Work permits For Members

Why are fake work permits a problem in Switzerland?

Helena Bachmann
Helena Bachmann - [email protected]
Why are fake work permits a problem in Switzerland?
Some foreigners obtain a false Swiss work permit. Image by Joshua Woroniecki from Pixabay

A number of foreigners have been obtaining falsified Swiss work permits, a practice that is raising alarm among immigration officials and MPs alike.


The Swiss are known for being well organised and detail-oriented in terms of administrative tasks they perform.

However, they are no match for the skilled criminal networks which reportedly obtain counterfeit ‘Swiss’ permits for some foreigners.

In 2022, for instance (last available statistics), 1,785 falsified documents were discovered by authorities, according to the Federal Office of Customs and Border Security. This number doesn’t include the ones that had not been detected and are still in circulation.

This is obviously a very small fraction of all permits issued in Switzerland each year but authorities want to put an end to these illegal practices.

What do we know about these fakes?

While the report has not indicated what nationalities benefit from fraudulent work permits the most, it it is reasonable to assume that the vast majority are issued to people from non-EU countries, as they are the ones who face most restrictions in terms of working and living in Switzerland.

Citizens of the European Union, as well as those from EFTA countries (Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein), on the other hand, can obtain work permits easily, so they have no need to resort to illegal practices.

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

Whether these fakes are so good as to be undetectable, or whether authorities just can’t be bothered to check them as thoroughly as they should, is now sparking debates among immigration authorities.

According to a report in 20 Minutes news platform, “this scam is made possible, or at least facilitated, by Swiss municipalities which allow themselves to be fooled."

Though some cities, like Bern, have special equipment to detect fake permits, this technology is too expensive for some municipalities.


What is being done to combat these fakes?

There is a legislative effort underway to step up the fight against the counterfeits.

MP Reto Nause is about to launch a bill in the parliament aiming to equip municipal authorities with suitable technology allowing to check permits and other documents of foreigners coming to Switzerland.

 “The financing of this infrastructure must be ensured by the federal government because it is important that controls are carried out uniformly throughout Switzerland and that abuses are combatted uniformly as well,” he pointed out.

READ ALSO: Nine things you need to know about work permits in Switzerland



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