Visas & Residence Permits in Switzerland - All You Need to Know

Immigration in Switzerland

Among other European countries, Switzerland has received the most significant number of emigrants in percentage. Nowadays, the issue of immigration restrictions is most hotly debated in Swiss referendums. Therefore, non-residents can travel freely, but staying for a long time is difficult.

Types of Visa for Switzerland.

Immigration to Switzerland is handled by the Secretariat for Migration at the state level and at the local level by the cantonal immigration services. While dealing with authorities may be overwhelming, Suisse Immobilien Group is family-run real estate trustees that are friendly and here to help.

Although we’re certified experts in buying and selling real estate throughout Switzerland, our company treats our clients warmly as family members and is always ready to assist them, including all visa-related hassles.

In this article, you will learn about all types of visas, temporary residence permits, and opportunities for foreigners to buy real estate in Switzerland.

Who needs a Swiss visa?

What is your plan for Switzerland in the future: studying, business, buying property, or a quiet, carefree retirement? You need a visa for each case to stay legally in the country. First, let's look at who needs a visa to Switzerland.

EU/EFTA residents

Switzerland may not be a member of the European Union, but it proudly holds membership in the European Free Trade Association alongside Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway. These countries unite to form a vast free market area within Europe, fostering economic growth and mutual trade.

The beauty of this alliance is that individuals hailing from EU/EFTA nations do not require visas to set foot on Swiss soil. Nonetheless, if they intend to stay for a duration exceeding three months, they must formally register their occupation and obtain a valid residence permit.

Non-EU/EFTA residents

If you hail from a non-EU/EFTA nation, a visa will be necessary to enable you to savor Switzerland for longer than 90 days. However, if you plan to stay for fewer than 90 days, the visa requirements will vary depending on your country of origin. As a welcoming land, Switzerland endows visa-free entry to many countries worldwide. That being said, you must hold a valid travel document to cross the threshold.

Moreover, non-EU/EFTA passport holders aspiring to study or labor in Switzerland must obtain the appropriate visa.

More information about each country can be found on the website State Secretariat for Migration (SEM).

Types of Swiss visa

All visa types for Switzerland visitors may be divided into three categories:
Non-Immigrant visas – these visas are issued to cater to extended temporary sojourns, targeted mainly towards individuals embarking on educational pursuits or working on contractual obligations for a predetermined duration, with no plans of overstaying their welcome in the country;
Immigrant visas – for those seeking to establish themselves in Switzerland either in the long run or permanently, there exist prolonged visas tailored to accommodate such aspirations, be it for employment or for relishing the golden years of retirement.
Short-stay Swiss visas are issued for up to 90 days and are intended primarily for tourists or persons making short-term business trips.

Non-immigrant Swiss visas

EU/EFTA natives do not require a visa to bask in Swiss luxury for an extended period, albeit they must procure a residence permit. Conversely, non-EU/EFTA citizens yearning to extend their stay beyond 90 days must procure a suitable visa and a valid residence permit to match.

The Category D national visa is the protracted visa that covers stays within Schengen countries. To acquire this Swiss visa, authorization from the cantonal migration authorities is mandatory, which could consume a few months of processing time.
If you plan to stay in Switzerland for more than three months, for example, in connection with work or study, you must apply for a temporary residence permit to ensure compliance with the law.

There are two types of residence permits in Switzerland, namely, the L permit and the B permit.

The L Permit is a short-term temporary residency card typically valid for one year and is non-renewable. It is often tied to a specific job or educational contract spanning a year.

On the other hand, a type B residence permit is an essential residence permit, which is initially issued in the form of a biometric card. Switzerland grants it for one to five years, with the possibility of extension. It is attached to a more extensive work or educational contract, with the holder mandated to stay within the canton specified in the application. Swiss authorities tend to limit the number of B permits given out yearly.

How to fill Swiss visa application?

If you are seeking a long-term, non-immigrant visa to Switzerland for a specific time frame, you must apply at the Swiss embassy or consulate in your home country. The visa cost typically amounts to approximately 60 euros.
The necessary documentation will vary depending on the type of visa that you are applying for, but you will generally need to provide the following:

  • a completed application form;
  • a photocopy of your passport/valid ID along with two passport-sized photos.

You must apply for a permit at the cantonal immigration office once you arrive in Switzerland. It is necessary to do this within the first 90 days of your stay in the country to avoid the possibility of having your visa revoked.

The Swiss authorities offer various types of non-immigrant long-term visas.

Student visas

Suppose you're a non-EU/EFTA national interested in pursuing higher education in Switzerland, such as a degree or post-graduate program. In that case, you can apply for a Swiss student visa. However, you'll need to provide proof of the following:

  • Sufficient financial resources to support yourself during your stay in Switzerland;
  • Swiss health insurance coverage;
  • Acceptance into a Swiss educational institution;
  • Payment of your course fees;
  • Relevant academic certificates and qualifications;
  • A letter detailing your post-study plans.

Once you've been in Switzerland for six months, you can work up to 15 hours a week during term time and full-time during holidays. If you are planning to work at a university and have a master's degree, you can start working right away.

Temporary worker visas

Switzerland does not issue work visas to individuals who are seeking employment opportunities. Before applying for a work visa, you must have a confirmed job offer. Temporary work visas are available for those with a fixed-term employment contract in Switzerland. You must provide evidence of your skills, qualifications, and a valid health insurance policy to support your visa application.

If you are 18-25, you can obtain a temporary work visa to work in Switzerland as an assistant. However, you must find a job through an agency licensed by the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO).

Non-immigrant family visas

Suppose you plan to visit Switzerland to stay with your family or partner for over three months. In this case, you must apply for a category D visa for family reunification and a residence permit.
This type of visa is for people who are:

  • Spouses of Swiss citizens or residents;
  • Children of Swiss citizens or residents;
  • Parents or grandparents of Swiss citizens or residents originating from an EU/EFTA country.
    You must provide evidence of your relationship with the family member you will be staying within Switzerland, such as a marriage or birth certificate. You must also have health insurance, show proof of financial stability for your stay, and demonstrate that you meet the Swiss canton's language requirements.

Swiss visas for immigrants

Switzerland issues a national visa of category D to persons staying in the country indefinitely. The procedure is similar to applying for a non-immigrant visa.
Switzerland only offers permanent visas or residency permits to anyone if they have resided in the country for 5-10 years.

For individuals moving to Switzerland for work, business, or family reunification, you will initially need to acquire a temporary category B residence permit. Once you meet the requirements for permanent residency, you may apply for a permanent residence permit or Swiss citizenship.

The prerequisites for obtaining permanent residency or Swiss citizenship may differ by canton, but they generally require the following:

  • fluency in the official language;
  • a clean criminal record;
  • no threat to national security;
  • ability to support oneself financially without government aid.

Work visas

To work in Switzerland, your potential employer must submit an authorization request to the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM). This approval is typically granted to non-EU/EFTA citizens with specialized skills, managerial positions, or highly skilled in their field, and only if there is a shortage of EU/EFTA candidates available for the job and if quotas allow them it.

If you secure a long-term employment contract, you'll be granted a "B" permit initially, which you can renew until you can apply for a "C" settlement permit. Once you obtain a "C" permit, you'll have unrestricted mobility throughout Switzerland's cantons, allowing you to apply for any job within the country.

Business visa

Switzerland does not grant visas to foreigners wanting to start their own businesses there. Usually, only residents and citizens can run a business.
However, an investment visa exists for entrepreneurs who can pay an annual lump sum tax of CHF 150,000 to CHF 1 million. To be eligible, you must demonstrate that your venture will create new jobs and stimulate economic growth.

To apply, you need to provide:

  • proof of the availability of funds for investment;
  • detailed information on how your investment will benefit the Swiss economy and its citizens;
  • everything about the company you are investing in.

After obtaining a business investor visa, you will receive a permanent residence permit in Switzerland, allowing you to stay in the country indefinitely.

Retirement visa

If you are not an EU/EFTA citizen and wish to live in retirement in Switzerland, you can obtain a national visa of category D. To do so, you must demonstrate that you have sufficient financial resources to support your retirement in Switzerland and purchase a health insurance policy. You must also establish close personal ties to the country, for example, if your family members live in Switzerland, own real estate, or visit the country frequently.

If your application is successful, you will be granted a B residence permit with the possibility of applying for a C residence permit once you have fulfilled all the requirements.

However, the State Secretariat for Migration (SSM) only issues a limited number of permits each year, and the decision to give them is at the discretion of the individual cantons. Therefore, your chances of obtaining a Swiss retirement visa depend on your application's credibility.

For those looking for a faster option to obtain a visa and residence permit, a Swiss business investor visa is also available for retirees willing to make the minimum required investment.

Family reunion visa

Children and spouses/partners of non-EU/EFTA nationals can join family members of Swiss residents with a permanent residence permit of category C or Swiss citizenship. For this purpose, they will receive a family reunification visa. In addition, parents and grandparents of Swiss residents from EU/EFTA countries can also join their family members.

However, persons residing in Switzerland with a B or L temporary permit do not have an automatic right to have their family members join them. The cantons may grant such permission if a person proves that the family members can be accommodated and support themselves without public assistance. Students with a B or L permit are usually not allowed to bring family members.

When children under 12, including adopted children, join their parents, they automatically receive a permanent residence permit with category C.

Short-term Swiss visas

Switzerland belongs to the Schengen zone, meaning you can apply for a Schengen visa (C) for short stays. It allows you to travel within the Schengen area for up to 90 days within 180 days.

To apply for any Swiss short-stay visa, you will need to provide some necessary documents such as a completed visa application form; a passport; a cover letter stating the reason for your visit and the dates of travel; health insurance that covers Switzerland; proof of accommodation; and evidence of sufficient funds to support yourself during your stay.

Short-term Business visa

If you are planning a short-term business trip to Switzerland for up to 90 days, you must obtain a short-term business visa. The application process and costs are similar to a tourist visa but with some additional conditions:

  • an invitation letter from a Swiss company or organization;
  • a letter of confirmation from your employer authorizing you to travel for business;
  • a company bank statement for the last six months;
  • documents confirming the reliability of your business, such as a charter or trade license;
  • proof of financial capacity to cover your business trip.

Airport transit Swiss visa

If you are a foreign national transiting through Switzerland with a stopover, you may need a Schengen visa category A, also known as an airport transit visa. However, for most passengers traveling to their destination via a Swiss airport, a Swiss visa is not required if they have the necessary documents:

  • a valid passport or travel document;
  • a flight ticket for the next stage of the journey;
  • the relevant travel documents and visas for the next country.

While in Switzerland, passengers must stay in the transit zone and leave it within 48 hours. Those needing an airport transit visa must apply at least 15 days before the travel date, costing 60 euros.

Swiss tourist/visitor visa

This particular Swiss visa gives you the freedom to travel to Switzerland to holiday or visit family and friends for 90 days within six months.
You can visit the Swiss embassy or consulate in your home country to obtain this visa or apply online. The application fee is 60 euros.

In addition to meeting the basic requirements, you will need a letter of invitation from your Swiss relatives or friends.

Medical visa

A Swiss visa is required for short-term treatment in Switzerland. To obtain it, you need to provide the following:

  • a detailed medical report from a healthcare provider, be it a general practitioner, dentist, or doctor;
  • confirmation of acceptance from the Swiss medical facility that will treat you;
  • a comprehensive health insurance plan that covers the costs or proof that you have sufficient funds to pay for medical expenses;
  • fill in the application form;
  • pay 60 euros for the application fee.

Swiss visa for cultural, sport, religious, or film events

This visa applies to athletes, artists, and spiritual leaders who plan to participate in events, competitions, or film shootings in Switzerland. In addition to fulfilling the standard requirements for a short-term visa, applicants must also provide a detailed event plan and demonstrate their competence or qualifications.
Filming crews must provide:

  • Additional information about the production.
  • A complete list of crew members.
  • A director's certificate.

Official visit visa

Persons representing official delegations traveling to Switzerland for a conference or event must apply for this Swiss visa. The application procedure and fees remain the same as for other short-stay visas. In addition to the standard information, applicants must also provide clear information about the planned length of stay and the purpose of their visit.

Short-term study visa

This visa allows you to carry out the following activities:

  • short-term training courses lasting up to 90 days;
  • research activities carried out as part of the pursuit of a scientific degree or doctorate;
  • work-related training courses or seminars;
  • internships that last up to three months.

This visa's application process and fees remain the same as for other short-term Swiss visas. However, for longer study courses, you must apply for a Swiss study visa and a mandatory residence permit.

Acquiring real estate for permanent residence

EU and EFTA citizens with a Swiss residence permit type B, C, or L, as well as third-country nationals with a type C permit, are free to purchase any property in Switzerland.

Citizens of non-EU or EFTA countries holding a B permit face some restrictions. They are entitled to purchase only one residential property for permanent residence in the place where they actually live.

Is there an investment visa for Switzerland?

The investment visa for Switzerland is called the Golden Visa Programme. The EU Golden Visa Program offers an immigration investment opportunity for affluent individuals who can invest in any European Union country, including Switzerland.

This temporary residency permit is granted through significant investments in various real estate and business sectors.

The Swiss residence investment schemes have specific eligibility criteria, which are as follows:

  • the applicant should belong to a non-EU country;
  • the applicant must be between 18 to 55 years old;
  • should have a clean criminal record;
  • must be in sound physical and mental health;
  • should have a legitimate source of income, and the relevant documents should be provided as proof;
  • must either own or rent a property in Switzerland.

Obtaining a Swiss golden visa can be a lengthy process, with a timeline of up to five months.

Property in Switzerland

Can you get residency in Switzerland if you buy property?

No, because it is correct to first obtain a residence permit and then invest in property. Non-resident investors are only eligible to apply for a multiple-entry Schengen visa, allowing them to stay in the country for up to 90 days in six months.
The acquisition of real estate in Switzerland by non-residents is subjected to rigorous constraints. The process is governed by the country's Federal Law, which is informally referred to as "Lex Koller."

Citizenship and residence in Switzerland

However, there are two alternative ways for potential investors to obtain Swiss citizenship through investment, namely:

  • The Swiss residency program,
    Under this option, a one-time tax payment is made. To participate in this program, individuals must pay a one-time tax of CHF 200,000 (around USD 203,000) to the Swiss canton where they reside. Depending on the canton, this amount can go up to CHF 600,000 annually.
  • Swiss program for business investors.
    The individual must establish a new Swiss company to create jobs or invest at least CHF 1 million annually in an existing Swiss company.

Currently, no investment program allows investors to acquire Swiss citizenship by purchasing real estate. To obtain Swiss citizenship, one must first reside as a permanent resident for a duration of 12 years. Only then can an individual fully enjoy the privileges and liberties of being a Swiss citizen.

Before you can obtain citizenship, you must live on a residence permit. Read below to find out what types of residence permits there are.

All possible types of residence permits in Switzerland

There are several types of residence permits in Switzerland:

  • L-permit - a short-term permit valid for up to one year but cannot be extended.
  • B Permit - a temporary permit usually issued for one year and can be extended.
  • C Permit - a permanent residence permit, which can be obtained after five years of continuous residence for EU/EFTA, US, and Canadian citizens and after 10 years of residence for other non-EU citizens.
  • Ci Permit - a permit for relatives of employees of intergovernmental organisations and foreign embassies, which is valid as long as the relative's visa or permit is valid.
  • N Permit - a permit for asylum seekers.
  • F Permit - a permit for temporarily admitted persons for those whose asylum applications have been rejected but who cannot leave Switzerland for some reason.
  • S Permit - a temporary conditional permit for persons in need of protection.
  • G Permit - a cross-border work permit for those who work in Switzerland but live in another country. This permit can be renewed yearly, but it does not grant any residence rights.

Arriving in Switzerland - first things to do

After arriving in Switzerland, it is mandatory to register your stay with the local civil registration office within 14 days. If you plan to stay for more than three months, you need a residence permit from the cantonal migration offices. When applying for a residence permit, it is essential to bring your passport along with your Swiss visa.

Additionally, you must register with the Swiss healthcare system and open a Swiss bank account upon arrival.

Organizations dealing with visas and legal matters for foreigners can help you to ease your first steps in Switzerland. For example, Suisse Immobilien Group is ready to take care of your visa if you are going to get involved in real estate.

Appeals and complaints

If your Swiss visa application is rejected, you can appeal the decision by writing a letter to the Swiss embassy or consulate in your home country. In the letter, you should provide a clear and detailed explanation of the grounds for contesting the decision.

If you need any help regarding Swiss residence permits, it is recommended to contact your cantonal migration authority. If you are dissatisfied with the response, you can escalate the issue to the SEM, which is responsible for overseeing immigration and residence permits in Switzerland.


As you can see, the Swiss visa issue is a huge topic to understand. If you want a visa or residence permit while purchasing or renting a property in Switzerland, leave it to the professionals. The core business of Suisse Immobilien Group is to meet the needs of clients who want to develop in the real estate sector. The company handles clients' needs, including visa requirements, in a familiar, specialized, and qualified environment.