources are the Tagesanzeiger (Zurich) 24Heures (Vaud) and Tribune de Genève (Geneva) which publish employment sections one day per week.  

Agencies including Adecco still form a major pillar of the Swiss employment market but are generally more useful for applicants already in possession of a work permit. 

Considering the transient nature of expat life, speculative applications are certainly worth a shot. Before mailing your cover letter and CV, identify your target: Personalabteilungsleite in German or Directeur de Ressources Humaines (French). Addressing these officials in their respective languages if possible will win brownie points. Many Swiss consider that English speakers don’t make enough linguistic effort and they have a point. This brings us to . . .

Language requirements

Although Switzerland employs three major national languages, English is frequently used in the work place. Nonetheless, knowledge of German, French and, to a lesser extent, Italian is going to be an advantage. Take note though – the German-Swiss dialect contains vocabulary and expressions entirely alien to high German speakers. On the other hand the French used in Switzerland is more manageable and far slower than say, the machinegun delivery of Parisians. Meanwhile, both Chinese (Mandarin) and Russian language skills are fast becoming valuable additions to linguistic requirements.

Permits 

EU/EFTA members enjoy the right to move between cantons, change jobs, bring their family into the country and for those family members to work. They can spend up to three months in Switzerland searching for work if they choose. If intending to spend more than three months here they are required to register with the canton of residence. 

 For non-EU/EFTA nationals the process is far more painful. Annual quotas are limited and employers are obliged to prove that the job on offer isn’t one that could be filled by a local. Permits are also restricted to those with higher education. 

If you get that far and have agreed terms, the employer will send you an official job offer. The HR department will then apply for your residency in the same canton. If accepted by local authorities, your employer will send you a Zusicherung der Aufenthalsbewilligung or Autorisation de Séjour, essentially pre-approval for residency. This is the document you must present to secure the final residency permit when you arrive in Switzerland. Be warned – the entire process could drag on for several months and promises of a permit from your potential employer should be taken with a pinch of salt. The final decision lies with the canton. 

International organizations are major employers in Switzerland, especially in Geneva. Work permits are not required and staff are issued with a special ID card (Identitätskarte or Carte de Légitimation).

Interviews

Swiss companies are scrupulous about screening and we’ve also heard from some natives and long-serving expats that wearing a watch to a job interview is a consideration. While we’ve yet to confirm or refute this claim, it would be a shame to risk disqualification over such an oversight. 

Wearing a tie is probably the safest option, but there are increasing signs of relaxation in the Swiss workplace. This depends on the company you’re aiming to join. If in doubt, ask what is expected.  

Taxes

Holders of B permits – generally the version newcomers are awarded these – are taxed at source according to cantonal fiscal regulations. This means you never get to see the cash. As soon as you graduate to a C permit, which takes five to 10 years, then you are required to process your own contributions. 

Politics

Some perceive that the rise in power of the right wing Swiss People’s Party (those behind the infamous ban on the construction of minarets) in recent years has prompted an increase in national xenophobia. 

Nonetheless, it’s worth remembering that the majority of the population doesn’t share these views and embraces easier employment policies, provided immigrants respect Swiss customs and stay out of trouble.  

Working illegally

Not advised. 


For members

WORKING IN SWITZERLAND

Which countries does Switzerland have working holiday visa agreements with?

Switzerland has made reciprocal agreements regarding working holiday visas with several countries. Here's what you need to know.

Which countries does Switzerland have working holiday visa agreements with?

Over the past few decades, countries around the globe have rolled out ‘working holiday visa’ agreements.

These visa schemes, largely targeted at young people, allow people to work and live in a particular country, usually for a set period of time and pursuant to certain conditions.

In recent years, Switzerland has expanded its own form of a ‘working holiday visa’, although there are some important differences to be aware of.

Unlike some of the better known schemes like those in place in Australia, applicants are discouraged from moving around and are generally required to stay with the one employer for the duration.

The goal of the visa scheme is to allow applicants to “expand their occupational and linguistic skills in Switzerland”.

The visa scheme runs for 18 months and cannot be extended.

Which countries does Switzerland have working holiday visa agreements with?

The agreements are made between countries, meaning your fate will depend on whether your government has at some point struck a deal with Switzerland.

EXPLAINED: What’s the difference between permanent residence and Swiss citizenship?

If you are from the European Union or an EFTA country (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland), then you will be able to live and work in Switzerland as is – and will not need to go through this process.

If you come from outside the EU, you will only be able to apply for this visa if you are a citizen of the following countries:

Australia, Argentina, Canada, Chile, Indonesia, Japan, Monaco, New Zealand, the Philippines, Russia, South Africa, Tunisia, Ukraine and the United States.

What does ‘reciprocal’ mean in this context? 

Where these agreements have been struck, they have entitled citizens of both countries to certain rights and permissions in the other country. 

However, while these arrangements might be reciprocal, they are not identical. 

For instance, while citizens of Australia can enter Switzerland and work, the rules for Swiss citizens in Australia are significantly different. 

Therefore, if considering each program, be sure to study all of the relevant details as these will change from country to country and from agreement to agreement. 

More information is available at the following link. 

EXPLAINED: How to get a working holiday visa in Switzerland

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