Author: Enrico Germano

Switzerland remains one of the most competitive countries in the world and in 2021 reached the top of the world rankings, remaining for many years consistently one of the most attractive countries on the globe, often ahead of countries such as Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands and Singapore1.

Looking at the data provided by the Federal Statistical Office, based in Neuchâtel, for the year 2020 we see that 38% of the permanent resident population, aged 15 years or older in Switzerland, i.e. 2,766,000 people (out of a population of 7,270,000 over 15 years old, while the overall population in Switzerland, both Swiss and foreign nationals, reached over 8,700,000) has a migration background2.

Based on these official figures3, it emerges that in 2020 the permanent foreign resident population in Switzerland from EU/EFTA countries is 1,418,400, of which 325,300 from Italy, 309,500 from Germany and 257,700 from Portugal, while that from other non-EU/EFTA European countries is 413,600, of which 113,700 from Kosovo, 67,700 from North Macedonia and 68,000 from Turkey. For the other continents, the 2020 figures show that foreign residents from Africa are 113,600, from America 83,600, from Asia 175,000 and from Oceania 4,200, in addition to approx. 2,500 stateless persons and/or unknown nationalities, giving a total foreign resident population in Switzerland of 2,210,800.

This premise was essential to show how the foreign population in Switzerland is increasingly international, historically not limited only to neighbouring countries or other Schengen countries.

I. The website of the Swiss State Secretariat for Migration (hereafter ‘SEM’) specifies that nationals of non-EU states (i.e. all non-EU/EFTA states)4 must meet the following conditions in order to entry into Switzerland:

“Third-country nationals (non EU/EFTA), regardless of their visa obligation status, wishing to enter Schengen Area for a short-term stay (without exercising a gainful occupation) not exceeding 90 days per 180-day period must be in possession of a recognised travel document that meets both of the following two requirements:(i) The travel document is valid for at least three months after the intended date of departure from Schengen Area; and (ii) it was issued within the last 10 years (the date of issue only concerns entry into the Schengen Area)”

In addition to these conditions, the SEM specifies that third country nationals must also:

(i) They are able to demonstrate the purpose and circumstances of their stay in Switzerland and/or the Schengen country(ies) to be visited;
(ii)They have sufficient financial resources to cover the entire duration of their intended stay as well as the return trip to their country of origin, the transit trip through a third country, or can obtain the necessary financial resources by some other lawful means.

The SEM website5 further specifies “sufficient financial resources can be demonstrated by showing cash, traveller’s cheques, credit cards or other collateral (e.g. bank guarantee). Third-country nationals who remain in Switzerland at their own expense must be able to demonstrate that they have enough financial resources to cover at least CHF 100 per day of their stay. The reference amount for students with a valid student permit is CHF 30 per day.”

II. For those third-country nationals who would like to be able to work in Switzerland, the Federal Act on Foreign Nationals and Integration dated 16.12.2005 (FNIA), which update has been in force since 1.01.2019, lays down stringent conditions to obtaining the residence permits, which are summarized below. The main permits are the L permit (so-called short-term residents permit) lasting up to 1 year in case of gainful employment, the B permit (so-called residence foreign nationals permit) to reside in Switzerland for more than 1 year, with or without a gainful employment, and finally the C permit (so-called settled foreign nationals permit) for foreign residents from third countries who have been residing in Switzerland for over 10 years. However, there are further integration criteria, among which are respect for security and public order in Switzerland, compliance with the values of the Swiss Constitution, knowledge of the national language/linguistic skills according to the Canton in which the foreigner resides, i.e. German, French or Italian, and finally the participation in economic life or the acquisition of an education (Art. 58a FNIA).

Ultimately, for third-country national arriving in Switzerland for any other reason other than a humanitarian one, the entry is made very difficult by the criteria of priority to the indigenous population and/or EU Member States, which translates into having to prove a very high degree of specialization, job searches in the media, and an adequate salary, which will undoubtedly be much higher than the one paid in the applicant’s country of origin.

1; portale PMI per piccole e medie imprese