For members


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

If you are planning to leave Switzerland for a while, it is good to ensure that being out of the country won't affect your residency. This is what you should know.

READER QUESTION: How long can I stay out of Switzerland and keep my residency rights?
Put your permit on hold before you leave. Image by Rudy and Peter Skitterians from Pixabay

Even if you permanently live and work in Switzerland, you may want to leave the country for a period of time to work, study, or just travel around.

If you have Swiss citizenship this is of course not a problem, but if you are not a citizen then long periods away can affect your residency.

L, B, or C?

How long you can actually live abroad depends on what kind of Swiss permit you hold.

Anyone with a short-term residence permit L can leave the country for no longer than three months.

However, be careful, as these permits are usually granted for up to a year, and the three months is a total period – so for example if you travel a lot for work you need to keep a count and make sure you haven’t exceeded 90 days (three months) in total. 

You have more leeway with residence permits B and C: you can stay out for up to six months a year.

Of the two, the C, which is granted to permanent or ‘settled’ foreigners, gives their holders more sweeping rights, including in regards to staying abroad.

For instance, if you plan to leave the country for more than six months (but not longer than four years), then you have the option of putting the permit ‘on hold’ – this is especially useful for people who want to study at a non-Swiss university.

You must request this suspension from your cantonal authorities in writing, explaining the reasons why you plan to remain abroad for a longer-than-permitted period of time.

If you simply leave for more than six months without ‘freezing’ your permit, then it will expire in due time, and you will have to re-apply for it under the usual admission conditions.

Notify the canton

If you decide to leave, don’t just pack your bags and sneak out like a thief in the middle of the night.

You must notify the local Population Office ((Einwohnerkontrolle / Contrôle des habitants/ Controllo abitanti) of your departure and fill out any required paperwork.

What about holders of permit S?

Given exclusively to Ukrainians who have fled the war in their country, this special status allows refugees to travel abroad “if the trip does not exceed 90 days within a period of 180 days”, according to State Secretariat for Migration (SEM).

As far as travel to Ukraine, it should not exceed 15 days per quarter, or SEM may “revoke temporary protection status in Switzerland”.

READ MORE: Nine things you need to know about work permits in Switzerland

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For members


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?