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Regardless of how long you are planning to stay in Switzerland, if you want to move to Zurich for a new job or a paid project, you’ll need an Arbeitsbewilligung (work permit). Applying for the appropriate work and/or residence permit is part of your visa application. There are three general categories of permits for Switzerland, according to the duration of your stay:

  • The Kurzaufenthaltsbewilligung is a permit for those who’d like to stay in Switzerland for up to one year and to whom a Schengen visa does not apply, e.g. expats on a short-term assignment or interns (stagiaires) between 18 and 30 years of age.
  • The Aufenthaltsbewilligung (category B) is the most common sort of permit. If you move to Switzerland to start working in Zurich, this is the permit you need.
  • The Niederlassungsbewilligung (category C) is an unlimited settlement permit. You must have lived in Switzerland for a while before applying for it.

How to Get a Work and Residence Permit

So how do get an Aufenthaltsbewilligung (residence permit) complete with Arbeitsbewilligung (work permit) for your time as an expat in Zurich? We will briefly introduce the most common procedures below.

EU/EFTA Nationals

If you are a national of an EU/EFTA member state (except for Bulgaria and Romania), you mostly need to have a confirmed job offer. However, from June 1, 2013, onwards, there are certain quotas for job-seekers from all EU countries. This temporary measure is valid for one year at the moment – it may or may not be renewed in 2014, though.

You can only start working if the annual quota for new employees from EU-8 countries or EU-17 countries, respectively, has not yet been reached. To find out if this quota is nearing the annual limit, please get in touch with the local migration office of the canton where your potential employer has their office.

Moreover, when you have found a job that fulfills the quota requirements, you still need to get your Arbeitsbewilligung within the first three months of your stay. Go to the local migration office (Migrationsamt des Kantons Zürich) with your valid ID, employment contract, and rental contract.

You should obtain your permit without further ado. If you have a job contract for at least one year, you’ll normally receive a permit valid for up to five years.

Third-Country Nationals

Getting a work and residence permit is more complicated for people who are not from an EU/EFTA state. First, you need a job offer in Zurich. While you lodge your visa application (if necessary), your employer applies for your work permit at the Amt für Wirtschaft und Arbeit Zürich. The company needs to prove that there was no suitable Swiss/EU/EFTA candidate available and that your salary and working conditions adhere to local standards. They have to show your qualifications, too, which is why your employer may ask you for a CV, diplomas, references, etc.

If the local AWA issues a permit, they will send it to the Federal Office for Migration. They check the application again, in a national context. If it’s successful, they’ll contact the migration office in your canton, i.e. the Migrationsamt des Kantons Zürich. The latter then transfers your work and residence permit to the Swiss mission. You can collect it together with your visa. Make sure to check how long your permit is valid and to ask how you can renew it.