Permit C Switzerland (Permanent Residency)

Legal consultation and assistance

The Swiss permit C (Bewilligung C / Permis C / Permesso C), also known as Swiss permanent residency (Niederlassungsbewilligung / Autorisation d’établissement / Permesso di domicilio), allows non-Swiss citizens to work and live in Switzerland without general restrictions applied otherwise according to the migration legislation.

What rights/benefits do you receive with the Swiss permit C?

In comparison to the permits B, L, Ci and so on, there are many additional rights and benefits which foreigners receive after obtaining the Swiss permanent resident permit. For example:

  • The Swiss permit C is granted for an undefined time period. The holder is just obliged to renew the document (plastic card or the «livre») before it will expire;
  • A permit C holder is privileged to change employment or to work as an independent without an authorization from the official body. However, general restrictions (applicable also to Swiss citizens) remain – for practicing e. g. as a doctor or advocate, the foreigner still needs to meet specific requirements and to have the relevant license(s);
  • With the C permit, the foreigner may change the canton of living (e. g. from Zurich to Berne or Luzerne, and vice versa);
  • No migration law restriction remains regarding obtaining a house, an apartment or another real estate in Switzerland;
  • In several cantons, permit C holders can elect (and even be elected) – however only on the local level.

Permit C and Taxes

After receiving the permanent residency, the foreigner is no more subject to the taxation at the income source. The C permit holder shall declare his or her world income and assets in the usual way – through the tax declaration.

How to obtain: Requirements and Conditions?

There are several ways to get the Swiss permit C. What way you can choose, depends on your personal circumstances.

Immediate Permanent Residency

In only 2 cases, the C permit is granted immediately:

  • in the context of a family reunification, children under 12 years old of a Swiss citizen or a C permit holder receive this migration title;
  • Foreign professors who are hired to teach at a Swiss university/technical high school.

In other cases (s. below), the C permit is granted not immediately and – mostly – only on request of the applicant.

Common way

The C permit can be granted on request if several conditions are fulfilled. In order the migration office begins to treat the application, the applicant (both EU and Third-country citizen) has to prove that he or she has lived in Switzerland for at least 10 years on a B or L permit and the last 5 years have been spent here without any interruption. Legitimation card holders are not eligible to obtain a C permit – with some exceptions. The years spent under a B study permit are not relevant for the C permit – with some exceptions.

The requirement of the time of residency is not sufficient. The applicant shall prove that there is no reason for the permit to be refused (no criminal record, no public or private debts, no threat to national security of Switzerland).

Fast-tracked permit C

The requirement of 10 years of residency in Switzerland cay be shortened when the applicant is well integrated (so-called “permis C anticipé”). In other words, the C permit can be granted after 5 consecutive years in Switzerland while holding a B permit if the applicant (both EU and Third-country citizen) can convince the migration office of his or her good integrations.

The years spent under a B study permit are not relevant for the fast-tracked C permit – with some exceptions. In exceptional cases, L permits can be counted within the period of 5 years.

To be well integrated means particularly that

  • the applicant respects the Swiss legal system and our constitutional values;
  • he or she knows German/French/Italian/Romansch at a required level. The minimal level is A2 (written) and B1 (spoken). Not every language certificate will be accepted;
  • he or she shows his or her willingness to participate in the economic and social life of Switzerland.

It is very important that each canton has its own criteria how it assesses whether the integration is good. For instance, the language requirements in the canton of Zurich is high in comparison with the cantons of Geneva or Vaud.

Automatic permit C?

In the Internet, there is an opinion that the C permit is automatically granted after 5 years of residence in Switzerland to:

  • Spouses of Swiss nationals or C permit holders as from the date of marriage in Switzerland or the date of entry into Switzerland in the case of marriage abroad;
  • Nationals of Germany, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Spain, France, Greece, Italy, Liechtenstein, Netherlands, and Portugal. Other EU citizens can apply for the C permit within either the common way or the “fast-track” procedure.

That information is not completely correct: in the cases mentioned, the migration office shall even without any request prove whether the permit C can be granted. However, it still has to prove some aspects of integration of the foreigners. That’s why, the C permit is not granted automatically.

How can you lose your permit C?

Long residency outside of Switzerland

The C permit automatically expires after 6 months spent outside Switzerland. In order not to lose the permit C, the foreigner can ask the migration body to “freeze” his or her C permit for a period of maximum 4 years while living abroad.

Permit C downgrading

On the 1st January 2019, the new amendment to the Federal Law on Foreigners and Integration has come into legal force. It provides the possibility to downgrade from a C to a B permit when the applicant has breached the law and/or does not fulfill the integration requirements.

The most common constellation when the permit C can be downgraded are as follows:

  • The foreigner lied about important aspects when entering Switzerland and/or when applying for the C permit;
  • The applicant was legally accused in a criminal case and the sentence has come into force. Not only Swiss sentences are of relevance, a downgrading can be also based on a conviction abroad;
  • The C permit holder threatens Swiss and/or international security;
  • The applicant and/or his dependents have been relying on social aid and/or receive social benefits;
  • The foreigner does not respect the Swiss legal system and our constitutional values.

After receiving the permit C

On the 1st January 2018, the new Federal law on naturalization has come into legal force. According to it, all applicants have to hold the C permit in order to be able to apply for Swiss citizenship.

How can I help?

Immigrations law of Switzerland (including naturalization issues) belongs to the core of my competence. Within this field of my practice, I accept mandates in both common and complicated/problematic cases.

Marad Widmer, LL.M. (Geneva), Managing Partner of the Widmer Strategy GmbH. Bachelor and Master in Swiss Law (Universities of Berne and Zurich). Languages: German, English, Russian and Italian. Member of the Swiss Lawyers Association (SJV/SSJ/SSG). Author of the Portal „Business in Switzerland“.