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EMPLOYMENT

EXPLAINED: What are your chances of getting a job in Switzerland from abroad?

Many people dream of working in Switzerland, where salaries are among the highest in the world. But depending on your nationality, finding employment here may not be easy.

EXPLAINED: What are your chances of getting a job in Switzerland from abroad?
Your country or origin determines if you get a job in Switzerland easily. Photo by FREDERICK FLORIN / AFP

Looking for work in Switzerland while you are abroad is not a problem. All you have to do is look at online listings and find a job that suits you. 

The hardest part is actually getting hired.

Your passport is the decisive factor in whether an employer offers you a job.

If you are a citizen of the European Union or EFTA states (Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein), finding a job here is easier than if you are from another country (known in Switzerland as a ‘third nation’).

Workers from EU / EFTA can work in Switzerland freely for up to three months, but they have to announce their arrival to cantonal authorities in their place of employment.

If you intend to work in Switzerland for more than three months, you have to register with the local authorities and apply for a residence permit, which you can also use as a work permit.

But to receive a residence permit, you need a written confirmation of employment.

The same rules apply to cross-border workers, except that they are required to return to their countries of residence at least once a week.

“No border-zone regulations apply to EU/EFTA nationals”, according to the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM).

“They are free to take up residence in any one of the EU or EFTA states and work in all parts of Switzerland”, SEM added.

READ MORE: Jobs in Switzerland: Foreigners ‘less likely to be hired than Swiss nationals’

What about people from third nations?

This is where things get more complicated.

If you are a citizen of non-EU / EFLA state, you must meet strict employment conditions before being offered a job.

Each year, the Federal Council issues a certain number of work permits for non-EU citizens. In 2021 (as in previous year) this figure is 8,500.

From this quota, 4,500 people will be granted a residence permit B, and the remaining 4,000 will receive a short-term residence permit L, entitling them to work in Switzerland for up to one year.

And British citizens, who are no longer part of the EU?

From January 1st, 2021, people from Great Britain are subjected to the same rules as other citizens of third nations.

However, the Federal Council decided that Swiss companies can continue to recruit specialised employees from the United Kingdom, setting a separate quota for British workers.

In 2021, 3,500 work authorisations are reserved especially for UK nationals — 2,100 B permits and 1,400 L permits. That’s in addition to 4,500 non-EU permits.

If you come from outside the EU / EFTA and see a job listing you like, you can apply in the usual manner — send your CV and other documents required by the company.

READ MORE: ‘Unprecedented crisis’: New figures show stark impact of pandemic on all Swiss job sectors

But you will be considered for a job only if you are a highly qualified specialist in your field or another skilled professional. This means you should have a degree from a university or an institution of higher education, as well as a number of years of professional work experience.

In addition, the job you are seeking can’t be filled by a Swiss national or people from EU / EFTA states, which the employer has to prove before offering you a job.

If you do get hired because you fulfil all these criteria, your employer will apply for a work permit. Cantonal authorities will then decide, based on the quota system mentioned above, whether to grant the authorisation.

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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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