Switzerland : red tape
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All EU nationals and citizens of the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand require only a valid passport to visit Switzerland and Liechtenstein. In theory, stays are limited to a three-month maximum per trip, and six months total per year, but in practice border officials never stamp passports unless asked.

Duty-free allowances for visitors arriving from Europe are 200 cigarettes or 50 cigars or 250g of tobacco (doubled if you’re arriving from outside Europe), 2 litres of wine under 15 percent, 1 litre of alcohol over 15 percent, plus, should you want to carry coals to Newcastle, 125g of butter and 1kg of ham or sausages. There are no restrictions on the import of currency.


Work permits and residency

Switzerland is one of the wealthiest countries in Europe, and so short-term employment can bring rich rewards: serving in a fast-food restaurant could net you £7/$11 per hour; working as a manual labourer half as much again. The problem is getting the right permits. With Switzerland being outside the EU, rules elsewhere in Europe about the free movement of labour don’t apply. A massive and controversial influx throughout the 1990s of asylum seekers from the Balkan states has prompted recent, draconian revision of immigration procedures, and without the backing of a zero-rich bank account and/or some unique work skills, if you try for legal work – especially if you’re not an EU national – you’ll have a sticky time of it in the dense web woven by Swiss bureaucrats.

The official line is that, firstly, only those foreigners who have skills not shared by any Swiss people will be considered for a work permit; and, secondly, that applications for permits will only be considered from people outside the country at the time of application (ie you can’t enter as a tourist and then take up work). This also applies to au pairs.

However, even in Switzerland, rigid rules tend to flex in the face of real life, and if you go out looking for seasonal work in a ski resort or on a building site, you may find employers willing and able to get you issued with permits within a few weeks.

There are several kinds of permits. The A Permit (Saisonbewilligung, permis saisonnier) – valid for the duration of a particular seasonal work project, or for a maximum nine months – is the best you can hope for, and generally covers work through the summer or winter tourist seasons only. The renewable B Permit (Aufenthaltsbewilligung, permis de séjour) is valid for a year, but is issued either to skilled professionals with a job already set up, or to big-time investors, or if your bank balance happens to show a £1 million credit. Hold a B Permit for five years, and you automatically get a C Permit (Niederlassungsbewilligung, permis d’établissement), conferring the right of permanent residence. All these are issued in accordance with an annual quota system in each canton.

Without a permit, you can’t stay more than six months per year in Switzerland. All foreigners living in Switzerland for more than three months must also register with the authorities of the commune (not the canton) in which they reside.

For complete information, contact the nearest Swiss embassy, or – for plainer answers – get Living and Working in Switzerland by David Hampshire, published by Survival Books in London (www.survivalbooks.net).

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