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Can I live permanently in Switzerland on a B permit?

Helena Bachmann
Helena Bachmann - [email protected]
Can I live permanently in Switzerland on a B permit?
If you are an employed EU citizen, you can live on a B permit indefinitely. Photo: Pixabay

Most foreign residents in Switzerland aspire to a C permit — the ‘highest' there is. But can you live indefinitely in the country on a B permit as well?

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The reason the vast majority of foreigners in Switzerland want to get a C permit is because it offers its holders sweeping rights.

Among them are limitless employment opportunities, being able to change jobs and cantons of residence, setting up own businesses, buying real estate without any restrictions, and having access to educational grants.

The only thing that separates a C permit from a citizenship is the right to vote or run for office.

READ ALSO: Why does Switzerland have two kinds of C-permit holders? 

What about B permits?

If you don’t plan on staying in Switzerland long-term, or are not eligible to obtain a C permit, then a B permit is probably the best fit for you.

These permits are issued for time periods ranging from one to five years, depending on your nationality.

EU / EFTA citizens will receive this permit for five years, and can renew it for another years, if there are no reasons for its revocation (see below).

So if you are an EU / EFTA national in good standing, you can remain in Switzerland for as long as you are either employed or retired (and receiving a pension).

If, on the other hand, you come from a third country and your B permit is tied to your job and subject to annual quota, then it may not be extended for five years — and even less likely for an indefinite period. (Unless, of course, your employer can prove you are essential to the country’s economy, and your position can’t be filled by a Swiss or EU / EFTA candidate).

So yes, you can live in Switzerland on a B permit, but it does have limits — even if you have a long-term, rather than annually renewable one.

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What are some of the restrictions of a B permit?

For instance,  as mentioned above, a B permit is not a stepping stone to Swiss citizenship — only a C is.

READ ALSO: Can I apply for Swiss citizenship with a B permit? Secondly, a B permit is easier to lose.

While a holder of a C permit can leave Switzerland for more than six months (but not longer than four years), they have the option of putting the permit ‘on hold’ and have it ‘reinstated’ after their return.

However, a foreigner with a B permit can stay out of the country for up to six months a year. There is no possibility to ‘freeze’ their permits, so they would expire after the six-month period.

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

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There is, however, an exception to this rule

If you are (very) wealthy, you can get a B permit — and keep it for as long as your money doesn’t run out.

The little known and rarely used Article 30 of the Federal Aliens Act enables foreigners from outside Europe to move to Switzerland — but only if they are sufficiently wealthy,  and can prove that they have sufficient financial means to live in Switzerland without having to work or resort to welfare benefits.

Based on this law, cantons can issue residence permits B to these people (aptly called 'golden visas'), if local authorities deem that there is a “significant fiscal interest” in such a move.

How much money is that, exactly?

Basically, it means you have enough money to generate generous taxes in your community.  

The exact amount depends — like so many other things in Switzerland — on your canton.

For instance, the annual tax rate for a non-EU foreigner is 287,882 francs in Valais; 312,522 francs in Geneva; and 415,000 Vaud. 
 
 
 

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