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Switzerland has four official languages. The split of the population speaking each of these languages is: German 62.6%, French 22.9%, Italian 8.2%, and Romansch 0.5%. Language ability testing for foreign workers was not widely implemented until 2019. Since that time however, language testing has been formalised and standardised across all cantons by Switzerland’s State Secretariat for Migration.

In addition, a new Swiss language test, has been created. And specific language assessment levels need to be reached for workers to qualify for certain visas, B and C permits as well as Swiss citizenship.

In this short post, we answer the most FAQs. For further information we recommend referring to the State Secretariat For Migration. 

Q: In which situations must the foreign national give proof of the required language skills?

All foreign nationals must show that they have the required language skills when attempting to:

  • Obtain or extend a residence permit in the case of family reunification
  • Obtain a permanent residence permit in the case of family reunification
  • Obtain temporary admission in the case of family reunification
  • Extend their residence permit after dissolution of the family
  • Obtain a permanent residence permit
  • Obtain a fast-track permanent residence permit
  • Obtain Swiss nationality

Q: What are the Language levels required?

The language levels range from A1 to C2 and are defined by the Council of Europe. They are known as Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) levels. They exist for spoken and written language. Level A is defined as a basic user, B as an independent user and C as a proficient user.

  • A1 means you can understand and use familiar everyday expressions and very basic phrases
    • Introduce yourself and others and can ask and answer questions about personal details
    • Interact in a simple way provided the other person talks slowly and clearly.
  • A2 means you can understand sentences and frequently used expressions related to areas of most immediate relevance.
    • Deal with most situations likely to arise whilst travelling in an area where the language is spoken.
    • Write simple connected text on topics which are familiar or of personal interest.
    • Describe experiences and events, dreams, hopes & ambitions and briefly give reasons and explanations for opinions and plans. B1 means you can understand the main points of clear standard input on familiar matters.

 

 

Q: What level do I need?

This will depend on any number of scenarios:

  • B Permit –  Level – oral A1 is required for the issuance or renewal of a residence B permit.
  • C Permit –  Level – oral A2 and written A1 is required for the issuance or renewal of a C permit.
  • Early issuance (after 5 years) of a settlement C permit requires oral B1 and written A1.
  • To apply for Swiss citizenship at least oral B1 and written A2 is required, although some cantons demand higher levels. Geneva and Vaud  for example follow the minimum federal requirements.

Q: What happens if I move Canton?

Under the relevant legislation applicants must prove that they have attained at least the relevant reference level in the national language spoken at their place of residence. The cantons are responsible for assessing language skills when granting or extending residence permits and issuing or reissuing permanent residence permits.

 Q: Do language courses have to meet certain criteria?

Providing evidence of enrollment in a language course will suffice, provided that the course takes the person to the required level. The cantonal migration authority will set a deadline by which proof of language skills must be provided.

Q: Do children have to provide proof of language skills?

Under the family reunification program, unmarried children under 18 are not required to demonstrate any particular language skills.

For any other questions, we suggest interested parties contact the local social security office where you live or alternatively reference the State Secretariat for Migration.

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