Work permits For Members

Reader question: Can my Swiss L permit be converted into a B permit?

Helena Bachmann
Helena Bachmann - [email protected]
Reader question: Can my Swiss L permit be converted into a B permit?
Switching from L to B depends on where you come from. Photo by Christian Wasserfallen on Pexels

Each work permit issued in Switzerland to foreign workers comes with rules of its own in terms of what it entitles its holder to. What about the L permit?


This particular permit has nothing in common with learning to drive and affixing the letter L to the back of your vehicle.

Instead, it a short-term permit usually issued to foreign nationals who are staying in Switzerland for a specific temporary job, generally for a period of under one year.

Whether or not it can be ‘upgraded’ to a B residence permit, depends on several factors, the primary among them being the holder’s nationality.


Since the L permit is tied to a specific job, when the contract is finished, so is the permit.  

However, if you come from an EU or EFTA country, the process of getting a B permit after the L expires is relatively easy.

You don’t need a permit at all if you work in Switzerland for up to three months. So when the L is no longer valid, you can still remain in the country for this period of time.

Beyond this timeframe, you must apply for a residence permit from the Swiss commune in which you are living.

To do so, submit a valid identity card or passport, as well as official confirmation of employment or an employment contract.

Once you do, and receive your B permit, you can work in Switzerland for the duration of the validity of your permit (from one to five years).

Additionally, you will enjoy some rights that Swiss citizens have: you are free to change jobs and move from one canton to another.

READ ALSO : Just how freely can EU citizens move to (and within) Switzerland?

However, this process is not quite as simple if you are from a non-EU/EFTA country and your L permit expires.

Your chances of subsequently being upgraded to a B permit are slim, though you could be granted one under certain very specific circumstances.


More hurdles to overcome

In terms of work permits, the bar is set very high for non-Europeans.

According to the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM), "admission of third-state nationals to the Swiss labour market is only granted if it is in the interests of Switzerland and the Swiss economy as a whole".

This means that permits/visas will be granted only to highly skilled specialists who can’t be recruited from among Swiss or EU / EFTA workforce.

The reason is that permits for this group of foreigners are subject to quotas and strict rules.

In 2023, the government set aside 4,000 L permits for people from all but one non-EU/EFTA nations.

The one exception is the UK which, although no  longer a part of the European Union, gets its own quota  in Switzerland — 1,400 L permits are reserved just for them.

Whether or not these L permits can be switched to B is determined on a case-by-case basis by SEM.

If it is decided that your skills are sorely needed by your employer (and are in Switzerland’s overall interest), and no other candidate for the job can be found among the Swiss or the EU/EFTA workforce, then you have a chance of either having your L permit extended or getting the B permit.


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