Working in Switzerland?

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Working in Switzerland

If you’re looking to find a job in a stable and wealthy economy, you might want to consider working in Switzerland, a country with one of the highest GDP per capita in the word. Read our InterNations summary on expat work in Switzerland, including info on work permits, taxes, and social security.
Switzerland is mostly known for its banks and for its financial sector.

At a Glance:

  • As a foreigner, you must have a valid work permit in order to work in Switzerland. Your employer has to apply for this permit on your behalf. Work permits for non-EU/EFTA nationals are granted in accordance with quotas set by the government.
  • There is a low tax rate in Switzerland. Tax is paid on a federal, cantonal, and municipal level. In the case of most foreigners without a permanent resident status, income tax is usually deducted at source.
  • The social security system is based on two main pillars — state pensions and an occupational retirement scheme. Both employer and employee contribute to the schemes.
  • When looking for work in Switzerland, try searching the employment sections of the country’s major newspapers. The Swiss Labor Market Authority also has a website that allows you to search for jobs.


Step One: Your Work Permit

With an unemployment rate of circa three percent in 2017, Switzerland is doing well in comparison to some other Western European economies. However, it pursues rather protectionist policies with regard to non-EFTA nationals looking for employment in Switzerland.

Every foreign national working in Switzerland must have a valid work permit. Your employer has to apply for your work permit and they are usually granted together with a residence permit.

EU and EFTA nationals enjoy a special status with regard to working in Switzerland. Thanks to the “Agreement on the Free Movement of People”, ratified by Switzerland in 2002, basically no restrictions are imposed on the numbers of EU and EFTA nationals. However, in a 2014 referendum the Swiss population voted in favor of stricture regulations and reduced immigration from EU member states. As quotas would have breached the terms of “the Agreement on the Free Movement”, the resulting 2016 bill now provides Swiss jobseekers priority over EU nationals in the event of high unemployment in a region. 

For work assignments of three months or less, EFTA and EU nationals  usually need no official permit. However, employers are required by law to register their short-term EU employees working in Switzerland. This can be done online via a form provided by the Federal Office for Migration.

EU citizens who plan on working in Switzerland for more than three months require formal permits for residence and work. In general, EU and EFTA nationals have little difficulty in obtaining a work permit. The exception to this rule are citizens of the youngest EU member states (Bulgaria, Romania, and Croatia), where some restrictions might apply in the initial transition phase. In June 2017, for example, an annual quota on the number of available long-term permits for Bulgarians and Romanians was introduced.

Work Permits for Non-EU Nationals

Working in Switzerland is far more complicated for people from countries outside the EU and EFTA. In fact, it may even seem virtually impossible. The application process for those who want to work there can be long-winded and complicated, especially for the employer.

In order to obtain a work permit, the company and employee must fulfill several conditions. (However, some exceptions are made for third-state nationals holding a Swiss university degree or for those relocating to Switzerland on an intra-company transfer.) Below is a list of the basic conditions required for those planning on working in Switzerland:

  • There is a cap on the number of third-state nationals working in Switzerland. Work permits are therefore subject to the annual quota of residence permits available.
  • The potential employer has to prove that the vacancy was sufficiently advertised and that no candidate from Switzerland or the EU was qualified or willing to do the job.
  • The salary and working conditions of the potential employee must conform to local and industry-specific standards in order to protect residents of Switzerland from wage dumping.
  • The applicant must possess the personal and professional qualifications required for working in Switzerland in general and for that specific job in particular. It’s mainly specialists and executives from third states that can be found in Switzerland.
  • The applicant’s potential for integration is assessed according to various criteria, including age and language skills.
  • Copies (and translations) of all diplomas and relevant qualifications must be submitted together with the application for a work permit.


For more information on Swiss visas and residence permits, please refer to our respective in-depth articles.


We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete.

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