How can non-EU nationals apply for a Swiss work visa?

Helena Bachmann
Helena Bachmann - [email protected]
How can non-EU nationals apply for a Swiss work visa?
You must of through various steps before applying for a visa. Photo by Thomas Lefebvre on Unsplash

If you are not a citizen of an EU/EFTA state, you need a visa to work in Switzerland. But how do you go about getting one?


Say you are a national of a third country — one that is not a member of the European Union, or else Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein (EFTA) — and would like to come to Switzerland to look for a job.

Unlike people from the EU/EFTA nations, who can come to Switzerland freely and obtain a work permit easily, you will have to jump through a lot of hoops to get — maybe — to that point.

This is what you should know

Before a work visa can be requested from a Swiss embassy or consulate in your country, certain important administrative steps must be undertaken first.

The first and foremost among them is actually having a firm job offer or an employer willing to hire you.

As a reminder, a Swiss employer can recruit a worker from outside the EU/EFTA only under very strict conditions.

For instance, you must be a highly qualified specialist or skilled professional in your field. This means that you should have a degree from a university or an institution of higher education, as well as a number of years of professional work experience.

Additionally, you can be hired only if the employer can prove to the authorities that no suitable Swiss or EU/EFTA candidate could be found to fill the vacant position.

Only when these strict criteria are met, and only if the permit quota reserved for third-country employees is not yet exhausted, will you be allowed to work in Switzerland.


Can you now apply for a work visa?

Not quite yet.

First, the employer must apply to immigration authorities in their canton for your work permit — either L or B, depending on the duration of your work contract.

The company must prove that all the above-mentioned conditions for your employment are met.

Once the requested authorisations have been delivered, the application must be sent for approval to the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM), the ultimate authority on all matters relating to immigration and work permits.

If the requested authorisations have been delivered, the next step is applying for the entry visa, at last.

Besides other documents you must supply — such as a photocopy of your passport as well as the employment contract — you will also attach the work authorisation issued by the cantonal authority.

Once the entry visa arrives (typically after several weeks, though the process could take less time) you are free to enter Switzerland.

Before you take up your employment, however, you will need to report to the cantonal immigration office that issued your work permit,  no later than 14 days after your arrival.


An important point…

You can apply for your visa only from abroad.

You can’t come to Switzerland as tourist and look for a job.

If you do so and happen to find one, you will still have to leave Switzerland and undertake the process from your home country.


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