Guide to Working in Switzerland

According to current information collated from expats, it looks like we have entered the Age of Switzerland. The proof is in the data. First up is the Mercer Quality of Living Survey 2015, where Zurich is placed at number two and Geneva at number eight. A third Swiss city, Bern, narrowly missed out on a top ten entry, placing at number thirteen. Secondly, the annual HSBC Expat Explorer Survey 2014 demonstrated that among all the countries in the world, expats chose Switzerland as the top country for relocation.

Working in Switzerland

As well as low taxes, low crime and high standards of living, a big part of this popularity appears to be down to the world of work – more than a quarter of expats in Switzerland are earning more than £125k per year. This high quality of living may not come cheap (Switzerland is hardly a budget destination) but it looks like Switzerland knows how to both play hard and work hard.
Switzerland is renowned for attracting high fliers, particularly those in the banking, pharmacology, biotechnology and scientific sectors. There are also international organisations such as the United Nations in Geneva, providing a further draw for ambitious expats.

Work permits in Switzerland

However, Switzerland is not a member of the European Union, which means that if you’re thinking of moving to Switzerland from London there are a few hoops to jump through before you can settle into your new life. EU-EFTA nationals can freely enter Switzerland but must have work authorisation granted before entering the country and to get this, you must have a job lined up. It is not permissible to enter Switzerland on a business trip or tourist visa and attempt to apply to work – you will have to leave the country and return home to await authorisation. Once you have a confirmed job offer, your employer will apply for your residence/work permit for you.
However, obtaining authorisation to work in Switzerland is becoming increasingly tough. As of this year, the Swiss authorities are reducing the number of available work permits allocated for citizens of EU-EFTA countries as well as non-EU nationals. The application process is becoming stricter and extension rules are becoming tighter. Having said this, you will still be in with an excellent chance should you fit the profile or if you can offer skills that the country is lacking. But it is advisable to apply as early as possible – the annual quota is divided into quarters and each is expected to fill up by the middle-end of the quarter.
Your application will be reviewed for approval by the Federal Office for Migration. A variety of factors may be taken into account, such as language skills, ability to integrate, and age. However, the key elements assessed will be professional qualifications (at least to degree level), whether you are a specialist or manager in your field, and whether or not a Swiss national might be better suited for the job.

Work/life balance

Of course, once you have landed your dream job in Switzerland, you can reap the benefits of this popular destination. A country renowned for earning more and working less, with a reliably robust economy, and a large, cosmopolitan expat population, you can expect a better work life balance and a higher quality of life.
So, is it worth navigating the red tape? The majority of expats living in Switzerland seem to think so.
If you are considering a move to Switzerland, we will assist you every step of the way – from your first enquiry  to unpacking at your new home, we are here to help and advise you.
Information correct at time of publication.