Foreign workers’ employment

Foreign workers' employment

Foreigners working in Switzerland must adhere to specific rules and laws. Swiss employers are required to comply with these regulations to ensure that foreign workers receive the same rights and protections as Swiss citizens.

Foreign workers must have an appropriate work permit to be employed in Switzerland. The Federal Act on Foreign Nationals and Integration (FNAI) and the agreement between the Swiss Confederation and the European Union on the free movement of persons (FMPA) govern the employment of foreigners.

The FNAI distinguishes between nationals of European Union (EU) and European Free Trade Association (EFTA) member states, and those from other countries, referred to as third states, which include nationals from the United Kingdom since January 1, 2021. Generally, EU/EFTA nationals are prioritized in the labor market over those from third states. The FMPA applies to all citizens of the EU and EFTA. It should be noted that all Croatian citizens wishing to work in Switzerland for at least four months starting from January 1, 2023, must adhere to a specific safeguard clause. 

Work permits

EU/EFTA nationals can work in Switzerland without a residence permit for a maximum of three months. Beyond this period, they must obtain a residence authorization before starting their work. For this, they must present a valid identity card or passport, along with a document confirming their employment, such as a work contract or an employer’s certificate. The residence authorization covers the entire Swiss territory and allows foreign workers to change jobs and employers. Its duration is set according to the length of the professional engagement.
EU/EFTA nationals primarily benefit from four types of permits, which are as follows:

  • The L permit: This permit is intended for foreigners temporarily staying in Switzerland with a work contract lasting from three months to one year. It is a short-term authorization.
  • The B permit: This permit is granted to foreign nationals residing in Switzerland and working in the country for a minimum of one year. It is valid for a maximum of five years and can be renewed.
  • The C permit: This permit is issued to foreigners residing in Switzerland for 5 or 10 years and working in the country. It allows working without duration restrictions and offers greater stability.
  • The G permit: This permit is for cross-border workers, i.e., foreign workers residing in countries neighboring Switzerland and working in Switzerland. They must return to their primary residence abroad at least once a week.

In Switzerland, foreign workers from third states must be qualified to engage in gainful activity, such as managers or specialists. Even for short-term employment, a work authorization is mandatory (art. 11 para. 1 FNAI). However, to obtain this authorization, the employer must prove that your arrival is in the economic interest of Switzerland (art. 18 FNAI) and that it was not possible to recruit a Swiss or EU/EFTA citizen. It is important to note that this work authorization should not be confused with a visa.

Regulations for foreign workers

Foreign workers in Switzerland have the same rights as Swiss workers in terms of minimum wage, working hours, and work safety. Swiss employers are obliged to respect the existing rules on maximum working hours, breaks, days off, as well as paid leave and social security benefits.
Special measures are in place to help foreign workers integrate into the Swiss labor market, including vocational training programs, language courses, and continuing education programs. Foreign workers may be subject to immigration quotas based on their nationality and field of activity. They are also subject to taxes and social security contributions in Switzerland, just like workers residing in the country.

To work in Switzerland, third-country nationals must be admitted in the overall economic interest of the country (art. 18 and 19 FNAI). This assessment considers several factors, such as the labor market situation, sustainable economic development, and the foreign worker’s ability to integrate into Swiss society.

In summary, specific laws and regulations govern the employment of foreigners in Switzerland, ensuring that foreign workers enjoy the same rights and protections as Swiss workers. Swiss employers must comply with these regulations to provide a safe and fair work environment.

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