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Switzerland has a population of around 9 million. Compared to the US, which has over 330 million inhabitants and Switzerland is a small country. But with low inflation – and unemployment rates that are consistently below the EU average, Switzerland is often regarded as the most stable country in Europe. In addition to this, Switzerland is home to some of the most important global organisations, making it a serious global player, despite its size.

Contributing to its global business reputation – Switzerland is home for a multitude of international companies in key industry sectors, such as Finance, Pharma, Bio-Tech and Insurance to name some. In addition to Swiss nationals, these companies also engage skilled workers from around the world in both permanent and contractor (temporary) roles.

For those people interested in moving to Switzerland to work, either for a national Switzerland based company or remotely for a foreign business, having a valid visa or permit is key.  In this post we explain the main criteria for foreign nationals to be able to work in Switzerland.

Living in Switzerland without gainful employment

Anyone looking to stay in Switzerland longer than 3-months –  without taking up gainful employment, must apply for a residence permit from the cantonal immigration and employment market authorities before they travel to Switzerland.

Those not requiring a Visa (e.g. EU/EFTA nationals) can stay up to 3-months without a permit, but should be able to prove that they have enough funds to support themselves and also have the correct health and accident insurance.

Students also have to submit additional documentation when applying for a permit

Types of permits

Foreign workers looking to move to Switzerland require a permit. There are two main distinctions:

  • EU/EFTA nationals
    Switzerland is not an EU or EEA member, but is part of the single European market. This means most EU nationals have the right to live and work in Switzerland, but must also apply for a permit beyond the 90-day stay. This applies for both permanent and contractor (temporary) roles.
  • 3rd country nationals  (includes UK since Brexit)
    Obtaining a visa / work permit for this category is not straightforward and often not possible. Generally permission is only available for permanent roles when the job requirements call for highly skilled individuals, not available in Switzerland. There are exceptions regarding the visa, for instance when a legal partner accompanies a family member with a valid permit. This typically falls under the “family reunification” visa category.
  • Digital Nomad Visa
    Switzerland does not currently offer any kind of digital nomad visa. The C tourist visa for the Schengen area allows visitors to stay for up to 90-days. It is relatively easy to obtain, and many passport holders receive the visa stamp on arrival.

Working Remotely from Switzerland

The first step to being able to work in Switzerland is to be in possession of a valid Visa or Permit. Once this has been achieved, there are a couple of options to being able to work remotely from Switzerland for a foreign company. This could be for a company based in Europe or even further afield such as from the US or Asia.

Employer of Record (EOR)
EOR is a work status model whereby the person based in Switzerland and looking to work for a foreign (client) company first agrees terms and conditions with that company.

  • He or she then has to find an employment services company in Switzerland that offers EOR service support.
  • The EOR will sign a supplier agreement with the foreign client company and an employment contract with the worker.
  • The EOR takes a fee for their services (usually a commission based on the gross agreed rate to be paid by the client company to the worker). Although some EOR’s offer a flat fee model, it is important to understand how any extras are charge.
  • The EOR model is also referred to as “labour leasing” and the worker is in effect a contractor for the client company and has a Swiss employment contract with the EOR.

A German acronym which basically means that the worker is employed by the foreign company and he or she is solely responsible for setting up and managing both the employer and employee social deductions, obligatory pension payments and all accident and health insurances.  The worker is employed by the foreign company but pays into the Swiss social system.

  • This work status model is suitable for bonus payments such as stock options
  • It is also a preferred model for senior managers that have signatory commitments and therefore need to be employed directly by the foreign employer

Time to get a Permit

There are 26 cantons in Switzerland and each work permit application is processed by the cantonal labour offices where the worker lives or by the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) in Switzerland and can take up to 15 weeks to process. Each case potentially presents individual challenges or situations. Click here for a full description

In Summary
Switzerland has around 9 million inhabitants and is a stable country with a good standard of living and job opportunities. It recognised globally as a leading centre for international business. To live and work in or from Switzerland, workers require a valid permit or visa. EU/EFTA nationals are able to get a permit relatively easily, whereby the situation for so-called 3rd country nationals takes longer and is more difficult.  Moving to Switzerland to live and work requires good research, planning and patience, but the rewards are plentiful including wonderful scenery and a good work/life quality.

Accurity is SECO licensed, providing payroll (PEO), employment (EOR) and HR management services in Switzerland for companies of all sizes from multi national corporations to SME’s. We also advise on flexible and remote work. Please feel free to Contact our team to find out more about the services we offer clients, contract staff and recruiters, and see how we can help you!