Switzerland approves phase out of paper-based residence permits

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Switzerland approves phase out of paper-based residence permits

In a time of cards, chips and apps, Switzerland’s paper-based residency permit looks like a relic of a bygone age. Swiss authorities, citing fraud risk, have decided the paper age is over.


Switzerland has for decades prided itself on being an early adopter of new technologies, making it surprising that the country’s brown paper residency permit, which resembles a homemade passport, is still in use. 

In a meeting on September 20th, the Swiss government indicated that the paper permits would be phased out and replaced by a credit card-sized plastic permit. 

An example of the paper permits which will be phased out. Photo:


The permits will be gradually replaced from November 1st, 2019 onwards when they come up for renewal, although doing so will be at the discretion of the individual cantons. 

The paper passes are expected to be completely phased out by July 1st, 2021, upon which a compulsory Switzerland-wide phase out is set to take place.

The permit will resemble typical drivers licences or other ID documents, although unlike many of these it will not contain a chip with biometric data. The Swiss immigration authorities argue that the new document will be ‘virtually tamper proof’. 

An example of the biometric permits held by many third-state nationals in Switzerland. Photo: SEM

The change comes about after a consultation process with Swiss cantons which ran from December 2018 until April 2019. The phase out attained widespread approval from the majority of cantons, despite some reservations regarding costs and process. 

Who will be affected?

  • EU/EFTA citizens (L, B, and C permits)
  • Cross-border commuters irrespective of their nationality (G permit)
  • Family members of diplomats pursuing gainful employment in Switzerland (Ci card)
  • Asylum seekers during the asylum procedure (N permit)
  • Temporarily admitted people (F permit), and people in need of protection (S permit)

The complete list of residency permits subject to the phase outs can be found here (in French). 

Read also: Swiss bureaucracy - 7 essential documents you need to know about

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