Swiss Immigration Law Work Permits for Refugees, Asylum Seekers and S permit holders - Tax and Legal blog


The global competition for highly skilled workers has become crucial to companies’ efforts to stay competitive in the market. Hiring refugees or asylum seekers with the right skillset and relevant work experience offers a unique opportunity for employers to tap into a key talent pool while also supporting this community.

We have summarised below the different possibilities for hiring refugees and asylum seekers in Switzerland and the legal immigration requirements.

Recognised refugees (B Permit) and temporarily admitted refugees or persons (F-permit)

Recognised refugees in Switzerland are individuals who have been granted asylum and hold a B permit based on their refugee status. The B permit is limited to 12 months which is usually renewed as long as the grounds for recognition as a refugee remains.

Temporarily admitted refugees are persons who qualify for refugee status but have not been granted asylum as there are grounds for exclusion from asylum. They are therefore only temporarily admitted to Switzerland, which is why the F-permit is not a residence permit and only entitles holders to stay in Switzerland provisionally.

Temporarily admitted persons are individuals whose application for asylum has been rejected but their order to leave Switzerland cannot be carried out.

Right to Work

Recognised refugees and temporarily admitted refugees or persons are permitted to work anywhere in Switzerland. The employer must notify the employment of such a person via the online tool of the Federal migration office before the individual’s start date. Upon submission of the notification, the B- or F-permit holders are allowed to start working. Their employment must comply with the common Swiss salary and work-condition requirements.

What do employers need to consider?

  • Both the act of employing the worker and the termination of that employment and any change of role require notification of the authorities.
  • If recognised refugees or temporarily admitted refugees or persons travel to their home country or country of origin, they may lose their refugee or F-permit status and therefore also lose their right to work in Switzerland
  • Temporarily admitted refugees and persons are subject to general travel restrictions abroad.

Asylum Seekers (N Permit)

Asylum seekers are persons who have applied for asylum in Switzerland and are currently awaiting the refugee status decision. The N-permit is not a residence permit but grants asylum seekers the right to remain in Switzerland while their application for asylum is pending with the authorities. Its validity is initially for six months and can be extended for periods of six months each until a decision regarding asylum has been issued.

Right to Work

The N-permit holders are not permitted to work in the first three months after submitting the request for asylum. The canton may extend this ban to six months if the individual receives a negative first instance asylum decision within the first three months. Every N-permit holder needs a work authorisation to start working and to change jobs.

The work authorisation application must be submitted by the employer prior to taking up employment and the final approval must be awaited, with a usual processing time of 2–4 weeks. Due to the precedence of the Swiss and EU workforce labour market testing is required and the common Swiss salary and work-condition requirements must be met.

What do employers need to consider?

  • N-Permit holders are not allowed to work in the first three (or six) months after submitting their request for asylum.
  • For employment of an N-Permit holder a work permit application including prior labour market testing is required. Therefore, employers will have to plan the individual’s start date accordingly.
  • Only upon receipt of the work permit approval can the person begin working.

Protection status (S permit)

Protection status S was implemented in 2022 by the Federal Council in order to grant protection to refugees quickly and in as unbureaucratic a manner as possible. Collective protection is granted to a specific group of people for the duration of a serious threat. Once the protection status has been granted, S permit holders are admitted to the labour market upon submission and approval of their work permit request, along with access to accommodation, social welfare and schools. The initial validity of the S-permit will be for one year and it can be extended, depending on the duration of the existing threat.

Right to Work

Any employment or change of job requires a work authorisation. The employer must first apply for a work permit from the cantonal authorities at the place of work prior to the individual taking up employment. The processing time after submitting the work authorisation application is usually 2-3 weeks and the S-permit holder can only start working upon receipt of the approval.

What do employers need to consider?

  • Swiss employers can only apply for the work authorisation once the positive decision of the Federal Migration office (SEM) on the S status is available. The S permit status must be applied by the refugee personally.
  • Terminations must not be reported to the authorities.
  • The S-permit is a temporary permit, and an employment contract does not entitle S-permit holders to remain in Switzerland once the conflict is over and the S permit becomes invalid.

The conflict in Ukraine led to the introduction of the S-permit in March 2022. At the beginning of November 2022, the government decided to extend the duration for an additional 12 months until at least March 2024. For more detailed information please refer to our Tax and Legal blog on the protection status S for refugees from Ukraine.

Recommendations for Employers

Hiring a candidate from one of the above-mentioned groups can present a unique opportunity and additional talent pool for employers to recruit skilled workers. However, employers should keep in mind that they are in any case required to notify the employment to the authorities prior to the individual’s start date, either through the online tool or a work permit application, if applicable. Since most of the permit types are of temporary nature, it is crucial to monitor whether the employees maintain their refugee, asylum, or protection status and that their permits are renewed accordingly.

If you would like to discuss any of the above topics, please do reach out to our key contacts below.

Key contacts


Jehona Islami - Director, Immigration

Jehona is a Director at Deloitte and part of the Immigration Team in Switzerland. She started her career in 2008 and has been able to gain extensive experience in the field of immigration throughout her career so far. She has been supporting both, corporates as well as private clients with their immigration needs for Switzerland. In the last few years, her focus has been on immigration advisory services mainly for private clients, but not exclusively, as well as providing support to corporate clients on best practices and compliance in immigration.



Aysun Inceleme - Manager, Immigration

Aysun is an Immigration Manager within Deloitte’s Global Employer Services. She enjoys working with different global and local clients and being the mediator between clients and the Swiss authorities. In her day-to-day business her focus lies in advisory on the Swiss immigration law and requirements to ensure a smooth delivery of our services. Aysun holds a master’s degree in political science and public law. She studied in Zurich and worked at the Swiss Embassy in Albania before she joined Deloitte as an immigration consultant in November 2017.



Anna Cosmo Walter - Consultant, Immigration

Anna is an Immigration Consultant within Deloitte’s Global Employer Services department. She holds a master’s degree in international legal studies and has started her career with Deloitte in November 2021. In her daily work, Anna supports multinational clients and their employees with cross-border mobility activities to ensure compliance with Swiss immigration requirements. As an immigration specialist, she truly enjoys working in a global environment and helping businesses to meet their objectives, while also addressing employee needs.



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