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Complete guide to obtaining the permanent settlement permit for Switzerland, required documents, eligibility, and FAQs

Nationals from certain countries can freely enter Switzerland for short stays of up to 90 days, no visa required. These include EU and Schengen area citizens as well as a select number of other countries who have been granted visa-free entrance to Switzerland.

However, when it comes to stays of longer than three months, everyone, regardless of nationality, has to obtain a Swiss residence permit.

Switzerland receives a large number of immigrants every year. As a matter of fact, nearly a quarter of the total population of Switzerland comprises of foreigners.

Looking to move to Switzerland? Find more information about moving to Switzerland here.

The Swiss Permanent Residence Permit (Permit C) is only one of the residence permits that Switzerland offers. You cannot apply for permanent residence upon your first entry in Switzerland. You must first fulfill a few conditions.

Who can get a Switzerland Permanent Residence Permit?

The first condition you have to be able to fulfill to be eligible for a Swiss permanent residence permit (also referred to as a settlement permit) is the number of years you have lived in Switzerland.

The first time you apply for a residence permit to Switzerland, you will receive either a Permit B or Permit L. They are both issued for one year initially, but the Permit B can be renewed annually whereas the Permit L can only be renewed once.

  • Citizens from an EU/EFTA member country can get a Swiss permanent residence permit after living in Switzerland for five continuous years.
  • Citizens from non-EU/EFTA countries must have been living in Switzerland with a Permit B for 10 continuous years before they can apply for a Swiss Permit C.
  • Americans and Canadians can also apply for a C Permit after five years of continuous residence.

However, even non-EU/EFTA nationals can, in some cases, receive their Swiss permanent residence permit in five years. For example, if you are the spouse or the child (aged 12-18) of a Swiss citizen of a Permit C holder. So, in cases of family reunification.

A child under 12 who comes to Switzerland for family reunification is automatically granted a Swiss Permit C.

It may also be possible to apply for a Swiss permanent residence permit after five years if:

  • You have at least a Level A2 of language skills in the official language of your canton.
  • If you are well-integrated into Swiss society. For example:
    • You have good relations with the local population
    • You have connections to a local association
    • You have not committed any crimes, depended on welfare, or have any unpaid debts.

How to apply for the Swiss C Permit?

After five or ten years have passed, depending on your nationality and circumstances, you can apply for your Swiss Permanent Residence Permit. Just as with other types of Swiss residence permits, you apply for the C Permit at your local canton’s immigration office.

Switzerland has 26 cantons and each of them are responsible for issuing residence permits to foreigners wanting to settle in a particular canton. You have to submit your Permit C application at the canton in which you are currently residing in.

As a general rule, in order to be eligible for the Swiss Permit C, you will have to prove that you are sufficiently integrated in Swiss culture and that you can speak the official language of the canton in which you live in. You need to demonstrate level A2 in oral language skills and A1 in written language skills. You will need to take a language proficiency test to prove this.

Other requirements include: proof of a clean criminal record from the Swiss police; proof you have no debt at any place you have lived in while in Switzerland; a record of employment or gainful employment; proof you have not received any social benefits etc.

However, every canton has their own requirements and conditions for issuing a Swiss Permit C. The conditions also vary depending on your social status, whether you have any children/dependents etc.

So, the first thing you should do is get in touch with your local canton or a communal office. You can find a list of the Swiss cantonal immigration offices here.

You will likely have to fill out an application form expressing your interest in applying for a Permit C. The cantonal authorities will then provide you with a list of documents and application forms that you need to submit so they can review your application.

The benefits of the Swiss C Permit

You can become settled in Switzerland permanently in one of two ways: with a Permit C or becoming a Swiss citizen through the process of naturalization. Swiss permanent residence offers a lot of the same benefits as the Swiss citizenship, such as:

  • You can work for any employer you want.
  • You can change jobs without permission.
  • You can work, study, and live anywhere in Switzerland.
  • You can set up a company.
  • You can access social assistance or welfare benefits.
  • You can buy real estate.
  • You can have your qualifications recognized, receive grants, etc.

The only things that you are not allowed with a Swiss residence permit, but you can do with Swiss citizenship, are:

  • Vote.
  • Stand for public office.
  • Being able to leave Switzerland for any period of time and not losing your status.

In addition, along with Swiss citizenship, come all the obligations of other Swiss citizens, such as men aged 18-34 being required to finish military service.

Becoming a Swiss citizen is also a much lengthier and more expensive procedure, which is why many are satisfied to remain in Switzerland with only a Permit C.

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