Finding a job in Zürich will not be easy

Remember your partner or spouse in this decision

Now that we have given our disclaimer statement we wish you every success with your search and hope the resource provided are a help to you. 

This guide is drawn from the experiences of HR Managers and Recruiters, as well as those who have had to sit in the RAV offices or apply for a job from outside Switzerland.

It is a mix of personal experiences, resources that some felt useful and is subject to amendment.

Most people start the guide and then attend a coffee morning to meet others or attend a network night event so please check the calendar for more information.

Those who read this who are not in Switzerland yet you should visit here first for a huge resource of information about your rights and obligations at

Please check your recruiter status

Stay legal and remove barriers to hire

Recruiters must be licensed to recruit in and outside Switzerland. Companies do use recruiters based outside of Switzerland, you need to understand the relationship. Remember, you do not want to get a job and then find you have a permit problem caused by others.

The website will have helped to clarify some questions and is worth being a bookmark in your job search resources.

Switzerland has a special relationship with the EU, being separate and not a signed up member. Switzerland is not part of the EU and relies on many bilateral agreements with the EU which have been signed since 2005 to be part of the club. These cover trade and the rights of citizens from other countries to live and work in the country.

It also means that every foreigner that wants to reside and/or work in Switzerland needs some form of work or residency related permit. It is issued by the government and you will get to know your local Gemainde (local Council) people quite well as you go through the process. EU/EFTA nationals are given work authorisation, having certain rights for free movement and short-term residency to seek for work, yet must still register at the local Gemainde.

EFTA / EU Citizen

If you are an EU/EFTA citizen, you have a ticket to the lottery draw. It depends in Switzerland on what year your country joined the EU and its league position in relation to your coverage by the various signed bilateral contracts that Switzerland has with the EU. Examples of countries where they have a different level of coverage include Romania, Croatia and Bulgaria. For some countries the number of work permits are capped to a certain limit, so do not be upset if you receive an “L” permit for 12 months and not a “B” permit for 3 or 5 years, it could just be your nationality.

As a EU/EFTA citizen, you have to apply for a work permit, most people enjoy the experience and it is quite a simple affair once you are familiar with the forms and process.

Do not rely on the 3 month rule to find your job, as an EU/EFTA national, if you are living here and seeking work it is better to register on arrival for residency and to get the permit process underway, even if you start with a “L”. To learn more from the State Secretariat for Migration website click here.

Please do check with your own embassy or consul if you are in any doubt. Swiss lawyers can be expensive and are often not required because your company HR team have a lot of knowledge to share and advice to give.

SE-Training GmbH
SE-Training GmbH provides unique engineering management training for managers typically in cross-functional Research and Development, or Systems Engineering or Design and Development roles.
Stadt Zürich welcome event

Photo credit: Stadt Zürich

Not an EU Citizen

For those NOT an EU member national/citizen to qualify you will:

Normally be married or in a proven relationship to someone who has a a valid working permit or a Swiss national or
in a recognised registered partnership ( There are a lot of restrictions and some spouses are not allowed to work immediately. This is especially the case if you receive an L permit which could be company employment contract specific and time limited).

Obtain a student visa (your working hours will be limited to an amount of hours of work per week).

Expect your future employer to have to apply to sponsor you, it happens but not very frequently because it is easier to employ a Swiss or EU person. Sponsorship is not a guarantee of a work permit, each application is determined by its merit.

Your job offer is still subject to acceptance by the immigration office or cantonal offices, if your company HR and recruiter have done their job correctly, they will know your chance of success. University, healthcare or specialist key and strategic industry roles where often a PhD and real-life work experience are required ensure a passport to success. A Google or Novartis job interview and potential offer may not be as successful as the applicant for ETH or one offered to a foreign employee to secure work experience at SwissContact or another NGO.

As a Non-EU citizen, you are deemed to be classed as a third state national. Let that sink in for a moment, especially if you are from Japan, Korea or another recognised industrial powerhouse. Your job offer is dependent upon the hiring company proving that they could not find a Swiss person, or an EU National or someone from a non-EU country who is already resident with a valid work permit who do the job and be available to be hired.

Employers are often asked to prove the validity of their job search process, show that they made a “strong effort” to find a Swiss, EU/EFTA citizen or any foreign national with a valid permit to work. Andrew Travers for example once supplied candidate search information together with supporting job advertising information to support HR managers in their need to hire a South American, resident in Belgium but with specific engineering skills and certifications only five  people in the world possessed at his age and experience level. The other four were in China and the USA.

This highlights the issues for a travelling spouse, an added complication to your own journey because if you do not fit into this ‘highly skilled’ category, you will find it difficult to compete against the skilled people with valid work permits already in or near to Switzerland.

It is not uncommon for those already in a long-term relationship with a Swiss national to get married. Of course, if you are already married to a Swiss national or an EU/EFTA national who holds a valid Swiss work permit. This section is not relevant to you – please see the other section ⇐ ⇐

Some links we think may be useful to help you:

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