Hiring foreign workers in Switzerland can be a practical solution for addressing staff shortages.
Switzerland is experiencing a shortage of qualified foreign workers, especially in fields like healthcare, engineering, and information technology.
Despite having a highly skilled domestic workforce, many employers struggle to find the right candidates to fill their job openings.
For this reason, the Swiss government introduced measures to simplify the process of hiring workers from outside the EU, as reported by Swissinfo. With these measures in place, Switzerland aims to strengthen and further grow its economy.
In this guide, we explore the ins and outs of hiring non-EU workers in Switzerland, including legal requirements and work permit supporting documents.
Foreign Workers in Switzerland: How to Recruit and Hire
From a legal standpoint, foreign workers in Switzerland can be divided into two groups: those hailing from EU nations and those from other countries.
Thanks to the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons, individuals from EU countries enjoy simplified access to the Swiss job market, regardless of their qualifications.
In contrast, when it comes to people from other countries, often referred to as third countries, only qualified workers are admitted. You cannot hire unskilled workers from outside the EU. Additionally, their entry into Switzerland is subject to specific restrictions defined by the Federal Council.
However, when Swiss and EU nationals aren’t available for the job, hiring from third countries is the only viable option.
Let’s examine each of the steps you must take to employ non-EU workers in Switzerland.
Step 1: Check If You Meet the Requirements for Hiring Foreign Workers in Switzerland
The requirements you must fulfill to be able to hire from outside the EU include:
- The position you must fill is a management position or requires a specialist professional. In Switzerland, you cannot fill low or middle-skill positions with non-EU nationals.
- You must be able to demonstrate that employing a non-EU national is in the economic interests of Switzerland.
- You must be able to provide your foreign employees with the same salary and working conditions as Swiss nationals.
- The foreign employee quota established by the Swiss Government has not yet been reached. Typically, Switzerland limits the annual number of work permits to 4,500. To learn more about the Swiss quota system for foreign labor, head over to this page.
Step 2: Conduct a Labor Market Test
Before hiring foreign workers in Switzerland, you must show proof of your inability to recruit a suitable candidate from Switzerland or another EU country.
To fulfill this requirement, you have to advertise the position with the Regional Employment Office (RAV) and within the EURES system.
Furthermore, you are expected to publish a job ad in professional publications, local newspapers, specialized online platforms, and on social media.
Only after a specific duration of time during which the position remains vacant, you can hire from outside the EU.
Step 3: Find the Right Candidate and Sign a Work Contract
If you’re unable to find suitable candidates from Switzerland or the EU for your job opening, it’s time to broaden your search and tap into the international talent pool.
To streamline this process, make sure that you promote your job opportunity on VideoWorkers.
VideoWorkers stands out as a cutting-edge recruitment platform that comes with a top-notch candidate database. This will allow you to pinpoint the best match for your company hassle-free.
Once you’ve found the ideal candidate, you can proceed with signing an employment contract.
Please note that your prospective employee must possess a degree from a university or institution of higher education. They must also have several years of professional experience. This is a mandatory requirement when hiring non-EU foreign workers in Switzerland.
Step 4: Apply for a Work Permit
You must apply for a work permit at the cantonal immigration and employment market authorities.
The following documents must be submitted with your application:
- Application form fully completed and signed (available on the website of the relevant canton)
- Explanation as to why the company must fill the role
- Complete job description
- Details about the company
- Worker’s copy of passport
- Results of the labor market test (including proof of advertising the vacancy through RAV, EURES, and other channels)
- Confirmation from an employment agent and explanation as to why the candidates who applied for the position are not a good fit for the role
- Worker’s professional resume in tabular form
- Proof of qualifications (e.g., education diplomas, professional certificates, and references)
- Copies of documents in original language and certified translation in English or one of Switzerland’s official languages
- Employment contract stating compensation and expense arrangements
- For project work: contract or order confirmation, description of the project, project plan, permission to hire contract staff, staff and project contracts
- For startups: deed of incorporation and 3-year business plan
- Any additional documents required by the competent authorities
Depending on the type of work permit you apply for, it can take up to 12 weeks to get an answer on your application. The fees for a work permit may vary from canton to canton. For example, in Canton Zürich, the application fee for a work permit for third-country nationals is CHF 380.
If approved, the application will be forwarded to the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) for final approval. If the application meets the requirements, the SEM will give the foreigner access to the Swiss Labor Market. This means that you get permission to hire foreign workers in Switzerland.
Step 5: Your Future Employee Applies for a Visa
Depending on the candidate’s nationality, they may need a visa to enter Switzerland.
Based on SEM’s approval, the cantonal immigration authority will issue an electronic visa authorization to the Swiss Diplomatic Mission abroad.
Then, your future employee needs to apply for a visa by submitting the following documents:
- Fully completed and signed application form for a long-stay visa
- One passport-size picture
- Valid passport
- Employment contract
- Professional resume
- Proof of academic degrees and professional qualifications
- Police clearance not older than 6 months
- Authorization from the cantonal authority
- Company documents, if required (e.g., business registration certificate, company code, tax clearance certificates, proof of active business, etc.)
Please note that the supporting documents may vary based on the applicant’s nationality.
The visa fee is CHF 80. For workers who already hold authorization from a Swiss Cantonal Authority, the visa processing time is one week.
Within 14 days of entering Switzerland, your employee will need to register with the competent authorities in their place of residence. Then, they can start working for you.
The Bottom Line
While hiring non-EU foreign workers in Switzerland can seem complex, our guide aims to simplify the process for local Swiss employers.
By following these 5 comprehensive steps, you can access a diverse and skilled global workforce while maintaining operational efficiency and staying compliant with Swiss immigration laws.
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