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EP Advisory

Not just cheese: How to find a job in Switzerland and get a work visa

Job abroad
10.07.2023

Switzerland is a country with a high standard of living and professionals from all over the world go there.

Why go to Switzerland?

Apart from beautiful scenery, delicious chocolate, cheese and accurate clocks, Switzerland has other important advantages as a country to live in.

International context. Switzerland is an international country - both internally with its four official languages (German, French, Italian and Romansh) and in terms of the number of foreigners. One in five people who are employed in Switzerland is a citizen of another country.

High salaries. The average salary across Switzerland is 60,000 francs (61,500 euros). Depending on the county (canton), the amount may vary.

Infrastructure. In Switzerland, all state systems are well-established and work like clockwork. The transport system, for example, is very well developed in the country. At the same time, everything is constantly being maintained or improved in the country - if you go out on the street, you will immediately see how your taxes are being spent.

Social system. The largest recruitment agency in the country is the state agency RAV, which helps everyone with unemployment insurance. If a Swiss resident has worked for 18 months and then loses his job, he can receive 70 or 80 percent of his average salary for almost two years. Switzerland also has many social organisations for entrepreneurs and other categories of people. For example, the BIF in Zurich supports women in difficult life situations.

Quality of life. More than 40 percent of people living in Switzerland are very satisfied with their standard of living. Only Denmark, Norway, Finland and Austria can boast similar figures.

The level of people at risk of poverty is also low.

4 things to be prepared for:

Responsibility for everything you do. Switzerland is a country of rules, and if you don't follow them, the penalties are high. The state also expects you to be financially responsible. For example, health insurance is not paid by the company, but by the employee.

Integration. It takes time to get used to the Swiss mentality. Like any nation, the Swiss have their own peculiarities. For example, it often feels like all your neighbours are policemen because the rules are so clearly enforced in this country. Also, the Swiss prefer to avoid direct confrontation. So instead of coming to you and asking you to change something in your behaviour (e.g. turn down the music), they would rather call the police.

Language. Most jobs in Switzerland are in the German-speaking part of the country. However, the Swiss dialect is not like classical German. It has no official written equivalent, but it sounds completely different. If you speak classical German, you will be understood in Switzerland, but at first you will find it difficult to understand others.

Services. The Swiss are not used to being in a hurry. So much so that sometimes you get the impression that they are doing you a favour by doing their job.

How to get a working visa for Switzerland

Switzerland is not part of the European Union or of the Eurozone. The situation with work visas here is very different from other countries in western Europe. One such peculiarity is that studying at a local university and/or completing an internship does not entitle you to employment in Switzerland under special conditions. (By comparison, the UK, the Netherlands and other European countries have special visas for one or two years for university graduates within the country).


Swiss cities have a high percentage of foreigners, but due to strict immigration policies it can be difficult to move here without an EU passport. It is best to transfer to a Swiss office within an international company or to enrol on a PhD programme. If you are applying for a work visa, it is better to look for a job and apply for a residency permit at the beginning of the year, when the annual quota for the number of visas has not yet been used up.

Alice Schlosser


Visa opportunities in Switzerland for different categories of citizens

Residents of neighbouring countries

Specialists who live in neighbouring countries find it easiest to get a job in Switzerland. The country has developed a "cross border commute" scheme especially for them, which allows them to work without the right to reside in the country.

EU citizens

They have the right to stay in the country and look for a job for 3 months without a residency permit. If a job vacancy is not found within this period, EU citizens can obtain a special work permit and stay in Switzerland for a further 3 months.

Non-EU citizens

For non-EU citizens, there is a quota system that determines how many foreigners can obtain work visas in any given year. In 2022, for example, there were 8,500 work permits for non-EU citizens. Of these, 3,250 are issued to local governments in the cantons and the distribution of the rest is left to the state for diplomatic and other purposes.

There are several rules that must be fulfilled in order for a non-EU employee to move to Switzerland:

  • It must be proved that there is no suitable candidate for the position in Switzerland and the EU. To do this, employers post the vacancy on all possible websites, record the candidates in a table with an explanation of why each of them is not suitable. Only then can they start contacting applicants from other countries. (For comparison: such a rule  previously existed in Britain, where a similar labour market test had to be done before hiring a foreigner. It was cancelled there after Britain left the European Union).
     
  • A vacancy must be registered at the unemployment exchange. Vacant positions for those positions where the unemployment rate is more than 5% must first be registered at special centres. Only if the vacancies are not filled there,  are they made publicly available and can be published for all to see. This is currently required, for example, for the following positions:

- Executive sales/marketing directors

- Graphic and multimedia designers

- Marketing and advertising professionals

- Sociologists, anthropologists and related professions

- Event managers

- Sales specialists

- Receptionists
 

  • Only such applicants are selected whom the country wants to make part of the society. Such an employee should have high qualifications and extensive work experience. The candidate should also have prerequisites for integration, namely knowledge of foreign languages (knowledge of German or French adds competitiveness in the labour market).
Exemptions for non-EU citizens

Transfer within a company to the Swiss office. This is one of best options for relocation to Switzerland, as in this case you bypass the quota system. Also the employment process will be shorter, the company can help  you and guarantee a visa.

Doctoral and postdoctoral studies. Switzerland accepts a very large number of researchers, as long as the state is interested in the field you are engaged in. For example, today there is a great demand for employees in IT, research and engineering. Scientists can be granted a working visa to Switzerland even without knowledge of languages. Scientists are not subject to the quota system either.

Finding a job in Switzerland and labour market trends

There is also a list of professions for which there is a shortage of specialists - the so-call skills shortage list in Switzerland:

  • Engineering professions
  • IT professions
  • Technicians
  • Medical and pharmaceutical professions
  • Trusted business professions

Holders of Swiss residency permits and EU passports, in addition to the above-mentioned specialities, have a good chance of finding work in insurance, banking, consulting and project management.

Situational interview

The company's goals here are similar to a behavioural interview, only the situation is simulated hypothetically. For example, your potential manager can describe the same circumstances to several candidates and then compare the proposed solutions and at the same time their ingenuity, values and behavioural patterns.

Stress interview

A stress interview is a type of interview in which the interviewer deliberately creates a  tense environment for the candidate. It is not a common type of interview. It is usually conducted for sales, customer service, office managers - those who need to deal with conflict situations on a daily basis.

If you notice that something is clearly not going according to plan at a job interview, don't lose your professionalism.

Calmly ask for another (unbroken) chair or bring the conversation back to the topic of the interview.

For example, our marketer Luma,  was fortunate enough to only have to go through stressful interviews twice in her life: once the interviewer blatantly flirted during the conversation, and in the second case - the interviewer ate dumplings in an ignorant way. Of course, in both cases, the interviewers completely switched to a professional manner towards the end of the interview, explained their actions and gave feedback. Such methods help to reveal stress resistance, communication skills, behavioural flexibility.


I recommend looking for a job in international companies because they provide a better  chance of proving yourself and integrating.

Alice Schlosser


Top 10 international companies in Switzerland:
Top 5 international organisations in Switzerland:
Labour market trends by region

Zurich is the top region for job vacancies, economic development, quality of life and salary levels. The main sectors are banking, insurance, fintech and IT.

Bern. The most relevant vacancies in the city are in government organisations and international companies.

Geneva and the canton of Vaud. In these regions there is  the greatest chance of finding a job in the following sectors: watchmaking, information technology, as well as in international companies.

Basel. The highest probability of employment in this city is in the pharmaceutical and chemical industries.

Skills in demand

Specialists with digital skills are in high demand in Switzerland, in any industry and in a variety of positions.

For example, it is important for an office manager in a hotel to have content skills. An analysis of job adverts in Switzerland over the last seven years shows that almost half of all adverts (49%) list at least one digital skill, but often several different ones are required at the same time.

Ad statistics:

  • General digital skills - 49%
  • Basic digital skills - 31%
  • Content management - 23%
  • System and data administration - 19%
  • Digital management - 18%
  • Software Development - 16%
Peculiarities of passing the selection process in Swiss companies

Resume. It is very important to add a photo to the file, and give detailed information about yourself, including: type of residency permit, if you have one; as well as address and even marital status.

Swiss employers like CVs that are designed more or less creatively, depending on the vacancy. (By comparison, in the UK, you should never add a photo, personal details or excessive creativity.)

Otherwise, CV standards differ little in requirements from the general European expectations of a CV in English: adherence to chronology, proper structure, as many figures and achievements as possible, and the presence of hard and soft skills are important.

Job search sites. LinkedIn is the most popular job search site in Switzerland. Xing, which is very common in Germany, is used only 30 percent of the time in Switzerland. Also popular are sites such as (top 5 in terms of jobs):

It is important to write your CV in the language of the job posting.

Interview. Interview questions depend on the company: size, background and other factors. For example, in a large international company you may be asked to problem solve , while in a small company the hiring manager may limit himself to questions about strengths  and weaknesses, your experience and soft skills. In any Swiss company, however, you will be expected to be super polite and punctual.

Conclusions about employment in Switzerland

  • The highest chances of getting a job in Switzerland among non-EU citizens are among the following: engineers, scientists, IT specialists with specific skills, fintech specialists, employees with unique skills that are ideally suited to a particular vacancy, top managers with knowledge of English and German.
  • Your chances increase if you speak German or English and apply to international companies.
  • Holders of Swiss residency permits and EU passports, in addition to the above-mentioned specialities, have a good chance of finding work in insurance, banking, consulting, and project management.

FAQ on employment in Switzerland

What are the most in-demand professions in Switzerland?

  • Finance and related services, including banking, insurance, auditing, technology and consulting.
  • Information technology
  • Mechanical and electrical engineering
  • Metallurgy
  • Pharmaceuticals and chemicals
  • Renewable energy, especially in the hydropower sector
  • Biotechnology and life sciences
  • The aerospace industry
  • Production of parts for cars and other vehicles
  • Tourism

Offices of large firms to which you can transfer to Switzerland

  • Adecco Group (employment agency)
  • Alliance Boots (pharmaceuticals and retail)
  • Credit Suisse (financial services)
  • Roche Group (pharmaceuticals)
  • Glencore International (commodities trading)
  • Migros (retail)
  • Nestlé (food and beverages)
  • Novartis (pharmaceuticals)
  • Swiss Re (reinsurance)
  • Swiss (air transport)
  • Xstrata (mining and minerals)
  • Zurich Insurance Group (insurance)

What are the salaries in Switzerland?

Salaries in Switzerland are the highest not only among EU/EFTA countries, but also worldwide. In 2018, the median monthly salary in Switzerland was CHF 6,538 (around €7,000). The average salary varies by region, with the highest in Zurich (CHF 6,965) and the lowest in Ticino (CHF 5,363).

Switzerland does not have an official minimum wage, but minimum compensation for workers has been legislated.

Currently, the lower threshold is CHF 2,200-4,200 per month for unskilled workers and CHF 2,800-5,300 for skilled workers.

Which websites should I use to look for a job in Switzerland?

Despite the multilingual nature of Swiss professionals, there is still a demand for English-speaking employees in the country. Many job vacancies for such applicants are published on websites:

Sites for skilled tradespeople:

IT job search sites:

How do I get an internship in Switzerland?

SWISS, the national airline of Switzerland, offers six-month internships for bachelor's graduates in the following fields: communications, event management, finance, human resources, information technology, sales and marketing, and purchasing. Internships are available in Zurich, Geneva and Basel.

Summer and non-summer internships are also available at Credit Suisse.

Roche offers 12-month internships for undergraduate, graduate and postgraduate students in the following fields: life science, technology, engineering, business.

Each year IAESTE (International Association for the Exchange of Students for Technical Experience) provides a number of internships to undergraduate students studying science, technology and applied arts. Internships usually last 6-12 weeks.

How do I move to Switzerland to work with a visa?

Switzerland is an international country, with more than one third of foreigners working in its cities. The easiest way to move to Switzerland for work is if you are an EU citizen. Then you can look for a job for 3 months without any additional documents, after which you can apply for a short-term EU/EFTA residence permit and continue your search for another 3 months.

If you are an immigrant from another country outside the EU, you need additional permits to stay in Switzerland. You can get the right to work as:

Student. After 6 months in the country on a student visa you can work 15 hours a week during term time and full time during holidays. Your employer will need to arrange a work permit for you and you will notify the local government when you start working.

Young Professional. There is a Young Professionals (trainees) programme for 18-35 year olds from thirteen countries, including Ukraine and Russia, where you can work for a year in your field of study.

A highly skilled professional who has been awarded a contract with a Swiss company. For a work visa, your employer will need to show that none of the local specialists are suitable for the job and that your salary meets the minimum requirements.

Another nuance: the number of work visas is limited by the government, there are only about 8,000 per year (the figure may vary from year to year), and half of them are for diplomatic and other internal purposes.

It is better to look for a job with a visa at the beginning of the year, when the visa quota has not yet been filled.

Specialists transferred to the Swiss office internally. If you have received a transfer from another country, the employer gives you a work permit. The good news is that the number of visas for such transfers is not limited by the national government. So, it is much easier to transfer within the same company than to look for a job from outside.

Science worker. Scientists and researchers are  not included in the annual visa quota either, so such a long-term visa is easier to obtain.

Source: EP Advisory

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