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Switzerland has 26 cantons or states and 4 official languages. These are French, Italian, German and Romansch. Although English is not an official language of Switzerland, English pages are often featured on most official governmental websites. Since 2019, workers entering Switzerland are required to attain certain levels of local language capability to obtain a work permit.

Before 2019, formal language testing was not a requirement in Switzerland, but since 2019 this has now been standardised by the State Secretariat for Migration across all 26 cantons. This requires certain assessment levels to be reached in order to qualify for specific visa’s as well as for Swiss C
itizenship. There are various language tests available in Switzerland to ascertain the level of language proficiency. 


Language level requirements 

There are different requirement levels – here a brief summary:

  • Issuance or renewal of a residence B permit – Oral A1 is required (from the Council of Europe language tables).
  • Issuance or renewal of a C permit – Oral A2 and written A1.
  • For early issuance of a settlement C permit (after 5 years)  – Oral B1 and written A1.
  • When applying for Swiss citizenship, at least oral B1 and written A2 are required – although some cantons may demand higher levels.




Language skills & levels explained

Ranging from A1 to C2, the language levels are thus clearly defined by the Council of Europe. The various levels are referred to  as the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages levels. These apply to both the spoken and written language versions. The three applicable levels refers to:

  • Level A – as a basic user.
  • Level B – as an independent user.
  • Level C – as a proficient user.

Some level examples in more detail:

  • A1 Level
    • The person understands everyday expressions and can use basic phrases:
      • Introduce themselves and ask & answer questions regarding personal details.
      • Interact in a simple way, provided the other person talks slowly and clearly.
  • A2 Level
    • The person understands sentences and frequently used expressions:
      • Communicate in simple and direct exchange of information on familiar and routine matters.
      • Describe in simple terms aspects of his/her background & immediate environment.
  • B1 Level
    • The person understands the main points of clear standard input on matters encountered in work, school, leisure, etc, and can:
      • Deal with most situations likely to arise whilst travelling in an area where the language is spoken.
      • Produce 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.

For further information on CEFR levels 


Assessment Tests

Understanding which level is applicable requires the person to complete an assessment. There are various tests available and these are generally not “pass or fail” tests, but rather designed to assess which level the person is at and thereby identify what is required to improve.


In Summary
Since 2019, oral and written language competence has been a requirement for foreign workers, in order to obtain a permit to work in Switzerland. Official CEFR levels are used to describe the language-skills-levels required for individual permits. This is supported by independent language tests, which help ascertain the actual language competence level of each worker.  Once this has been determined, the skill level can be acurately mapped against the language requirements for each permit.


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