Working in Switzerland

Working in Switzerland: All you need to know

For many foreign workers, Switzerland is the ideal place to work and live in. The wages are attractive, unemployment is low and the labor laws are fair. Having a workforce in Switzerland is also beneficial for a company. Switzerland is a very productive country with the 2nd highest GDP per capita and 10th highest GDP in the world.

On this page, you’ll learn what it’s like to work in Switzerland, what permits you need as a foreign worker and how to find work here.

Talk to us

Disclaimer: we last updated this information on 23.04.2022. Check the Swiss government’s website about working in Switzerland for the most up-to-date information.

What working in Switzerland is like

1. Liberal labor legislation

Both the employer and the employee can terminate their working relationship in compliance with the notice period. As long as the dismissal isn’t abusive, no special reason is required. This flexibility allows companies to adjust their workforce as needed and gives employees more freedom.

2. Amazing work culture

The Swiss are hardworking and proud of it. The relationship between employees and employers is most often good and strikes are practically non-existent.

3. Most competitive talent worldwide

The Global Talent Competitiveness Index (GTCI) measures and ranks countries’ ability to grow better talent, attract the talent they need and retain those workers who contribute to competitiveness, innovation and growth. The prosperous and stable economy of the country makes it a top choice for companies who are looking to expand to Europe, creating new jobs to fill. Skilled employees are very likely to find a good job. In the Basel Area, the talent pool is especially vast in the life sciences. Switzerland ranks #1 since 2013.

4. High productivity

Productivity in Switzerland is outstanding with the second highest GDP per capita and the tenth highest GDP in the world. Swiss workers add $69.26 per hour worked to the economy. The Basel Area’s life sciences industry has one of the most productive workforces globally (BAK p. 38).

5. 2nd highest purchasing power

Switzerland tops the list of the 20 countries with the highest salary. Even though the cost of living is higher than in most other countries, people in Switzerland still have the 2nd highest purchasing power per capita in Europe.

Life in Switzerland

You can’t talk about working in a country without talking about living in it. When it comes to quality of life, Swiss cities consistently rank among the best in the world. Numbeo’s Quality of Life Index and the Economist’s Where-to-be-born index both give Switzerland the #1 spot. The country is well organized with a stable political climate and an excellent healthcare system.

We have carefully evaluated a number of possible locations around Europe and have settled on the Basel area for a number of reasons: Foremost is the concentration of life science companies large and small in the area forming one of the best clusters in Europe, if not worldwide. In conjunction with the high number of leading universities and research institutions in the area, we feel that we have access to an extensive talent pool for both the senior and junior researcher positions we have to offer.

Rainer HenningPhD, Chief Science Officer, WORG Pharmaceutical

Sign up to receive our newsletter in your inbox.

Three central questions about working in Switzerland

working in switzerland

Can foreigners work in Switzerland?

Foreign nationals can work in Switzerland with the correct permit. The permit you need depends on your nationality and type of employment. Citizens of EU/EFTA member states can freely work in Switzerland. They must only apply for residency if their employment is longer than 90 days which will be granted without any problems. All other citizens must apply for a work permit, even for short-term employment.

working in switzerland

Is it easy for foreigners to find a job in Switzerland?

Many highly skilled foreigners successfully find work here. Almost half of all executive positions are filled by foreigners. Under the law, citizens from EU/EFTA member states compete on equal ground with Swiss nationals. Third-country nationals will face more difficulties due to quotas and language barriers, although in some industries like life sciences, international hiring is common. 

working in switzerland

Is it worth working in Switzerland?

Absolutely. Switzerland is well-known for its fair labor laws, great wages and strength in the talent market. Work-life balance is essential for Swiss people, and quality of life in Switzerland is considered among the highest in the world. If you have a background in life sciences, be it in science or business functions, we recommend that you check job opportunities in the Basel Area, e.g. on jobs.ch.

What permit you need to work in Switzerland

For EU/EFTA nationals

Thanks to freedom of movement for persons, citizens of EU/EFTA member states can enter, live and work in Switzerland without facing any big hurdles.

If you’re employed in Switzerland for less than 90 days per calendar year, you don’t need a special permit. Your employer just needs to register you through the notification procedure for short-term work in Switzerland at least one day before starting.

If you’re employed longer than 90 days, apply for a residence permit. All you need is:

  • a valid identity card or passport.
  • confirmation of employment.

This permit is valid as long as you’re employed, even if your employer changes.

The same rules apply to self-employed people, with the addition of showing proof that you can support yourself and your family with your occupation.

If you want to look for work in Switzerland, you can do so for up to 6 months. For the first 3 months, you don’t need a permit. After that, you can obtain a short-term EU/EFTA residence permit, which is valid for 3 months per year, as long as you can financially support yourself.

For non-EU/EFTA nationals

As a non-EU/EFTA national, the barrier is higher.

Access to the Swiss employment market is granted for a limited number of highly qualified professionals like managers and specialists with a university degree.

To get a permit, your employer has to demonstrate that your employment is in the economic interests of Switzerland and that they are unable to recruit the necessary personnel in Switzerland or from an EU/EFTA member state.

They have to submit the application documents to the employment or immigration authority of the canton you’ll work in.

Information your employer has to submit include:

  • Application form (found on the cantons’ websites)
  • Copy of your passport
  • Proof that the company tried to fill the position with local workers
  • Your CV, including proof of qualifications
  • Reason why the vacancy must be filled

You can find the complete list of all necessary documents here: Application documents for non-EU/EFTA nationals.

Maybe you also need to obtain a visa to enter Switzerland.

For UK nationals

Since Brexit in 2021, UK nationals have been subject to the same rules as other non-EU/EFTA nationals. If you already had residence rights before 2021, you benefit from special provisions under the agreement on acquired rights between Switzerland and the UK.

You can find more info on the Secretary for Migration’s UK page.

Don’t forget to take out insurance

Health insurance is mandatory for all Swiss residents. You have to take out health insurance no later than 3 months after arriving in Switzerland. If you work less than 8 hours a week, you need to take out private accident insurance provided by your health insurance provider as well. If you work more than 8 hours a week, your employer takes care of this for you.

How to find work in Switzerland

Tip #1: Use your network

Many positions in Switzerland get filled through contacts. Especially getting into higher positions is often a matter of knowing the right people. Start your job search by reaching out to your network. Ask for open positions or introductions to other people. Make sure you maintain a strong online presence with an up-to-date LinkedIn profile and join active communities. On our Basel Area Business & Innovation LinkedIn profile, you learn a lot about the region, its economy and exciting companies. We also post our job offers there.

Tip #2: Join events

If you don’t yet have a strong network in Switzerland, join events in your niche or specifically for job seekers. The chambers of commerce in each canton often organize networking events for professionals. We also host numerous events where you can become a part of a thriving work community.

Tip #3: Search job portals

Job portals are your next best option when you can’t (or don’t want to) rely on personal connections. Almost every company lists its open positions on one or more of the following websites:

Tip #4: Apply correctly

Most job postings describe how you need to apply. If not, you send in a CV including a few references, a cover letter and your educational certificates. The CV shouldn’t be longer than two pages and the cover letter should fit on one. Write them in the language that the job posting is in.

Tip #5: Start in your home country

Switzerland is home to many international companies. If you’re having trouble finding a job in Switzerland, consider applying to a position in your home country and getting transferred from there.

FAQ—Frequently asked questions about working in Switzerland

Can foreigners work in Switzerland?

Yes, foreigners can work and live in Switzerland with the correct permits and visas. To find out which permit you need, read the “What permit you need to work in Switzerland” section.

Can EU citizens work in Switzerland?

Yes, EU and EFTA member states citizens benefit from freedom of movement for persons. They can enter, live and work in Switzerland without facing any big hurdles. If you plan on working in Switzerland for more than 90 days, all you need to do is apply for a residence permit at your municipality.

What jobs are in demand in Switzerland?

Skilled workers in fields like pharmaceuticals, financial services, IT and engineering are well sought-after.

Can I move to Switzerland without a job?

To move to Switzerland, you have to obtain the correct permit first. Various permits are divided into two categories: nationals of EU-27/EFTA countries and non EU/EFTA nationals. Read our simple guide on moving to Switzerland.

Do you have a question? We'd like to hear from you.

You may also be interested in

Clinerion launches patient information platform
Basel Area Business & Innovation, Digital Health, ICT, Innovation, Invest, Life Sciences / biotech

Clinerion launches patient information platform

Basel-based Clinerion is introducing its machine learning platform. It comprises a global network of hospitals and enables researchers to recognize...

Read More
What can artificial intelligence do for health?
Basel Area Business & Innovation, Digital Health, Innovation, Life Sciences / biotech, Medtech

What can artificial intelligence do for health?

Algorithms help diagnose and treat diseases, discover new drugs and personalize prevention. Thus, the potential of artificial intelligence has been...

Read More
EvokAI to acquire Advancience
Basel Area Business & Innovation, Digital Health, Innovation, Invest, Medtech

EvokAI to acquire Advancience

EvokAI Creative Labs Inc. has agreed a deal to acquire Advancience. The diagnosis profiles enhanced by Artificial Intelligence (AI) developed...

Read More
1 2 3 4