Work permits For Members

What jobs can help third country nationals get a Swiss work permit?

Helena Bachmann
Helena Bachmann - [email protected]
What jobs can help third country nationals get a Swiss work permit?
There's a growing demand for foreign teachers in Switzerland. Photo: Pixabay

If you a citizen of a non-EU / EFTA country, obtaining a permit to work in Switzerland is subject to a number of restrictions. But if you happen to be one of several in-demand professions, this process may be much easier.


Unlike nationals of the European Union and EFTA (Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Liechtenstein), who have a limitless access to Switzerland’s employment market and residency, people from third countries must jump through many hoops to prove their worthiness for the country’s economy.

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 third-country applicants must have a degree from a university or an institution of higher education, as well as a number of years of professional work experience.

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

What exactly does this mean?

You may be wondering who these ‘highly skilled specialists’ who have a privileged access to Swiss jobs are.

At least some of the answers come from a recent report published by the European Labour Authority, EURES.

It found that best chances of employment in Switzerland are sectors and jobs with highest vacancies — that is, where shortages of qualified personnel are most acute.

In all, Switzerland is facing labour shortages in 41 occupations, EURES reported, with healthcare, engineering, IT, and education at the top.

So qualified foreigners who have experience in these professions have a higher chance (though no guarantee) of securing a Swiss work permit. 

These are some of the jobs within those sectors where many positions need to be filled.

  • Environmental engineer
  • Agricultural technicians
  • Computer network professionals
  • Systems administrators
  • Database designers and administrator
  • Applications programmers
  • Software developers
  • Special needs teachers
  • University and higher education professors
  • Physiotherapists
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Just how easy it is for non-EU foreigners to be hired for those jobs?

While diplomas from foreign universities may be enough to be hired in some fields, like the IT or engineering, teaching (especially at elementary and secondary levels), requires candidates to get a Swiss certification.

A number of cantons with particularly acute shortages of teachers are offering foreigners a chance to earn a Certificate of Advanced Studies’ (CAS), providing basic knowledge of the Swiss education and school system.

Teachers with foreign teaching diplomas can apply to the Conference of Cantonal Directors of Education (EDK) to have their diploma recognised in Switzerland. 

READ ALSO: Swiss cantons move to hire more foreign teachers


What about medical professionals?

About 40 percent of doctors and nurses working in Switzerland right now come from the European Union, primarily from Germany.

So while there is sufficient ‘supply’ of health workers from the EU, third-country professionals will not be hired, though you can still apply for a work permit and see if you get lucky.

Beware, however, that you will not only get an authorisation to practice in Switzerland, but also be proficient in the language of your canton (this is where people from Germany, France, and Italy have a definite edge). 

How can you apply for a job in any of these professions as a third country national?

Even if you are part of the in-demand professions listed above, it doesn’t automatically mean you will be hired. Your odds are certainly better than someone's without special qualifications, but you still must go through an approval process.

For instance, 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.

Only when these strict criteria are met (including that no Swiss or EU / EFTA national can be found for the job), and only if the permit quota reserved for third-country employees is not yet exhausted, will you be allowed to work in Switzerland.


More work possibilities for third country nationals

While, as EURES data suggests, non-EU / EFTA foreigners have a better chance of being hired in sectors impacted by shortages, these are not the only criteria.

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

The exceptions are limited in scope, but some people will be able to benefit from them:

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



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