Living in Switzerland – Information and counselling online  

Residence Permits

Foreigners living legally in Switzerland receive a residence permit for foreigners. The aim and context of their stay in Switzerland will determine which permit is granted.


Asylum seekers

Asylum seekers are given an N permit for the duration of the application procedure. At the end of the procedure, the permit is no longer valid, even if the length if time specified on the permit has not expired. Asylum seekers may not work for the first three to six months of their stay in Switzerland and they do not have the right to family reunion. 


The B permit relates to permission to work (with a contract) or to civil status (marriage with a Swiss national). The B permit has to be renewed annually by the canton. An extension can, under certain circumstances, be refused (for example if the applicant is unemployed). Family reunion is only accepted if the person apply has sufficient income to support their family, and can provide accommodation that is sufficient in size for all the family members.


Recognised refugees

Recognised refugees also receive a B permit.  However there are certain provisions governing the extension of the permit: work, social welfare and integration. Recognised refugees have the right to family reunion and receive a refugee passport, according to the terms of the Geneva Convention. Refugees who hold a B permit and return to their home country lose their refugee status and therefore their authorisation to remain in Switzerland.
Foreigners holding a B permit who have lived a number of years in Switzerland receive a C permit – a settlement permit. This signifies the right to an unlimited stay in Switzerland, as well as a legal right to the renewal of their permit and family reunion. In terms of employment, C permit holders are to a great extent on the same footing as Swiss nationals. Recognised refugees receive a C permit 5 years after their arrival in Switzerland. 

Temporarily admitted persons

An F permit is issued to foreign nationals with temporary admission status if, following rejection of their application, the decision to remove them from the country cannot be implemented. An F permit is valid for 12 months and can be renewed each year for a further year. F permit holders are allowed to work but not in all sectors. As a rule this status does not give the right to family reunification.  After a few years an F permit holder may apply to the cantonal authorities for the conversion of their F into a B permit.
F permits are also issued to refugees with temporary admission status. These are applicants who fulfil the requirements for recognition as refugees but who for specific reasons have not been granted asylum and whose social status thereby would be adversely affected. No earlier than five years after their entry into Switzerland they may apply for their F permits to be exchanged B permits.  The decisions are taken by the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM)  Temporarily admitted refugees may apply for refugee passports.  They can work in all sectors of the economy; family reunification is possible after a minimum of three years from the date when temporary admission was granted provided the refugee with temporary admission status is not receiving social assistance and the accommodation is large enough.

In this section: Work, Accommodation, Residence Permits, Family Reunion, Marriage, Education and Training, Health

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