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Reader question: What should I do if I lose my Swiss residency permit?

Getting a residence or work permit in Switzerland is not always easy, so its loss can throw you into disarray. Here are the steps to take toward re-establishing this important document.

Reader question: What should I do if I lose my Swiss residency permit?
To enter Switzerland for work, you must have your permit. SEBASTIEN BOZON / AFP

If you are a foreign national employed in Switzerland (or just living here), your permit is a very valuable possession.

You should, of course, guard it with your life and never part with it, but sometimes that little credit-card-like document disappears mysteriously from your wallet. You probably won’t know whether it was lost or stolen; all you know is that it is missing.

Photo: State Secretariat for Migration SEM

What should you do?

First of all, don’t panic. It is not the end of the world — though it may seem like it — and it doesn’t mean you’ll be thrown out of Switzerland.

You will need to request a replacement from your canton of residence, a process which is usually pretty efficient.

Here are the steps to take:

First, you must announce the loss / theft to the police in your place of residence, who will issue a report.

You must then bring this certificate to your local administration’s population department (Einwohnerkontrolle in German, contrôle des habitants in French, and Controllo abitanti in Italian), which is in charge of all matters related to residence in a given municipality.
 
In some cases, you can find online a form requesting a replacement, print it, fill it out and bring it with you to the administration office.

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When you go there, bring your passport, a passport photo, as well as and the police report of the loss / theft. of permit.

A duplicate permit will be issued to you, though the fee for this service and the time it takes to get a new permit varies from one canton to another, and also depends on what kind of permit you are replacing. 

What happens if your permit is lost / stolen abroad?

In this event, the procedure is a bit more complicated (or a lot more complicated, depending on a country’s bureaucracy).

As is the case in Switzerland, you must first announce the loss / theft to the local police and bring the report to a Swiss Embassy or Consulate, which will issue a temporary document enabling you to return to Switzerland.

This, however, will take some time, as the foreign representation will have to contact the canton which issued your permit.

Once back in Switzerland, you should take this paperwork to your local Einwohnerkontrolle / contrôle des habitants / controllo abitanti office and request a new permit, as above.

Note, however, that once a replacement permit is issued, the original one is invalidated, so if you happen to find it afterwards, don’t use it.

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RESIDENCY PERMITS

What are my rights while I wait for my Swiss residence permit to be extended?

As a foreign national in Switzerland, your permit is a very important document, as it allows you to stay and work here. But what happens when it expires?

What are my rights while I wait for my Swiss residence permit to be extended?

Whether or not you have any rights in Switzerland when your permit expires depends on the kind of permit you have — it may have to be renewed each year or only after five years of residency.

For instance, B and C permits are renewed automatically (unless there is a reason why they can’t be — because you have left the country or are no longer eligible for one).

If they are renewed automatically, then you don’t have to do anything — just wait for it to arrive.

In the meantime, your rights are protected — you can continue to work and live in Switzerland as before.

Things are a little bit more complicated if you hold a short-term permit, like L.

This permit is given to eligible people who move to Switzerland to work temporarily in a specific job or company. It is valid for up to one one year, and can be renewed for another 24 months under certain circumstances, such as if your employer requests it.

Unlike B or C permit, L is not extended automatically; rather, you have to apply to have it renewed (see below).

It is important to keep in mind that this particular permit is tied to a specific job, so if you change work, the permit, and your right of residency, will lapse.

As far as G permit, given to cross-border workers, it is in force for periods from one to five years, depending on your Swiss employment contract. They too are usually not renewed automatically.

READ MORE: How to get a permit as a cross-border worker in Switzerland

What are your rights if your permit expires?

If you are not getting an extension or a new permit, then you have to leave Switzerland

If you are not informed by the canton ahead of time that your permit would not be extended, then you are in the clear. You have the right to remain and work in Switzerland.

For you to be able to stay in the country legally, your permit either must be renewed automatically (B and C), or it is up to you to take steps to do so.

In either case, you should be aware of the deadlines and procedures for extension, but the process is fairly simple.

Typically, you will receive a letter from local authorities approximately six weeks before the deadline reminding you to renew. There will also be an application form that you will need to fill out.

It must be submitted to your commune of residence no earlier than three months and no later than two weeks prior to the expiration date.

You will need to present your residence permit and passport, which must remain valid for at least three months after the date of permit’s expiration.

The cost of renewal varies from one commune to another and is determined by the kind of permit you have.

What about refugee permits?

Permit N is granted to asylum seekers whose application is being processed. During this time, they are entitled to live (and under certain conditions, also work) in Switzerland, for as long as their status is not revoked by the government.

In regard to S permits granted to Ukrainians who fled their country, they have the right to live and work in Switzerland for as long as their status is valid: according to the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM), this period is one year, though it can be extended for five years.

There is no need for these people to apply for extension each year: it will be done automatically, but only if the Swiss government will maintain their status.

READ MORE: READER QUESTION: How long can I stay out of Switzerland and keep my residency rights?

 

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