Types of Swiss residence permits

NOTE: The information provided below is for guidance purposes only. It does not substitute the legal advice which is recommended to obtain from the Cantonal migration authority responsible for your place of residence, tax adviser and specialized local attorney. All the information provided below is believed to be from reliable sources, however Sequoia Consulting Sagl does not guarantee its completeness and accuracy and does not accept any liability for losses that might arise from making use of this information. If nothing is indicated to the contrary, all figures are unaudited. All the content provided herein can be modified or completely deleted at any time without any notification.
Every foreigner wishing to set up residence in Switzerland with or without any gainful activity must obtain a Swiss residence permit.

For gainful activity: the residence permit is necessary from the first day of activity.

Without gainful activity: the residence permit must be obtained after a continuous staying in Switzerland for longer than 90 days (3 months), even for EU/EFTA citizens.

Different conditions apply for EU/EFTA citizens than for non-EU/EFTA citizens:
For EU/EFTA citizens, to receive a Swiss residence permit with or without gainful activity is rather easy process thanks to Agreement on Free Movement of Persons (AFMP) between Switzerland and EU that allows EU citizens to live and work freely within the EU and Switzerland. 
For non-EU/EFTA citizens, the process of obtaining a Swiss residence permit is much more complicated and even impossible in some cases.

Types of Swiss residence permits

EU*/EFTA** nationals Non-EU/EFTA nationals
  • Permit L EU/EFTA (short-term residence permit)
  • Permit B EU/EFTA (residence permit)
  • Permit C EU/EFTA (settlement permit)
  • Permit Ci EU/EFTA (residence permit with gainful employment)
  • Permit G EU/EFTA (cross-border commuter permit)
  • Permit B (temporary residence permit)
  • Permit C (settlement permit)
  • Permit Ci (residence permit with gainful employment)
  • Permit G (cross-border commuter permit)
  • Permit L (short-term residence permit)
  • Permit F (provisionally admitted foreigner)
  • Permit N (permit for asylum seekers)
  • Permit S (people in need of protection)

*The EU-27 comprises the following countries: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden.

**EFTA: Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland  
Permit B (temporary residence permit) – residence permit for a one-year stay in Switzerland, which can be renewed (for EU/EFTA nationals: valid for 5 years). With permit B you can buy a residential real estate as your place of domicile.

Permit C (settlement residence permit) – permit granting full residence rights in Switzerland, which is obtained after 5 years of continuous living in Switzerland for EU/EFTA nationals and after 10 years for non-EU/EFTA nationals. With this permit you can live anywhere you like in Switzerland and buy as many properties as you wish.

Permit G (cross-border commuter permit) – this permit is for people who work in Switzerland but live in the territory of an EU/EFTA member state. Cross-border commuters return to their main place of residence abroad at least once a week. The G permit is valid for 5 years as long as there is an employment contract of one year or more.

Permit L (short-term residence permit) – valid for up to one year. If you have a work contract for less than 12 months, the permit lasts as long as the contract (EU/EFTA nationals don’t need a permit if they are working for less than 3 months.) This permit is often used when coming to Switzerland to look for work or for educational courses.