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


Reader question: How can I bring my family to live with me in Switzerland?

Family reunification can be tricky in Switzerland, depending on where you and your family are from. Here is what you need to know.

Reader question: How can I bring my family to live with me in Switzerland?

If you live in Switzerland, you might want to bring your family from abroad to live with you. However, this will not be possible in every case, as the rules for family reunification vary broadly depending on where you and your family are from and how closely related you are.

Family reunification might not be a given right for those living in Switzerland on a permit. Instead, it may be a possibility left to the discretion of the authorities. Unlike those on a B permit (residence permit), people in Switzerland on a C permit (settlement permit), for example, don’t necessarily have a right to bring their family.

READ ALSO: Five things to consider when organising childcare in Switzerland

Additionally, you can’t bring just any family members to Switzerland. Who you are allowed to bring, and under what circumstances, will depend on your nationality.

For Swiss citizens

If the person living in Switzerland is a Swiss citizen, they are allowed to bring their spouse or registered partner, any children and grandchildren under the age of 18 (or 21 or dependent if the child comes from an EU/EFTA country), your dependent parents and grandparents if they come from an EU/EFTA country.

For citizens of an EU/EFTA country

Citizens of the European Union or an EFTA country can bring a spouse or registered partner, any children or grandchildren under the age of 21 (or dependent), and any dependent parents or grandparents.

For citizens from a third country

Citizens from a third country such as the US, Canada, Brazil, the UK, South Africa or Australia, for example, are only allowed to bring a spouse or registered partner and children under the age of 18.

How to bring them?

It’s important to mention that there are time limits to applying for family reunification. In general, people have five years to apply for family reunification, but only one year if the application is for children over 12 years old. The Swiss government says it is “so that they can integrate more rapidly into Swiss society”.

READ ALSO: What is the EU’s ‘single permit’ for third-country nationals and can I get one?

There are several other conditions that need to be met. For example, you need to prove the relationship to the person you want to bring, and you need to have a large enough accommodation to house the whole family.

Additionally, those who are self-employed or unemployed need to show proof of sufficient financial resources.

The family members need a valid identity card or passport, a visa (if necessary), and a certificate proving the relationship and proving they are dependents (if required). In addition, a spouse needs to show proof of A1 language or a certificate of enrolment in a language course of the area where they apply for the permit.

The application must be made with the immigration authority in your canton, who may ask for extra documents or further information.

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

If the application is accepted, the family members will receive a residence permit – the exact type depends on the person in Switzerland’s status. The family will be allowed to work in Switzerland unless they are parents or grandparents.

Children are required to attend free compulsory schooling at least until the age of 16 and all family members need to have a Swiss health insurance.

Each canton may have its own particular rules and minor differences in status and documents may lead to different outcomes depending on the case. Therefore, don’t forget to check with your cantonal immigration authority what applies to your particular case.