Switzerland is a country in Central Europe. And while it may be small, it is home to many firms with a significant amount of intellectual capital. The country is also dependent on qualified specialists. For this reason, the Federal Council sets a certain number of quotas each year, which are linked to permits – more precisely to residence permits (B) and short-term residence permits (L). In other words, quotas are an annual total amount of authorizations, which are being divided into B (long term) and L (short term) permits. In 2019, for example, 4000 quotas were released for L permits. These allow foreign workers to live and work in Switzerland. In this blog, I will provide an overview of the regulations in the Schengen area with respect to the L permits.
L permits are available in two different forms – non-quota-limited and quota-limited. This means that as soon as foreign employees are assigned to Switzerland for a maximum of four months, the permit does not remain contingent. In simple terms, there is an infinite number of such permits. However, if the four-month limit is exceeded, the permit is subject to a quota.
A short stay permit L is always issued for a maximum of 12 months, but can be extended for an additional 12 months. For EU citizens, L permits can be extended up to a maximum of five years, while for third-country nationals, a maximum duration of 24 months is stipulated.
Visa for the Schengen area
Within the framework of the Bilateral Agreement between Switzerland and the European Union (Bilateral II), the Schengen Association Agreement (SAA) was signed in 2004 and entered into force in December 2008.
The SAA improves international cooperation between the judiciary and the police. It also facilitates travel between Switzerland and the rest of the European Union. These simplifications are reflected in the fact that checks on the movement of persons at internal borders have been lifted.
What the SAA means for short-term residence (L) permit holders
EU citizens do not have to worry about their movement in the Schengen region. However, the process is much more complicated for third-country nationals. Depending on the country of origin, the question automatically arises as to whether a visa application is necessary to visit another country in the Schengen area.
This is precisely where the SAA comes in. If third-country nationals live and work in Switzerland for more than four months, they receive a biometric identity card. The L permit is part of this identity card. A valid permit can be used simultaneously as a visa for the entire Schengen region. This means that with a valid L permit and a valid passport, foreign employees can move freely throughout the Schengen area.
These regulations also apply to third-country nationals who already have a Schengen visa and are coming to Switzerland for an assignment for a maximum of four months. Since foreign nationals have a Schengen visa, they only need to obtain a work permit for Switzerland and do not require any visa documents in order to enter the country.
The above-mentioned regulations simplify travel for foreign nationals that hold the short-term residence L permit in the Schengen region.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.