Switzerland has a dual immigration system with two applicable laws: the Freizügigkeitsabkommen (FZA) [Agreement on Freedom of Movement], which applies to EU and EFTA citizens, and the Ausländer- und Integrationsgesetz (AIG) [Foreign Nationals and Integration Act], which applies to all other nationalities. EU and EFTA citizens enjoy full freedom of movement between Switzerland and the EU on the basis of the Freizügigkeitsabkommen, whereas citizens from so-called third countries are admitted to the Swiss labour market only under very restrictive conditions. For the admission of third-country nationals, the Swiss employer must file an application with the authorities and show a need on the labour market. Additionally, third-country nationals often need a visa for entering and staying in Switzerland. The individual’s nationality is decisive in each case.
If a visa is required, it should be obtained at an early stage from the Swiss representation abroad. Start the process of getting your visa by sending an email request to the Swiss representation near you.
For the visa application, the following documents and information of all family members traveling with the applicant are usually required:
Additionally for family reunification
Whether an apostille or legalisation of the above documents is necessary depends on whether the country of origin has joined the Hague Convention Abolishing the Requirement of Legalisation for Foreign Public Documents; see list of countries.
Direct members of your family, i.e. your spouse and your unmarried children under the age of 18, may enter Switzerland with you. However, this is subject to fulfilment of the following prerequisites, which will be checked by the migration authority:
The following additionally applies to family members from non-EU/EFTA countries: Your accompanying family members must be listed on the entry application form. If family members join you at a later date, they must personally apply at the Swiss representation abroad for a visa D in order to obtain their residence permit as part of the family reunification. For further information on this, refer to the visa information.
An application for family reunification must likewise be filed with the migration office in Switzerland, which requires submission of the following documents:
Additionally, non-EU/EFTA nationals must heed the time limits for reunification. The claim to family reunification must be asserted within five years. Children over the age of twelve must be reunified within twelve months.
Cross-border commuters from EU/EFTA countries are granted occupational and geographic mobility within Switzerland. Border zones no longer apply. They can live in any EU/EFTA country and work in Switzerland. The condition is that they must return to their place of residence abroad weekly, ordinarily at weekends. The employer applies for the cross-border commuter permit.
The main place of residence is decisive for the definition of cross-border commuter status. The main place of residence is determined on the basis of the entire objective external circumstances from which a person’s personal and economic interests are evident.
The application for a cross-border commuter permit is filed in Switzerland by the employer. The employer must show that it complies with the conditions of employment customary in the locality and in the sector concerned.
The entry requirements based on COVID-19 are subject to change depending on the epidemiological situation. The current requirements can be found on the website of the Bundesamt für Gesundheit (BAG) [Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH)].
Within 14 days of entering Switzerland and before you take up your employment, you must register with the residents’ registration office in your place of residence. Either the municipal district office or the municipal administration is responsible. It is mandatory to appear personally.
If you are not sure at which residents’ registration office you need to register, ask the landlord of your apartment. This person is best placed to inform you of your relevant residents’ registration office.
For registering, take along the following documents:
You will be asked about your religion during registration. Bear in mind in this respect that church taxes will be incurred if you state a religion that is represented in Switzerland, such as Roman Catholic, Protestant or Evangelical Reformed or Jewish. If you do not belong to a religious group and you state that you are unaffiliated with any religion, you will not be asked to prove this.
Around seven days after you have registered, you will be given an appointment for providing the biometric data at the cantonal migration office. The permit will then be issued in credit card format and be sent to your residential address by registered post within ten days. Once you have the certificate of registration, you can then open bank accounts and enter into other contractual obligations. Make sure you receive the certificate of registration when you register.