For members


Residence permits: How EU and EFTA citizens can live, work and stay in Switzerland

For European Union and EFTA citizens, living and working in Switzerland is much easier. Here's what you need to know.

The city of Zurich, with Lake Zurich in the foreground, on a beautiful day. Zurich is a popular destination for foreign workers. Photo by Volodymyr on Unsplash
The city of Zurich, with Lake Zurich in the foreground, on a beautiful day. Zurich is a popular destination for foreign workers. Photo by Volodymyr on Unsplash

A small country with a strong economy, Switzerland is heavily reliant on its foreign workers. 

Approximately 25 percent of the country’s population is foreign, with the figure in some cantons as high as 50 percent. 

Switzerland has a dual system for allowing foreign workers in to the country: European Union (EU) and European Free Trade Association (EFTA) nationals are in one group and people from all other countries (third-country nationals) in a second group.

This means that citizens of the 27 countries currently in the European Union – along with the three EFA states other than Switzerland (Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) – have preferential access when it comes to living and working in Switzerland. 

While it is not as simple as just moving to Switzerland like you would in your own country, it remains much easier than if you come from a so-called ‘third country’. If you come from a country outside the EU/EFTA states, click the following link for more information. 

READ MORE: An essential guide to Swiss work permits

Here’s what you need to know. 

EU and EFTA nationals

Nationals from EU and EFTA countries are able to live and work in Switzerland under the terms of the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons (AFMP).

People from these countries only require a residence permit, which also doubles as a work permit. These permits are not tied to a single canton, but you need to inform the authorities if you change your address. You can also change jobs or take up self-employment.

Note that you will only generally be granted a residence permit if you have a signed work contract detailing the number of hours to be worked and the duration of the position.

A red train carves its way though the Swiss mountains on a snowy day.

The scenic route. This is the way at least some people get to work in Switzerland. Photo by Johannes Hofmann on Unsplash

However, people from EU and EFTA countries who are not economically active, such as retirees and students, may be entitled to a residence permit if they can prove they have sufficient funds to support themselves and that they have health insurance. There is more information here.

If you are an EU or EFTA national, you can also come to Switzerland and look for work for a period of up to three months without needing to obtain a permit. If your job hunt lasts longer than three months and you have sufficient funds, you can apply for a temporary residence permit that will allow you to continue looking for a further three months.

This can be extended for up to a year if there is sufficient evidence that your job hunt could be successful.

Here are the main types of residence permits for EU/EFTA nationals in Switzerland

L EU/EFTA permit (short-term residents)

This permit is usually given to EU and EFTA who are going to be resident in Switzerland for a period of up to a year.

According to the State Secretariat for Migration, EU and EFTA nationals are entitled to this permit provided they are in possession of an employment contract valid from three up to twelve months. 

Reader question: Does owning a second home in Switzerland give me the right to live there?

B EU/ETFA permit (resident foreign nationals)

This permit is issued to foreigners with a work contract of at least 12 months, or of unlimited duration. This permit can be extended after the five years is up. However, if the applicant has been out of work for more than 12 consecutive months in the previous five-year period, the permit will only be extended for one year.

EU and EFTA nationals who don’t have work, or who plan to work on a self-employed basis, can also be granted a B permit if they can prove they have enough money to be self-sufficient and that they have adequate health and accident insurance.

C EU/FTA permit (settled foreign nationals)

After five or ten years’ residence, some EU and EFTA nationals can obtain permanent residence status by being granted a C permit.

G EU/EFTA permit

This permit is designed for cross-border commuters who work in Switzerland (either employed by a firm or self-employed) but who live elsewhere. Holders of this permit can work anywhere in Switzerland but must return to their place of residence outside Switzerland at least once a week.

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For members


8 things you need to do after having a baby in Switzerland

The birth of a child is an exciting milestone for families. But in Switzerland it also requires you to complete a substantial amount of paperwork - all at a time when you're operating on minimal sleep. Here's what you need to know.

8 things you need to do after having a baby in Switzerland

The days and weeks after the birth of a child are a whirlwind of emotion, sleep deprivation, cooing, family visits, and nappy changes. Many nappy changes.

At the same time there is a huge amount of organisation that you have to get done.

The most important piece of advice that anyone can give is to get as much of the paperwork printed, filled out and ready to send off before your baby arrives.

You aren’t allowed to send any of it in until your child has been born, but you’ll likely find that you have precious little time or energy to cope with the mountain of admin coming your way afterwards.

Registering the birth

Every child born in Switzerland must be registered with the civil register office at the place of birth – and not at the baby’s future place of residence.

While your bundle of joy must be registered within three days of having landed on planet Earth, you needn’t worry. In Switzerland, the hospital, maternity clinic, or medical staff usually takes care of this formality for you. However, you will need to provide them with a few documents beforehand.

You will need to provide a proof of parental address, the parent’s or parents’ identity document(s), and your child’s birth certificate. The latter will be supplied by the hospital or doctor.

Should you wish to take care of your baby’s registration yourself, then know that you’re free to do so. You can also sign a power of attorney allowing someone of your choosing to register your child on your behalf. This is also the case for mothers who decide to have a home birth.

Registering your baby at the civil register office will also automatically mean your child is registered with the tax authorities and your (and the baby’s) place of residence.

Naming the baby

Understandably, in order to register a baby, you’ll have to come up with a name for your newborn and while you may think this isn’t such a big deal, in Switzerland it can prove tricky for the more modern-minded.

These days, it’s not just celebrities who seem to have a penchant for ruining their child’s life by bestowing him or her with an odd moniker. In Switzerland however, there are several rules about what you can – and cannot – name your child.

For instance, you may not give your child a name which will damage their well-being, nor can you give them one that is considered offensive or fit for a villain. So, Loki, Voldemort and Thanos are all not an option – sorry. You can read more on the rules surrounding baby names in Switzerland in The Local’s article on the topic:

EXPLAINED: Why so many baby names are banned in Switzerland

Before you draw inspiration from celebrities such as Rihanna who recently revealed her son’s unusual Wu-Tang Clan-inspired moniker RZA, or fellow musician Grimes, mother to son and daughter duo X Æ A-Xii and Exa Dark Sideræl – remember to double-check that your chosen name is in fact legal in Switzerland.

Pictured is a newborn baby.

Pictured is a newborn baby. Photo by Aditya Romansa on Unsplash

Apply for health insurance

In Switzerland, basic health insurance is mandatory even for the youngest among us.

Though it is generally recommended to register your baby with a health insurance prior to giving birth to save yourself the admin headache during recovery and bonding time, you can also take out health insurance after birth. You should do this no later than three months after welcoming your baby.

When taking health insurance out after birth, your baby will be insured retrospectively from their birth. This also means that the premiums must be paid retrospectively up to the entire month of birth.

You must also inform your own health insurance of your new arrival. Note that your baby does not have to be registered with the same health insurance as you or your partner.

Inform your employer

This is another one that you should do immediately – or on the first working day – after the birth.

For working mothers, Swiss laws on Mutterschutz dictates that they are not allowed to work for the first eight weeks after the birth and after that up to the 16th week only with their consent. As a mother you have the right to at least 14 weeks of paid maternity leave. During this time, mothers are entitled to 80 percent of their wage before birth in the form of a daily allowance.

This allowance is usually calculated from your earnings in the last month before the birth. If your income is irregular, the last 3 months before the birth or – in exceptional cases – a longer period of time is considered.

You are also protected against dismissal for up to 16 weeks after the birth.

A baby on ice

A baby on ice with winter clothes on. Photo by Jimmy Conover on Unsplash

Should you choose to get right back to work once your first eight weeks are up, you will no longer be entitled to compensation from that moment on.

Since January 1st 2021, working fathers are entitled to two weeks paternity leave including weekends, which equates to 10 days off work.

Find a paediatrician

In Switzerland, it is almost always recommended that you find a paediatrician before the birth, however, you are free to do so after the birth if you wish.

When deciding on a paediatrician for your child, it’s important to consider several factors, such as distance to the clinic. How easy is it to reach on foot? What about public transport links? Is there enough parking? Keep in mind that you will be travelling this journey with your child in the future.

Depending on where you live, you might have to call up quite a few paediatricians before you find one who has space. Your midwife can also help you with recommendations.

If you are spoilt for choice, it is always a good idea to prepare a few questions to ask the medical staff beforehand. Some clinics may respond quicker in times of emergency, while others may have better overall facilities, such as a lush waiting area.

Apply for family allowance 

All employeed people in Switzerland earning at least 597 francs a month can claim a so-called family allowance in order to at least partially compensate for the costs incurred by caring for children – no matter their nationality or type of residence permit they hold.

Those not working are also entitled to the benefits, unless their annual taxable income exceeds 43,020 francs.

The amount of this allowance is regulated by The Federal Act on Family Allowances (FamZG) according to which parents are entitled to a child allowance of at least 200 francs per child and month for children up to the age of 16. This amount can be higher in some cantons and with some employers and a so-called special allowance may be paid out on the birth of a child.

If a child is ill or disabled and therefore unable to work, child allowances are paid up to the age of 20.

Note that family allowances are not automatically paid out and you must apply for them even if you’re eligible.

READ MORE: What welfare benefits can you get if you have children in Switzerland?

Consider ordering a passport

If you are looking to travel abroad, you will have to apply for a passport for your baby in preparation for your trip – you cannot add them to your own identity document(s). Although a baby’s face is not yet as expressive as an adult’s and changes every other day, it still has some clearly visible features such as the shape of the eyes or position of the ears.

You can apply for your baby’s first passport using an online form and wait for the passport office in your canton of residence to invite you to have your child’s biometric data recorded.

Depending on the canton, you can also arrange this appointment by phone in which case you can also have your child’s identity card issued in combination with the passport.

The passport itself costs 60 francs for children or 68 francs (excluding postage) if you wish to combine it with an ID card.

Think about day-care spots

Last but not least, you might want to start thinking about securing a Kita spot for your child. In some major cities, day-care spots in childcare are more precious than gold, leading parents to start looking for a spot before the child has been born.

In Switzerland, municipalities recommend expected parents get in touch with a day-care of their choosing early in the pregnancy to avoid disappointment as waiting lists can be very long. You can enrol your baby by contacting the day-care facility directly, or by reaching out to the childcare services in your local municipality.