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Can EU Citizens Live and Work in Switzerland?

For those in search of stability and prosperity, Switzerland is often high on the list of the most desirable places to live. However, while citizens of non-EU countries must obtain a visa to reside in Switzerland, EU citizens may wonder if they have the same ease of access. Although Switzerland is not a member of the EU, it is part of the Schengen area, which presents its unique challenges when it comes to residency and employment for EU citizens looking to make the move.

Moving to Switzerland

Rules for staying in Switzerland for citizens of the European Union

Switzerland has always been mindful of economic and geopolitical factors when it comes to developing the national visa policy. The safety and security of the state were a high priority. Nevertheless, after becoming part of the Schengen area, Switzerland’s national freedom in this regard was considerably curtailed. As a result, citizens of the EU and EFTA are now able to visit the country freely, taking advantage of this right. 

A visa policy implemented by Switzerland enables EU citizens to stay in the country for a maximum of 90 days within 6 months. This is made possible by the right of free movement within the Schengen Area available to European passport holders.

EU or EFTA citizens who wish to remain in Switzerland for over 90 days are required to register with the registration body in their canton of residence and apply for a residence permit. It is recommended that they do this within the first 2 weeks of the arrival. The residence permit may serve as a work permit in Switzerland. Those who come to the Confederation to study or as self-sufficient individuals must apply for a residence permit for non-working purposes.

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Don’t hesitate to learn how you can obtain legal residence in Switzerland by tax agreement

What types of residence permits are available to citizens of the European Union who wish to live in Switzerland?

EFTA and EU nationals may obtain several types of residence permits:

  • Type Ci EU/EFTA permit: This type of residence permit is granted to employees of consulates and/or embassies, intergovernmental organizations, and their family members. It allows paid employment.
  • Type C permit: This permit grants indefinite residency, but the holder must confirm their status every 5 years. Citizens of some European countries may obtain this permit after residing for 5 years in the country continuously on other types of residence permits. Citizens of other EU/EFTA countries that are not on this list must live in Switzerland for 10 years to obtain the permit.
  • Type G permit: The permit is intended for individuals who reside in EU/EFTA countries but work in Switzerland. Holders of this permit are required to return to their residence outside of Switzerland every week.
  • Type B permit: This permit is issued to self-employed individuals or those with an employment contract for 1 year or more.
  • Type L permit: This is a short-term residence permit that is valid for 1 year.

When selecting the most suitable Swiss residence permit option for a citizen of the EU, it is crucial to take into account their primary objectives. If the EU citizen intends to work in Switzerland for up to 3 calendar months per year, which is the duration one may stay in the country without a special permit, they must register online at least 8 days before commencing work. On the other hand, if their stay in Switzerland is expected to be longer than 3 months, there is no point in registering online. The reason is that the said EU citizen will eventually have to apply for a residence permit, which will then serve as their work permit.

Is it possible for EU citizens to reside in Switzerland without being employed?

Individuals who are citizens of EU/EFTA countries and wish to reside in Switzerland without being employed may apply for a residence permit and not be engaged in income-generating activities, provided they meet specific requirements. 

The applicant must demonstrate that they have adequate financial resources to support themselves during their stay in Switzerland. This way, the above applicants ensure that they will not become a burden on the state. They must also obtain valid medical insurance coverage and produce it to the relevant authorities. This type of residence permit is particularly suitable for pensioners and others who have retired and wish to spend their retirement years in Switzerland. 

Have you ever wondered what exactly the definition of “sufficient financial means to live in Switzerland” denotes? How much money does an EU citizen need to secure a Swiss residence permit? These are important questions that any prospective resident of Switzerland should ask themselves, as the cost of living in this alpine nation can be high.  

The assessment of “sufficient financial means to live in Switzerland” typically refers to exceeding the threshold established by Swiss law. The subsistence minimum in Switzerland is established according to the guidelines of the Swiss Conference of Social Welfare (SKOS). The latter serve as a reference point for evaluating eligibility for social assistance. To determine adequate financial resources for living in Switzerland, all regular expenses must be calculated, such as housing, daily living expenses, food, and medical insurance.

As an EU/EFTA citizen, if you intend to apply for a Swiss residence permit without being employed and are a financially independent individual, you must demonstrate to the immigration authorities that you have sufficient financial means (e.g., bank accounts, statements, etc.). It does not matter where your assets come from, what matters is that you can prove their availability to you.

Significant differences between cantons

It is important to keep in mind that each canton has the freedom to establish its standard for “sufficient” financial means. Furthermore, each canton employs a different methodology in their calculation. Some cantons consider a person financially independent if they already have adequate resources to live comfortably until the end of their life, while others have less stringent requirements, demanding that applicants provide evidence of financial independence for at least 2 to 3 years.

Certain cantons even permit future events, such as the sale of property or the acquisition of other future income, to be taken into account when evaluating applications for permits.

How easy is it to relocate to Switzerland from the EU?

EU citizens who have decided to permanently relocate to Switzerland have an upper hand compared to citizens of third countries. Upon arrival in the confederation, they must apply for a residence permit within 14 days. The permit is granted on various grounds, including employment with a local company, self-employment, or small family business. Resident permits are also issued to independent individuals with sufficient financial means.

Applicants meeting these criteria are issued Swiss residence permits under simplified and speedy procedures (up to 7 days), whereas third-country citizens may spend several months obtaining such permits.

European citizens are entitled to more advantageous conditions when negotiating tax agreements with cantons. If an EU citizen holds a residence permit based on employment and loses their job, the Swiss authorities allow them 6 months to find alternative employment. Moreover, EU citizens who have resided in Switzerland uninterrupted for at least 5 years are eligible for a settlement permit (a.k.a. a residence permit) in the country.

Relatives and partners of EU/EFTA citizens

If you’re an EU citizen, your registered partner and dependent family members under 21 may obtain a Swiss residence permit, regardless of their nationality. So, if you’re an EU national who receives a Swiss residence permit, your spouse who is a non-EU/EEA national is also authorized to get one.

Relatives planning to join an EU/EEA citizen in Switzerland must produce a valid passport and a certificate of no criminal record to the immigration service. Once in Switzerland, they will receive an EU/EEA residence permit and are allowed to work, but they are required to inform the cantonal authorities beforehand regarding migration and labor market issues.

If non-EU/EEA citizens were granted a Swiss residence permit based on family reunification with an EU citizen, but a divorce or the death of the European citizen occurred during their stay in Switzerland, these citizens may be eligible for an extension of their residence permit. However, this extension may only be granted if they have lived together in Switzerland for at least 3 years, have successfully integrated into Swiss society, and have compelling reasons not to return to their home country.

Switzerland boasts significantly higher living standards compared to some of its EU counterparts, making it a popular choice for many Europeans about to establish permanent residency. Thanks to simplified entry based on Schengen rules, this category of travelers may stay in Switzerland for up to 90 days without any hassles. For those seeking to extend their stay, a suitable type of residence permit will be issued.

If you are considering second citizenship or a residence permit, the International Wealth experts are ready to assist you. Feel free to reach out to them at [email protected] for more information and guidance.

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