March 2015

This summary is intended for informational purposes only and should not be considered an authoritative guide on how to obtain work authorization in Switzerland. The intent is to give the reader a general overview of the process only. Procedures and requirements may have changed since the writing of this article. For current and detailed information regarding the topics below, as well as documentary requirements, processing times, post-arrival and departure requirements, penalties for non-compliance, allowances for accompanying family members, and any other information pertaining to your specific needs, please contact your Pro-Link GLOBAL immigration professional.

Overview

BUSINESS VISITOR

Permitted Activities – Business visitors must generally limit their activities to the following:

• Attending business meetings or discussions;
• Making sales calls to potential clients provided that the visitor represents a commercial entity outside of Switzerland;
• Attending seminars or “fact-finding” meetings;
• Attending fairs.

Type of Business Visas – The Schengen “C” visa is the typical visa issued to business travelers. Note that many nationalities benefit from a visa waiver arrangement with the Schengen area and are permitted to enter visa free for business visits of up to 90 days in a 180 day period inside the whole Schengen area.

Basic Requirements

1. Intention of a genuine visit for business and not for paid employment;
2. Proof of medical coverage of at least CHF 50,000;
3. Evidence that there are no restrictions on his or her traveling to Switzerland;
4. No intention to permanently reside in Switzerland;
5. A ticket for onward travel from Switzerland.

Estimated Processing Times – This varies by diplomatic post and country.

Maximum Time On Visa – This visa allows business people to make a short business visit to Switzerland for up to 90 days out of 180 days during the visa validity period. Visas cannot be extended in country.

Typical Documents Required – All travelers need to present the following documents to officers in immigration clearance:

• a valid passport or other acceptable travel document and in some cases;
• a valid visa or authority to enter Switzerland.

EMPLOYMENT AUTHORIZATION 

Basic Requirements – The principle visa category for employment in Switzerland is the Work Permit (L or B). This is a category for employers to sponsor qualified skilled workers to work as intra-company transferees in Switzerland on a temporary basis or permanently.

Process Overview – The process for obtaining work and residence authorization for skilled workers is jurisdictional and involves a three-step process summarized below:

1. Work permit (L or B) application at cantonal authorities;
2. Type D visa application at Swiss consulate (not applicable to EU/EEA nationals);
3. Local Registration, resulting in issuance of a permit card (non-EU/EEA nationals) or a permit booklet (EU/EEA nationals).

Various stakeholders are involved and approval is usually required from the cantonal labor market authority, the State Secretary for Migration (SEM), and the cantonal immigration authority, depending on the permit duration and the employee’s nationality. L and B work permits are subject to quarterly quotas, with the exception of EU/EEA nationals with a local contract in Switzerland.

Estimated Processing Time – Four to twelve weeks for the work permit, depending on canton and requested permit type.

Validity periods – Both L and B permits are usually valid for up to twelve months. L permits may be renewable up to a total of 24 months stay; B permits are generally renewable for 1 or 2 years at a time. Initial B-permits for EU/EEA nationals may be valid up to 5 years. Note that the permit card for non-EU/EEA nationals needs to be renewed each year, even if the permit itself is valid for a longer duration; the booklet for EU/EEA nationals needs to be renewed upon its expiration (validity varies).

Family Members – Dependents of B permit holders can work.  Non-EU/EEA dependents of L permit holders can work only if they make an additional application for approval. EU/EFTA dependents can work as soon as a local contract is in place and the registration has been carried out.

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