What is the change?  Switzerland has announced additional language requirements for residence permit holders and applicants.

What does the change mean? Effective Jan. 1, non-exempted foreign nationals residing in Switzerland will be required to provide certified language certificates from an accredited institution. Applicants may need to demonstrate they meet the required language skills to apply for a residence permit.

  • Implementation time frame: Jan. 1, 2020.
  • Who is affected: B- and C-permit holders and applicants. The following individuals are exempted from the requirement if they meet one of the following qualifications:
    • Foreign nationals whose native language is German, French or Italian (the native language must be spoken/recognized in the canton of residence);
    • Foreign nationals who have completed primary school in German, French and Italian, even if the school was based outside Switzerland (the relevant primary school language must be spoken/recognized in the canton of residence) ;
    • Foreign nationals who have completed secondary school or university in German, French and Italian, even if the school was outside Switzerland (the relevant secondary school language must be spoken/recognized in the canton of residence); and
    • Foreign nationals who possess a language certificate that meets the requirements of the Common European Framework (CEFR).
  • Visas/permits affected: B- and C-permits.
  • Business impact: Foreign employees may need to enroll in an accredited language course in order to obtain or renew their residence permits.
  • Next steps: Foreign nationals who are not exempted and are unable to provide a certified language certificate may have their residence permit downgraded from a C-permit to a B-permit. In this case, the applicant would need to wait five years before applying for a C-permit again.

Background: Last year, Swiss authorities published new rules, which took effect in January, on the country’s language requirement for residence permits. Under the new rules, dependent non-EU/EFTA spouses of non-EU/EFTA B-permit holders and certain C-permit applicants are 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. Some B-permit holders seeking renewal may also have to meet the same requirements. The most recent change specifies that applicants must provide a language certificate from an accredited language institute. 

Analysis & Comments: The change further clarifies language requirements and requires most non-native speakers of German, French or Italian to enroll in language courses before renewing or obtaining a residence permit. Employers should note that residence permit renewal applications can also be held to the same requirements. The relevant authorities have the final discretion to determine the group of applicants affected by the changes.

Deloitte refers to one or more of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited (“DTTL”), its global network of member firms, and their related entities. DTTL (also referred to as “Deloitte Global”) and each of its member firms are legally separate and independent entities. DTTL does not provide services to clients. Please see to learn more.  Deloitte Legal means the legal practices of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited member firms or their affiliates that provide legal services. For legal, regulatory and other reasons, not all member firms provide legal services.

This communication contains general information only, and none of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited, its member firms or their related entities (collectively, the “Deloitte network”) is, by means of this communication, rendering professional advice or services. Before making any decision or taking any action that may affect your finances or your business, you should consult a qualified professional adviser. No entity in the Deloitte network shall be responsible for any loss whatsoever sustained by any person who relies on this communication. © 2019. For information, contact Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited.