For members


EXPLAINED: How to prove you are a resident in Switzerland

Depending on where you're from, there are different ways to prove you're a resident in Switzerland in case you ever need to.

EXPLAINED: How to prove you are a resident in Switzerland
If you wear this, you might not get asked for your proof of residency.People in Swiss traditional costumes on Swiss National Day. Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP
Here are some important documents to keep in mind, particularly during the pandemic when travel restrictions may apply. 

Occasionally you may be required to prove you are legally a resident in Switzerland, rather than a visitor. 

This became especially important with the many global travel restrictions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

In this case, you’re likely to have to provide a residency permit of some description.

Here’s the crucial documents you’ll need. Note: the following applies to anyone who has stayed or is planning to stay for more than three months. 

Under three months, getting around on your home country passport or ID document (for EU) will suffice. 

One further reminder – when arriving in Switzerland, you must register with your new municipal authority in your canton of residence. 

While this may not seem unusual if you come from a country like Germany where mandatory registration is common place, arrivals from other countries may find this strange. 

In doing so, you’ll receive a certificate confirming your registration: Wohnsitzbescheinigung / Attestation de résidence / Certificato di domicilio.

In most cantons, you must do this within 14 days of arriving – although some have a shorter time frame. Be sure to check with cantonal and/or municipal authorities. 

Swiss citizens

If you’re a Swiss citizen, your best bet will be to show either your passport or your Swiss Identity Card. 

Similar to the government-issued cards in other European countries, a Swiss identity card is a small plastic card which can be used for travel within the EU. 

How to apply for Swiss citizenship: An essential guide 

Importantly for people who may have come from the United States, Australia or elsewhere where the situation is different, a Swiss drivers licence may be proof of identity but not official proof of residence. 

Non-citizens who live in Switzerland

For non-citizens, you can prove your resident status by showing your residency permit. 

READ: Am I eligible for Swiss citizenship? 

This will usually be connected to your work, i.e. the permission which allows you to work in Switzerland. 

If you are only here on a temporary basis, you will be able to show your B-Permit – a permit which is renewable and which has an expiry date. 

You may also show your L-Permit, which is a short-term residency permit that allows residency for up to 12 months. Unlike B-Permits – which usually run for multiple years – L-Permits will run for a year at most. 

Permanent residents will be issued with C-Permits – which cannot be withdrawn unless you leave Switzerland for good.

Cross-border workers

Cross-border workers – i.e. workers who live in neighbouring countries but who work in Switzerland – may need to prove their status, particularly during times of the pandemic. 

At the peak of the pandemic when Switzerland closed its borders, only residents, citizens and cross-border workers were allowed across the country’s frontiers. 

How Switzerland avoided a coronavirus ‘catastrophe’ by protecting cross-border workers 

Cross-border workers are issued with G-Permits, which allow them to cross the border for the purposes of work. In some cases, these permits also entitle workers to beneficial tax arrangements

G-Permit holders must return home at least once per week. 

What is a certificate of residence in Switzerland? 

Although it might sound like the one document you will need to prove residence no matter what, this is a formal document that is unlikely to be requested to prove residence. 

Instead, this may be relevant in relation to making tax and social security contributions, or when renewing your drivers licence. 

Editor’s note: Please keep in mind that this article, as with all of our guides, are to provide assistance only. They are not intended to take the place of official legal advice.

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For members


EXPLAINED: Everything you need to know about Swiss language tests for residency

The language standards for permanent residency is different than that for citizenship. Here's what you need to know.

EXPLAINED: Everything you need to know about Swiss language tests for residency

Whether granting permanent residency or citizenship, whether you are ‘successfully integrated’ is the major question for Swiss authorities. 

Being successfully integrated means that they “should participate in the economic, social and cultural life of society”, according to the State Secretariat for Migration.

Reader question: What does being ‘successfully integrated’ in Switzerland mean?

Speaking a Swiss language is crucial. While you will not need to speak a Swiss language when you arrive, you will need to demonstrate a certain degree of language proficiency in order to stay long term. 

However, the level of language proficiency differs depending on the type of residency permission you want: residency permit, permanent residency or Swiss citizenship. 

This is outlined in the following table.

Image: Swiss State Secretariat for Migration

Image: Swiss State Secretariat for Migration

What does proficiency in a Swiss language mean?

Proficiency in a Swiss language refers to any of the major Swiss languages: Italian, German, French and Romansh. While Romansh is also a Swiss language, it is not spoken elsewhere and is only spoken by a handful of people in the canton of Graubünden. 

There are certain exceptions to these requirements for citizens of countries where these languages are spoken, as has been outlined here

English, while widely spoken in Switzerland, is not an official language of Switzerland and English proficiency will not grant you Swiss citizenship. 

Moving to Switzerland, it may appear you have three world languages to choose from, although by and large this is not the case. 

As the tests are done at a communal level, the language in the commune in question is the one you need to speak

Therefore, if you have flawless French and live in the German-speaking canton of Schwyz, you need to improve your German in order to make sure you pass the test. 

While some Swiss cantons are bilingual, this is comparatively rare at a municipal level. 

A Swiss Federal Supreme Court case from 2022 held that a person is required to demonstrate language proficiency in the administrative language of the municipality in which they apply, even if they are a native speaker of a different Swiss language. 

What Swiss language standards are required for a residency permit?

Fortunately for new arrivals, you do not need to show Swiss language proficiency. 

Generally speaking, those on short-term residency permits – such as B Permits and L Permits – are not required to show proficiency in a national language. 

There are some exceptions – for instance people on family reunification permits – however by and large people who have just arrived in Switzerland for work do not need to demonstrate language proficiency. 

What Swiss language standards are required for permanent residency?

While ‘permanent residency’ might sound like ‘residency permit’, it grants a far greater set of rights for the holder – and with it a more extensive array of responsibilities. 

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

One of these obligations is Swiss language proficiency. 

For ordinary permanent residency – which is granted after an uninterrupted stay of five years or ten years in total – you need to demonstrate A2 level of a spoken Swiss language and A1 written. 

Citizens of Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Liechtenstein, Netherlands, Portugal and Spain are exempt from these language requirements. 

For fast-tracked permanent residency, the language level is a little higher. 

You must demonstrate A1 written but B1 spoken. 

There are also exceptions for people who can demonstrate they have a Swiss language as their mother tongue, or that they have attended compulsory schooling for a minimum of three years in a Swiss language. 

Demonstrating language proficiency must be done through an accredited test centre. The accreditation process is handled at a cantonal level. More information is available here

What Swiss language standard is required for citizenship?

The standard is slightly higher for citizenship than for permanent residency. 

Candidates must demonstrate A2 level writing ability and B1 spoken skills. This is the level set out in the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages.

These rules, which came into effect on January 1st, 2019, set up a uniform minimum level of language proficiency required on a federal basis. 

Previously, there was no consistency in language testing, with many cantons in the French-language region making a judgment based on the candidate’s oral skills.

Cantons are free to set a higher bar if they wish, as Thurgau has done by requiring citizenship candidates to have B1-level written German and B2 (upper intermediate) spoken German. The rules are also stricter in St Gallen and Schwyz. 

More information is available at the following link. 

Naturalisation: How well must I speak a Swiss language for citizenship?