1 How to get a Business Visa in SWITZERLAND I. GENERAL PREREQUISITES In order to enter Switzerland (i) a valid and accepted travel document is needed. Additionally, (ii) certain nationals need a visa. Finally, (iii) sufficient funds must be available or procurable by legal means to cover the cost of living during the stay in Switzerland or the transit through the country. (i) Travel Documents In general, a passport is required. Identity cards are sufficient for citizens of Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Greece, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Ireland, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Sweden and Spain. Other travel documents might be accepted under certain circumstances. (ii) Who needs a Visa? The question whether you need a visa depends on your nationality. Please take a look at Annex 1 for a first indication. (iii) Sufficient Funds Sufficient funds must be available to cover the cost of living during transit or the entire stay in Switzerland (approx. CHF per day / students CHF 30.- per day). If an applicant does not have access to sufficient financial funds or if this seems doubtful, the Swiss foreign mission may declare the visa dependent on a declaration of a guarantee. The guarantor engages to meet uncovered costs of up to CHF for living expenses, including costs in connection with accidents or illness as well as the return trip. The requirement of sufficient funds is waived to the extent the bilateral treaties between the EU/EFTA and Switzerland are applicable (see sec. III (i)), i.e. for nationals of EFTA and certain EU member states as well as (most) employees of EFTA and certain EU entities assigned to Switzerland. (iv) Application Individuals are required to submit a visa application to the Swiss foreign mission in their country of residence. For a Business Visa, an invitation letter from a company or business partner in Switzerland has to be supplied to give evidence of existing business relations. Foreign nationals whose departure is not possible within the period of stay granted have to report immediately to the local authority in charge.
2 II. SHORT STAY WITHOUT TAKING UP EMPLOYMENT (Up to 3 Months) Foreigners who do not engage in a gainful activity in Switzerland may stay in Switzerland without a residence and work permit for a period of up to three months. After three months, foreigners are required to leave Switzerland for at least one month. Their stay must not exceed a total of six months within a period of twelve months. A visa, if needed (see Annex 1), is available for activities such as tourism, visits, theoretical education, business meetings, medical treatment, participation in scientific, economic, cultural, religious or sports events, temporary reporting for foreign media or for drivers employed by foreign undertakings for the transport of persons or goods (transit) through Switzerland. III. EMPLOYMENT AND RESIDENCY IN SWITZERLAND In Switzerland the type of residence permit defines whether or not a gainful activity in Switzerland is allowed. Therefore, no separate work permit will be issued. For a residence permit which entitles to work in Switzerland, additional authorization procedures have to be observed. It is strongly recommended to apply for a residence permit (including the authorization to work in Switzerland) before traveling to Switzerland. Due to a system of international treaties, Switzerland distinguishes between (i) individuals who benefit from the accords between Switzerland and the member states of the EU and the EFTA concerning the free movement of persons and (ii) other individuals. (i) Overview for EU/EFTA states Please note that the rules mentioned in this section (i) apply in connection with following states: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Greece, Germany, Italy, Ireland, Iceland, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, Spain and United Kingdom. The rules in this section (i) do currently not apply to the ten nations that joined the EU on May 1, 2004 (Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia). For these states the rules pointed out in section (ii) are governing. Special rules are applicable to Liechtenstein. According to an accord between Switzerland and the first fifteen member states of the EU concerning the free movement of persons and a similar agreement with the member states of the EFTA the following persons enjoy privileged access to residence permits granting the right to work in Switzerland: - nationals of EU and EFTA member states, - accompanying family members, irrespective of their nationality and, - under certain conditions, employees of EU or EFTA service providers, irrespective of their nationality. In general, qualifying persons are entitled to a residence permit which allows working in Switzerland (work permit). However, the entitlement is limited by quotas until at least Mai 30, Short term permits up to four months are not subject to quotas.
3 The following possibilities to work in Switzerland can be distinguished: a) Stays without a permit For stays up to three months (service providers up to 90 working days) per calendar year persons benefiting from the accords with the EU and the EFTA do not need a permit, even if a gainful activity is pursued in Switzerland. Please note however, that nationals of EU/EFTA member states who are engaged in any kind of gainful activity have to register. Registration has to take place before taking up any employment in Switzerland. However, there are several exceptions. E.g. EU/EFTA service providers and assigned employees of such service providers only have to register if they are engaged in a gainful activity in Switzerland on more than eight days per calendar year, except for the following industries: building industry and secondary contract work, hotel and restaurant industry, cleaning industry, surveillance- and security services. In these sectors registration is necessary in any case before engaging in a gainful activity in Switzerland. b) Short term permit for EU/EFTA nationals A short term permit is available to persons who are resident in Switzerland for a certain purpose with or without employment during a short period of time. As far as employment is concerned, an employment agreement with a fixed term of less than one year is required. The permit will be issued with a validity identical to the duration of the employment agreement. The permit can be extended up to twelve months and renewed for further periods of no more than twelve months. EU/EFTA short term permits include the right to choose the place of living freely within Switzerland. Permits granted under bilateral exchange trainee programs are limited to twelve months and will be extended only in exceptional situations. Exchange trainees are persons in the age of (35) years who have already completed their occupational training and intend to improve their occupational education or their language skills by a practical occupational experience in Switzerland. Programs currently exist with the following countries: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, Spain and UK. c) Residence permits for EU/EFTA nationals A residence permit is available to persons who are resident in Switzerland for a certain purpose with or without employment during a longer period of time. For employment purposes a residence permit valid for five years may be obtained if an employment agreement with a Swiss employer of a minimal duration of at least 12 months or of unlimited duration exists. The residence permit is renewable. An EU/EFTA residence permit allows the holder to change his occupation and his domicile within Switzerland freely. d) Settlement As a general rule, a settlement permit can be granted to nationals of the EU or EFTA member states after a regular and uninterrupted stay in Switzerland of at least five years. The accords between Switzerland and the EU and the EFTA mentioned above have no direct effect regarding the settlement permit. A settlement permit allows the holder to change his occupation and his domicile within Switzerland freely.
4 e) Cross-border commuters Nationals of EU or EFTA member states who are resident in a foreign border zone may obtain a permit for cross-border commuters to work within the Swiss border zone. The border zone includes some regions along the Swiss borders as defined in bilateral treaties. The permit is valid for the duration of the employment. In case of an unlimited employment contract or a contract for more than one year, the permit is valid five years. The cross border commuter must return to his place of residence at least once a week (please note that double taxation treaties usually require daily return). Self employed cross-border commuters are also accepted. (ii) Overview for other states In general, permits allowing employment and other gainful activities in Switzerland for nationals not benefiting from the accords between Switzerland and the EU/EFTA are granted only under certain limiting restrictions: - Swiss employer is unable to recruit a suitable person on the Swiss or European labor market. Indispensable executive managers and highly specialized professionals, who come to Switzerland as inter-company transferees are exempted. - Foreign employees must be employed under acceptable payment and working conditions. - Acceptable accommodation must be available. - Short time residence permits are subject to restrictive quotas. The following possibilities to work in Switzerland can be distinguished: a) Stays without a permit In general, a residence permit, expressly allowing a gainful activity within Switzerland, is needed before taking up employment in Switzerland and for other gainful activities if such activities take place on more than eight days per calendar year, except for the following industries: building industry and secondary contract work, hotel and restaurant industry, cleaning industry, surveillance- and security services. In these industries registration is necessary in any case before engaging in a gainful activity in Switzerland. In any case, the visa requirements have to be observed. b) Short-term residence permits Short term permits are granted for stays of a limited duration of no more than 364 days. In cases of employment the validity of the short term residence permit will be identical to the duration of the employment contract. In exceptional cases the permit may be extended to an overall maximum of two years, provided the holder does not change employment for the entire time. Employment as an au-pair and basic or advanced practical trainings in Switzerland are also deemed to be short term stays. Permits granted to foreign nationals pursuing a gainful activity in Switzerland for a total of no more than four months/120 days per calendar year are not subject to quotas. Permits for a maximum of 120 days per year are designed for managers and specialists who periodically stay
5 in Switzerland to handle exceptional business matters or mandates. Permits for up to four months in a calendar year are granted to persons working on special tasks and projects. Permits granted under bilateral exchange trainee programs are limited to twelve months and extended only in exceptional situations. Exchange trainees are persons in the age of (or 35) years who already completed their occupational training and intend to improve their occupational education or their language skills by a practical occupational experience in Switzerland. Programs currently exist with the following countries: Argentina, Australia, Bulgaria, Canada, Czech Republic, Hungary, Monaco, New Zealand, Philippines, Poland, Rumania, Russia, Slovakia, South Africa and USA. In general, it is not possible for the holder to bring his family to Switzerland. Furthermore, the permit is valid only for a certain region of Switzerland and the holder is not entitled to change his employment. c) Residence permits A residence permit is available to persons who are resident in Switzerland for a certain purpose with or without employment during a longer period of time. For employment purposes, a residence permit valid for one year may be obtained. The residence permit is renewable. Although there is usually no legal entitlement for renewal, the permit is renewed in practice unless the holder is dependant on social security or was sentenced for a criminal offence. A residence permit does not allow the holder to change his occupation or to choose his place of residence freely. The holder has to reside within the Canton (region) granting the permit. Family members admitted to Switzerland are not allowed to engage in a gainful activity without an additional special authorisation. d) Settlement As a general rule, a settlement permit can be granted after a regular and uninterrupted stay in Switzerland of at least ten years. Currently, the citizens of the USA, Canada, Andorra, Monaco, San Marino and Vatican City State are eligible for a settlement permit after a regular and uninterrupted stay in Switzerland of at least five years. Holders of settlement permits are entitled to engage in any kind of self-employment or employment activity. Only a few professional activities are reserved to Swiss citizens. While holders of settlement permits still have to reside and work within the area of the issuing Canton, they enjoy preferential treatment when changing Cantons. Permanent residents have a statutory right to bring along their spouse and children up to eighteen years, provided they are all living together in the same household with the permit holder. e) Cross-border commuters Foreign nationals who are resident in a foreign border zone may obtain a permit for crossborder commuters to work within the neighboring Swiss border zone. The border zone includes some regions along the Swiss borders as defined in bilateral treaties. To non-eu/efta nationals a cross border commuter permit is granted only if the foreign national proves to be a permanent resident in a neighboring country of Switzerland and has been resident in the neighboring country s border zone for at least six months. A cross border commuter permit is usually granted for one year the first time. The holder is allowed to work in the border zone of the Canton (region) issuing the permit solely. No change of employment is al-
6 lowed. The cross border commuter must return to his place of residence at least once a week (please note that double taxation treaties usually require daily return). Situation as of June 1, Specialist advice should be obtained before taking, or refraining from taking, action based on comments in this country report, which is only intended as a brief note. Dr. Beat Spörri, Switzerland, 2004 For further information please contact: Dr. Beat Spörri, LL. M. Hartmann Müller Partner Attorneys at Law Zürichbergstrasse Zürich Switzerland Phone +41 (0) Fax +41 (0)
7 Annex 1: Visa Requirements No Visa needed No Visa needed Antigua and Barbuda, Austria, Bahamas, Belgium, Brunei, Denmark, Dominica, Fiji, Finland, France, Germany, Grenada, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kiribati, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Malta, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, San Marino, Singapore, Solomon Islands, Spain, Sweden, Tuvalu, United Kingdom, Vatican City State. Andorra except for: - gainful activities No Visa needed except for: - gainful activities - stays exceeding 3 months Visa needed except for: 1. Holders of a valid permanent residence certificate of an EU or EFTA country, Andorra, Canada, Monaco, San Marino or the USA (the certificate must be admitted by the Swiss government) for a stay not exceeding 3 months, unless a gainful activity is taken up. 2. Citizens of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Thailand or Taiwan holding both a Schengen Visa and a valid national passport for tourism, business, company training purposes, for a stay not exceeding 3 months, unless a gainful activity is taken up. 3. Citizens of Algeria, Bolivia, Columbia, Côte d Ivoire, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Iran, Macedonia, Moldavia, Morocco, Namibia, Peru, Philippines, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkey or Ukraine holding a privileged travel document recognized by the Swiss government (diplomatic passport, service passport, special passport or official passport if uncertain, seek advice). 4. Turkish students of German schools on school excursions with a certificate issued by the school administration and young Turkish citizens traveling with collective passports. 5. Chinese citizens holding a BNO-Passport or a HKSAR-Passport issued by the Special Administrative Regions Hong Kong or Macao. Argentina, Australia, Barbados, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, El Salvador, Estonia, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Hungary, Israel, Jamaica, Latvia, Lithuania, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, South Korea, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, Uruguay, USA, Venezuela. All other nationalities (recognized by Switzerland) Dr. Beat Spörri, Switzerland, 2004