Work permits: How foreigners in Switzerland could lose their jobs

Helena Bachmann
Helena Bachmann - [email protected]
Work permits: How foreigners in Switzerland could lose their jobs
If you lose your work permit, you'll have to bid goodbye to your job. Photo by Hunters Race on Unsplash

If you have a good job, you want to hold on to it for dear life. But sometimes redundancies do happen and other bureaucratic problems emerge, putting your employment and longterm prospects in Switzerland at risk.


All employees, regardless of their nationality, are scared of getting the infamous ‘pink slip’ — a notice of dismissal.

You will not be literally ‘pink-slipped’, as this is just a colloquial expression; though you may first hear of your dismissal though the office grapevine, your redundancy doesn’t become official until you receive a written notice from your employer.

In Switzerland, there are strict procedures for such dismissals:

READ ALSO: The Swiss employment laws you need to know about

So what could prompt your employer to dismiss you?

First, it is important to know that you can’t be fired just because you are a foreign national — provided you were hired in compliance with the law.

But there are some circumstances under which you could lose your job:

Your work permit expires

Many foreign nationals have L or B permits that are tied to their employment.

The L permit is typically issued for a limited period of time, usually less than a year, as are some B permits.

This means that once the employment contract is finished, so is your job.

In some situations, you can extend short-term permits, but that depends on whether you are an EU / EFTA national or come from a third country (this process is more complicated for the latter), and also on whether your employer wants to keep you beyond the validity term of your contract.


What happens if you forget to renew your permit?

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.

However, if you neglect to do that, you can kiss your permit goodbye.

The authorities could take special circumstances, such as serious illness, debilitating accident, or another extreme situation into consideration and make an exception, but you shouldn’t count on that.

Basically, if you let your permit lapse, you will lose your right to live and work in Switzerland.

READ ALSO: When and how should you renew your Swiss residence permit?

Your quota is not renewed

If you come from a non-EU / EFTA country, your Swiss job is subject to a quota.

For 2023, as in two previous years, the government issued 8,500 work permits to non-Europeans: 4,500 B and 4,000 L permits.

In addition, 3,500 permits were set aside for workers from the UK, as British citizens benefit from separate quotas: 2,100 under a B permit and 1,400 under an L permit.

These quotas are renewed annually, but if one year the government decides to issue fewer quotas — and consequently also fewer permits — and yours just happens to be eliminated, then your employer will have no choice but to let you go.


What about other factors?

These are the main reasons relating specifically to dismissal of foreign workers.

You could, however, be let go for the same reasons as your Swiss counterparts, including massive layoffs, the company going bankrupt, or specific employee misconduct such as chronic absenteeism, or other infractions.

While you can oppose the dismissal if you believe it is unjustified, you can’t appeal the employer’s decision if it is related to the above-mentioned permit problems.


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