Work permits For Members

Does my work permit let me move from one Swiss canton to another?

Helena Bachmann
Helena Bachmann - [email protected]
Does my work permit let me move from one Swiss canton to another?
You can move freely from one canton to another, but only under certain conditions. Photo: Nubia Navarroon Pexels

Swiss work permits are canton specific, but does this mean you can never change your place of residence?


If you are a foreign national working in Switzerland, you know that your permit is issued by a particular canton where you work.

Whether you must stay in this particular job and / or location long-term depends on several factors, such as your nationality and the kind of permit you hold.

Generally speaking, in most cases, permanent residents are able to move to another canton, but some rules apply.

Your passport plays a role

EU / EFTA nationals have privileges in Switzerland that third-country citizens do not.

One of them is a relative freedom of movement within the country: people from the EU / EFTA states and their family members do not require a new permit if they move to another canton.


“Short-term residence permits, residence permits, and settlement permits are valid for the whole of Switzerland", according to the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM).

However, federal law spells out specific conditions for moving within the country. It stipulates that people with residence permits L or B who would like to relocate to another canton "must apply for the appropriate permit from the new canton beforehand".

This means that your current permit is not automatically transferred to and valid in another canton. You must first request a new one and move only when you receive it.

Can the new canton deny your request?

Since the law allows EU / EFTA permit holders to move within Switzerland, normally there should be no glitches.

READ MORE:  Residence permits: How EU and EFTA citizens can live, work and stay in Switzerland 

There are, however, exceptions.

To receive a new permit your current one must still be valid, and you must have a job lined up in another canton.

As the law states, permit holders “are entitled to move to another canton provided they are not unemployed and there are no grounds for revocation" of their permits.

So if you want to move to another canton because you either lost your job or your permit, you can’t do that.

What about third-country nationals?

Non-Europeans are subject to more restrictive conditions than their EU /EFTA counterparts, including permits based on the quota system.

In all, 8,500 permits are distributed among the 26 cantons: 4,500 people are granted a residence permit B, and the remaining 4,000 receive a short-term residence permit L, entitling them to work in Switzerland for up to one year.

UK citizens have a separate quota: 2,100 B and 1,400 L authorisations, also split among cantons.

As individual cantons have only a limited number of permits for third-country nationals, and the hiring requirements are very specific (only highly-qualified professionals who can’t be found either in Switzerland or the EU / EFTA), it is unlikely that these people will be allowed to change cantons.

There are, nevertheless, some exceptions.

If the third-country national has lived in Switzerland long enough to receive a permanent residence B or C permit, then they can move around the country the same way as people from the EU / EFTA.


What about foreign retirees?

If you are allowed to stay in Switzerland after you retire — in other words, if you have a C permit which entitles you to remain here indefinitely — then you can move and live wherever you like.

For others, some restrictions apply based mostly on their post-retirement income.

More information about what rights foreign pensioners have in Switzerland can be found in this article:

Reader question: Will my Swiss residency permit be valid after I retire?





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