Assessing travel and visa obligations in Switzerland

When traveling to Switzerland, your nationality and the types of activities you will conduct during your trip will determine whether you may travel lawfully as a business visitor or if work authorization will be required. Please seek advice from your immigration counsel if you are uncertain about the specific types of activities that constitute business or work.

Traveling for business

What types of activities may I engage in as a business visitor?

As a business visitor to Switzerland, you may engage in the activities below. While this list is not exhaustive and other activities could qualify as business, you may:

  • Attend business meetings
  • Buy goods for sale outside the country
  • Tour a company facility
  • Attend a trade show or seminar convention


If I qualify as a business visitor, do I need a visa for Switzerland?

Nationals of the European Union, the United States and many other select countries are eligible for a visa waiver and are not required to obtain a visa to enter and conduct business activities in Switzerland.

Switzerland is a member of the Schengen Area, a free-travel zone comprised of 29 European countries. If your nationality is not eligible for a visa waiver in the Schengen Area, you will be required to obtain a Schengen C Visa prior to travel. Visa-waivered nationals, as well as those who are required to obtain a visa, are authorized to travel to Switzerland and throughout the Schengen Area. Please note that travelers may not spend more than 90 days within any 180-day period inside the Schengen Area.

Working in Switzerland

What types of activities require work authorization?

The activities below, whether paid or unpaid, generally constitute work under Swiss law. This list is not exhaustive, and many other professional activities are considered work in Switzerland.

  • Auditing
  • Conducting or attending training
  • Market rollout
  • Consulting

In limited circumstances, foreign nationals may engage in certain professional activities on a short-term basis without obtaining work authorization, although strict preconditions must be met. An individual assessment is required before deciding whether an exemption is applicable.


If I am traveling to Switzerland for work, what type of work authorization do I need?

The requirements for work authorization depend on your qualifications, on the nature and duration of your work and on whether your employer has an entity in Switzerland. The most common types of work authorization for Switzerland are:

  • Four Months Work Permit (short-term assignee work authorization for work up to four consecutive months within a 12-month period)
  • 120-Day Permit (short-term assignee work authorization for work up to 120 non-consecutive days within a 12-month period)
  • L Permit (short-term direct-hire or assignee work and residence authorization for work from one to two years)
  • B Permit (long-term direct-hire or assignee work and residence authorization)
  • G Permit (cross-border commuter work authorization)


Is it possible to be exempted from work authorization requirements?

Some categories of foreign nationals are exempt from work authorization requirements, including those who have been granted permanent residency. In these cases, a legal assessment to determine the possibilities for work authorization exemptions should be obtained prior to traveling.

What else should I know?

Inevitably, the legal and strategic considerations impacting visa selection, as well as visa waiver and work authorization eligibility, entail the careful consideration of many factors. We recommend that you consult with your immigration counsel before taking any course of action.


Copyright ©2024 Berry Appleman & Leiden LLP. Government immigration agencies often change their policies and practices without notice; please consult an immigration professional for up-to-date information. This document does not constitute legal advice or create an attorney-client relationship. BAL maintains comprehensive immigration information and processing specifics for our clients.