The little-known exceptions that allow non-EU nationals to work in Switzerland

Helena Bachmann
Helena Bachmann - [email protected]
The little-known exceptions that allow non-EU nationals to work in Switzerland
Even non-EU / EFTA citizens can legally bypass Swiss restrictions. Photo by Briana Tozour on Unsplash

People from so-called ‘third-countries’ — those that are not part of the EU / EFTA — can only access the Swiss labour market under certain restricted conditions. But there are some exemptions you may not know about.


Unlike their counterparts from EU / EFTA nations, people from third-countries must meet very strict criteria if they hope to get a Swiss work permit.

They will be considered for a job only if they are a highly qualified and skilled professional.

This means they should have a degree from a university or an institution of higher education, as well as a number of years of professional work experience.

But that’s not all: they will be considered for a job only if no Swiss or EU / EFTA candidates can be found to fill the vacancy.

This is the official criteria for third-country nationals set by the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM).

However, there are some exemptions to those general rules

If you scroll down SEM’s “Basis for admission to the Swiss employment market" page, you will find the heading titled “Exceptions to the admission requirements."

"In certain cases, legally regulated exceptions from the admission requirements are possible" SEM wrote, listing a number of exemptions to its general rules for non-EU / EFTA nationals.

They include:

Transfers of executives or specialists within international companies

The usual rules do not apply to operational transfers for senior managers and essential specialists in international companies, according to SEM.

So if you are a non-EU / EFTA national and are transferred for one of these positions in or within Switzerland, you are in the clear.


Internships, training, and further education

Just as in the above example, if you are under the so-called ‘knowledge transfer’ category within a multi-national company, and your employer in a third country sends you to a Switzerland-based company to learn — you will be able to do so without too much ado.

Au pairs

SEM defines this job category as involving "the temporary admission of young foreign nationals who arrive in Switzerland to improve their language skills and expand their general education through better knowledge of the host country. In return, au pairs provide certain services to the families they live with, such as light housework and childcare."

Au pairs from third states aged between 18 and 25 may be admitted for a maximum stay of 12 months and are not subject to general restrictions that other non-EU / EFTA citizen must comply with.

However,  SEM says au pairs from third nations can only be recruited through an organisation recognised in Switzerland.


Family members

Family members of Swiss nationals and those holding residence permits do not need to go through an additional permit process to become self-employed or take up employment.

On the other hand, relatives of people holding a short-term permit do require a permit.


What about students graduating from Swiss universities?

There has been much written in recent months about the government wanting to allow third country nationals trained at Swiss universities with a degree in a field suffering from a shortage of qualified professionals, to stay and work in Switzerland. 

However, this project has hit a setback because the legislators must first create a legal basis to allow these students to remain in Switzerland.

READ ALSO: Why has the move to let non-EU graduates stay in Switzerland stalled?

But here too, some exceptions exist.

Under the "Doctoral / post-doctoral students" heading, SEM says: “Individuals who continue to study or pursue research work at a recognised or accredited Swiss higher education institution beyond their foundation degree, in order to develop a specialisation and thus ensure the best possible development of science and technology in Switzerland," can remain in the country as well. 

What about remaining and working in Switzerland after graduation?

Third-country nationals who graduate from Swiss universities can be admitted to work without having to provide evidence of their status "if there is a significant academic or economic interest in their employment,” SEM said.

All of the above goes to prove that even for those in the most restricted employment category, Switzerland grants certain exceptions nevertheless.


Comments (1)

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Carol 2023/11/13 18:09
Can I be a ‘grandmother’ au pair?! I’m a 60 year-old US citizen, am self-employed, and am able to take significant amounts of time to travel abroad. I am very interested in au pairing!

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