Getting a Residence Permit in Switzerland

Getting a Residence Permit in Switzerland

Switzerland is one of the best countries in the world if you’re looking for a safe and picturesque place to live. You’ll need a residence permit to stay in the country for more than 90 days. Read on to learn more about the different types of residence permit in Switzerland and the process for getting one.

Why Move to Switzerland?

Switzerland appeals to anyone who appreciates access to high-quality medical care and education, someone who wants to run a business in Europe, or to simply enjoy life in a country with high living standards. People in Switzerland come from a variety of different cultures and speak multiple languages, so it is not difficult to blend in.

Zermatt, Switzerland. Photo:

Residence Permit in Switzerland for EU and EFTA Citizens

Citizens of the European Union and the European Free Trade Association can get a Swiss residence permit by providing a work contract with a local employer or launching a business. EU and EFTA citizens can also get a residence permit if they do not plan to work in Switzerland but are coming to the country for medical treatment or to retire. In this case, the applicants must provide proof of funds and a source of stable income. Starting from January 2021, the same rule applies to British citizens. It is much easier to move to Switzerland for EU and EFTA citizens than for citizens of other countries. There are no quotas for residence permits in Switzerland for EU and EFTA citizens.

Montreux, Switzerland. Photo:

Residence Permits for Citizens of Other Countries

If you are not a citizen of the EU, EFTA, or the UK, get ready for a complex application process to get a Swiss residence permit. As well as general immigration rules and restrictions that apply to the whole country, each canton also has their own. It is best to ask for details at your local immigration department.

Every year, the Swiss government grants no more than 10,000 residence permits for most foreign applicants. Half of the permits are distributed among the cantons, depending on their population, while the other half is kept in reserve so that any canton can use these if they need more residence permits than their quota.

Zurich, Switzerland. Photo:

How to Apply for a Residence Permit in Switzerland

First, you need to register at the local immigration office. You will need a valid passport, documents on your marital status (if you have moved to the country with a spouse or children), a work contract (if any), a rental lease or other proof that you have a place of residence in the country.

An immigration officer will evaluate your eligibility and issue an appropriate type of a residence permit for you based on your situation. If your case is approved, you will get a Swiss resident ID card. It contains your individual number, age, nationality, and grounds for staying in the country. You should have this with you at all times. This card also serves as your ID when travelling in the Schengen Area. You will get this card by post.

Residents with ID cards can live in Switzerland, rent a house or a flat, or even buy their own property. There are no restrictions on buying real estate for Swiss citizens or permanent residents.

The list of documents required to obtain a residence permit depends on the reason for staying in the country.

Mount Ebenalp and the Escher Guest House, Switzerland. Photo:

Main Types of Swiss Residence Permits

Type L (short-term)

If you are applying for your first residence permit in Switzerland, you will get a short-term Type L. It serves as a temporary work permit or a job search permit. The latter applies only to EU and EFTA citizens and is valid from three months to two years. As a temporary work permit, Type L is valid from 12 to 24 months, depending on your work contract.

If you are not an EU or EFTA citizen, you must provide the following documents:

  • a temporary work contract valid from 12 to 24 months with regular working hours and sufficient salary to live in Switzerland;
  • a document from the Swiss employer stating that they could not find a Swiss citizen to do this job at the same level;
  • confirmation of your qualifications and education.

If the canton has already reached their permit quota, you will not get a residence permit. If your application is approved, you should submit proof of medical insurance within the next three months if you have not attached it to your application.

Type В (temporary residence permit)

This is the most popular residence permit in Switzerland. This is for applicants who come to Switzerland to work for more than 12 months, to study at a Swiss university, or to reunite with family. Some cantons grant Type В residence permits to investors and wealthy pensioners. Type В residents can buy a flat or a house if they receive a special permit from the authorities. This residence permit is valid for one year for most foreigners and for five years for EU and EFTA citizens.

To get a Type В residence permit, you need to provide:

  • a work contract for over 12 months with sufficient salary to live in Switzerland;
  • proof of your skills and education;
  • confirmation of your language proficiency in a language of the canton (at least A1 level);
  • medical insurance policy.

There is also a limit for the annual number of Type В permits.

Type С (permanent residence permit)

A Type С permit is your first step to Swiss citizenship. This permanent residence permit is also sometimes called a settlement permit. It allows you to permanently live in Switzerland even without a work contract. The Type С permit is valid for five years. After it expires, you can either extend it or naturalise in Switzerland.

To get this permit, you must permanently and continuously live in Switzerland for at least five years and demonstrate your integration into Swiss society. It means you must be proficient in the language of your canton. You must also provide a certificate of no criminal record.

Residence Permit for Retired People

This type of residence permit is currently available only to citizens of the EU and EFTA. Here's the list of documents applicants must provide:

  • Documents confirming you have a place of residence in Switzerland;
  • Medical insurance;
  • Proof of sufficient funds to support your life in Switzerland (pension or other sources of income).

Residence Permit for Investors

Switzerland grants special residents permits for investors if they want to invest money in the local economy and annually contribute at least 250,000 Swiss francs (about $260,000) to the country's budget.

This type of residence permit allows you to live abroad or to study at Swiss universities. On the other hand, you cannot work in Switzerland with this residence permit. On average, the application is processed within three to six months.

Switzerland does not provide residence permits for investing in real estate. It can be difficult for a foreigner to buy property in Switzerland, you’ll need to obtain a permit from the authorities. However, you can easily buy a flat or a villa if you have a Type С (permanent) residence permit.

Bern, Switzerland. Photo:

How to Extend Your Residence Permit in Switzerland

About a month before the permit expires, you will get a notification from a local immigration office. To extend the residence permit, you should visit the immigration office and submit all the required documents listed in the notification. You must do it at least two weeks before the permit expires.

In a Nutshell

If you plan to stay in Switzerland for over 90 days, you need a residence permit. The type and the validity of the permit depend on your grounds for staying in the country, as well as your citizenship. To get a permanent residence permit, you must live in Switzerland for a minimum of five years and integrate into local society.

Cover photo: Baden, Switzerland;

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