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I'm a US citizen, and my wife has US and and Hungarian citizenship. We live in the U.S., but we'd like to relocate to Switzerland. As we understand it, it's common to go there on a 90-day visa and look for a job, and then obtain the proper permit.

I don't actually need a Swiss job; my US company will let me keep my current job and work remotely.

That being the case, can my wife, as an EU citizen, obtain a permit to live in Switzerland without having to have a job there? As the spouse of an EU citizen, can I obtain one as well?

(We have kids too, who have both US and Hungarian citizenship.)

  • IMHO, EU citizens, or spouses do not need visa or permits to enter or stay in EU. – DavChana Dec 24 '15 at 16:02
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    @Davinder non-EU spouses of EU citizens can be required to have a permit or visa. Also, Switzerland is not in the EU, even if it is part of the Schengen area. EU citizens have to be able to show that they will not be a burden on social services. – phoog Dec 24 '15 at 16:42
  • More important than obtaining permission to be in Switzerland is permission to work in Switzerland, which you will need even if you are working remotely for a foreign company. – phoog Dec 24 '15 at 16:46
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    I should be clearer: under normal EU rules, you will automatically have permission to work. I believe this will be true in Switzerland, too, though you should double check because it is not actually a member of the EU. But you'll need to make sure you are set up to pay Swiss tax on your income; you may need to work as a contractor, either after registering as a sole proprietor or setting up a company or similar legal entity. – phoog Dec 29 '15 at 19:07
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    Switzerland is bound by an association agreement with the EU that allows EU citizens to work there but still requires more formalities than in EU countries. Note that all this is currently up in the air as the Swiss people voted to repeal part of the agreement in 2014 in a referendum that gives the government two years to reach a new agreement or start capping new permits unilaterally (which would automatically put the whole agreement in jeopardy). The deadline is looming and the future of the association is still very unclear. – Gala Dec 29 '15 at 22:28
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As we understand it, it's common to go there on a 90-day visa and look for a job, and then obtain the proper permit.

This is correct if you are an EU/EFTA citizen, sort of. For this you need an L-permit. It is likely you will be asked to prove you have sufficient funds to support yourself:

Since 1 April 2015, citizens of European Union (EU) or European Free Trade Association (EFTA) countries seeking employment in Switzerland can only obtain a residence permit if they have sufficient funds to support themselves.

An L-permit is valid for a year, usually. I suspect therefore you will be required to prove you have sufficient funds to live for a year in Switzerland (I student I know was asked to prove they have around 20,000 CHF). After this time, if you have a normal full-time job, your permit converts to a B-permit (right to reside and work). There are various other possibilities depending on your employment status and going through them all here would be impossible.

To be clear, everyone in Switzerland who has accommodation is required to announce themselves in their local commune on arrival within 8 days, including the Swiss. This is because tax (and actually Swiss nationality) is divided between commune, canton and the federal state. As such, as soon as you move and register your arrival the process will start and you'll be issued an L-permit.

So that covers your wife :) As a US citizen you do not need a visa for a 90-day stay but you do need one for longer than that (and a residence permit if you reside). However, according to expatica, if your wife has a permit of residence in Switzerland you are also entitled to a permit and may join her here.

I am not sure how this would work if you are moving on a short-term basis without a job and I cannot find much info online. I believe that if expatica are correct you will be treated as an EU citzen, but without explicit confirmation I think that the best thing to do would be to talk to your nearest Swiss embassy or consulate, particularly as they can explain what (if anything) you might require. If you are in Switzerland, you can talk to the cantonal authorities in your region. They should be able to give you a clear answer.


Various comments have mentioned a vote in 2014. Said vote was the "against mass immigration" initiative, which requires the federal government to re-introduce quotas on all foreign nationals entering Switzerland to live, including EU citizens. This is obviously incompatible with the Schengen treaty and quite how it will all work out is entirely unknown. There are counter initiatives working their way through the Swiss political system and Swiss-EU negotiations are currently stalled waiting for the outcome of Brexit. The vote was contentious in Switzerland itself (won by a very narrow margin) and a recent vote to automatically deport foreigners who have been imprisoned once their term is over was more thoroughly rejected.


The previous answer mentions the tax situation. As a resident of Switzerland you must pay tax on your worldwide income. As both you and your wife are US persons you will also have to (potentially) pay tax to the IRS. As I understand it, you must calculate your tax return to the US authorities and then you pay the difference, taking into account your tax burden in Switzerland. This would apply no matter where you moved to live in the world. I am not a US person and I'm sure there are more detailed answers on the nuances of this around the site.

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During the first 6 months, you will not need any Swiss permit. This is because of your US residency. Your income will be still attributable to your US permanent establishment, as you will still have your address, and be employed for the US company, regardless where you else travel in the world.

For all Swiss based income, that you perform for Swiss company, you will be taxable in Switzerland and you need permission to work.

Once you pass the 181 days being in Switzerland, your permanent establishment has changed and you should regulate your employment in the US, also in Switzerland.

Regarding taxes, you will have to take care, to lessen taxes, by correctly submitting income reports.

References: https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-trty/swiss.pdf

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    (-1) I think this confuses tax matters and residence/working permit. – Gala Dec 29 '15 at 22:29
  • @Gala, but it's good information, and it matches what my company has said: They can pay me for 180 days, but after that they'd have to have a legal entity in Switzerland. – Kyralessa May 2 '16 at 13:53

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