Becoming Swiss: A higher level of language proficiency required for some residence permits - Tax and Legal blog

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Swiss authorities have published new guidance on the country’s language requirements for residence permits.

What does the change mean?
Dependent spouses of non-EU/EFTA B-permit holders, B-permit holders seeking renewal and certain C-permit applicants may be required to demonstrate a higher level of language proficiency in the primary language of their place of residence at the time of registration or most recent residence after 12 months in Switzerland.

  • Implementation time frame: Ongoing.
  • Visas/permits affected: B (temporary residence) permits and C (permanent residence) permits. The measures do not affect short-stay L permits, 120-day permits or stays under the online notification for up to 90 days.
  • Who is affected: Dependent spouses of Non-EU/EFTA B-permit holders, B-permit holders seeking renewal, foreign nationals seeking permanent residency (C permits) except for nationals from Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Liechtenstein, Netherlands, Portugal and Spain.
  • Business impact: Foreign employees and their family members may need to invest additional time and resources to satisfy new integration criteria in order to obtain or renew their residence permits.
  • Next steps: Employers are encouraged to review their procedures to make sure that employees who are affected by the changes comply with the new language and integration requirements when they apply for an initial work permit or renewal.

Additional information

In August, the Swiss Federal Council approved a set of changes on integration and language requirements for foreign nationals seeking residence permits. The State Secretariat for Migration has now released additional information on the requirements. While each canton may apply different requirements, the new language criteria are generally as follows:

  • Permanent residence (C permits) based on 10 years of residency will require A2 level in oral language skills and A1 level in written language skills.
  • Permanent residence (C permits) based on five years of residency will require a B1 level in oral and A1 level in written language. Nationals of Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Liechtenstein, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain are exempt.
  • B residence permits based on family reunification will require an A1 or equivalent oral skills in the language of the place of residence. Proof of a language course demonstrating proficiency at the A1 level may be required if language skills are lacking.
  • Spouses and registered partners of Swiss citizens and of C-permit permanent residents will be required to meet integration requirements including A2 level in oral language and A1 level in written language.

Until the end of 2019, authorities in the Swiss cantons will have the authority to decide which certificates are acceptable to establish the required level of language proficiency. It is likely that beginning on Jan. 1, 2020, authorities will only accept officially recognised language certificates such as the “language passport.” Additional information can be found here.

Deloitte’s View

Switzerland’s new requirements were designed to improve the integration of foreign workers and their dependents. Employers and foreign residents are encouraged to stay informed of new language proficiency requirements for initial applications and renewals in their cantons, as implementation rules may differ from canton to canton.

If you would like to discuss more on this topic, please do reach out to our key contacts below.

Sponsoring Partners

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Renaat Van den Eeckhaut – Partner, Global Employer Services Leader Switzerland and EMEA

Renaat leads the Global Employer Services (GES) Practice for Deloitte Switzerland and EMEA. He specialises in international assignment and cross-border employment matters and advises on tax, social security and international mobility policies. Renaat has nearly 20 years of experience with Deloitte Belgium and Switzerland and has worked with many companies across a broad range of industries. Renaat holds a Master in Law and Accounting Law and has authored many publications on international taxation.

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David Wigersma - Partner, Global Employer Services

David has 17 years of experience in the area of international corporate and individual taxation planning. He specialises in addressing the complex compliance needs of a cross-border workforce with varied elements of compensation.

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Key contacts

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Timo Heck - Senior Manager, Immigration

Timo is an Immigration Senior Manager at Deloitte in Switzerland. He advises both domestic and international, listed and private companies on all aspects of Swiss immigration and has deep experience in implementing client-tailored complex immigration processes as well as advising on best-practices to accommodate the specific needs of his clients.

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Julia Stutzer - Senior Manager, Immigration

Julia is an Immigration Senior Manager at Deloitte in Switzerland. She has been supporting both global companies as well as medium and small sized enterprises with their immigration needs for more than 7 years. Julia puts her focus on immigration advisory services, advising clients on best practice and coordinating complex interdisciplinary requests with the tax and social security teams.

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