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How to get a Swiss Residence Permit C (for non-EU citizens)

How to Get the Swiss C Permit - Sansar

After 2372 days of living in Switzerland as a resident, the moment finally arrived: I received my long awaited Swiss residence permit C.

You may wonder why I wanted the C permit in the first place. As a Mongolian citizen and therefore a non-EU person, my country also does not have any treaties with Switzerland. In short: There is no automatic way to get a C permit after five years of residency in Switzerland.

Now that you know my background, I am sure that you will be able to relate to my experience living on L and restricted B permits in Switzerland.

Stage 1: Swiss B Permit in the Canton of St. Gallen

The first time I arrived in Switzerland in 2008, I was a trainee on a one year contract and an L permit. Rightfully. I returned to Mongolia after that year and returned three months later on a B permit for students. Thus, my consecutive residency years started counting from September 2009.

Stage 2: Swiss L Permit in the Canton of Zürich

I graduated from university in March 2012 and started working full-time. Although I had a permanent contract, I was issued an L permit for the first two years. I remember being very frustrated about this decision. My applications for credit cards from Migros Cumulus or SBB both got denied due to the fact that I had an L permit.

Also, it was almost impossible to switch jobs on an L permit, since the permit must be sponsored by the employer. In order to hire a non-EU person in Switzerland, the employer needs to overcome big hurdles and turn in lots of paper work. The reason is that Swiss and EU citizens must be given priority in the job market. Thus, non-EU persons can only be employed if their employer can prove that they cannot fill the position with a Swiss or EU citizen.

I was lucky that I had already been working in the company part-time during my studies. This made it a kind of internal placement. Nonetheless, our HR had to submit an application weighing almost 100 pages in order to extend my permit - every year.

L permits are clearly categorized as being temporary. In the eyes of many landlords, I was not considered a long term resident, making it difficult to rent an apartment.

Stage 3: Restricted Swiss B Permit in the Canton of Zürich

After two years on an L permit, I was issued a B permit for the third year of working in the same company. I thought I would finally be freed from all the restrictions of an L permit, but I was mistaken.

Sure, my credit card applications suddenly went through smoothly, and I would like to think my chances of being selected as a tenant increased.

However, my B permit was linked to my employer and I was still required to extend it every year. This means that just like the L permit, if I were to loose my job or quit, I would have to leave the country as I would have no reason to reside legally in Switzerland.

Mind you that I had been paying unemployment insurance since 2008, but I would have no right to benefit from it if I turned unemployed. All the bureaucratic procedures involved in sponsoring my permit would be a big no-no for any other employers.

Not that I was keen to changing jobs. In fact, I was quite satisfied with my job and I still am working for the same company as of now. But just the fact that after living, studying, and working in Switzerland for years, facing such restriction is "disappointing" at the least.

Stage 4: My Application for a Swiss C Permit

Citizens from countries not in the EU who are holding a B permit can apply for a C permit after 10 years of residency in Switzerland. There are two exceptions where someone can apply for a C permit sooner:

  • If an applicant is well integrated and has five years of consecutive residency on a B permit;
  • If an applicant has been married to a Swiss citizen or a C permit holder for five years.

I looked into the first option, but it clearly states that I needed to hold a B permit for five years. As you know now, I was on a student B permit for 2,5 years and later on an L permit for two years.

Are you still with me? At the time, I was entirely unsure whether those years will count. The worst case imaginable was that the counting would restart from the year when I received my B permit, after the two year gap on the L.

Fortunately, both my years as a student and on the L permit counted towards the five years residency requirement on a B permit (option 1), because the work contract I received after graduating was permanent. The Migrationsamt Zürich has internal regulations that specifically documents this.

Can you imagine my excitement? I would actually fulfill the five year requirement! Next, I had to prove that I was integrated well here in Switzerland. For that, the Migrationsamt has released a list of documents that you need to submit.

In my case (unmarried, no children), I had to submit the following documents:

  • German language certificate on B1 level (Telc, Goethe, ÖSD or certificate from a German language school);
  • Clean criminal record from the Swiss police (can be ordered online or at the post office);
  • Clean debt record (Betreibungsauszug) from every address you have lived at during the past three years;
  • Record of five years of gainful employment or occupation;
  • Record from social offices (Sozialamt) showing that no social benefits have been accepted for the entire residency duration in Switzerland.

How to apply for a Swiss C Permit

There is no specific application form for applying for a Swiss C permit - at least not in the Canton of Zürich. So, when it was time to extend my B permit once again, I received the normal extension application form (Verfallsanzeige) by mail. I filled it out as usual, got it stamped by my HR department, and in the comments section I put:

"Ich möchte eine Niederlassungsbewilligung C aufgrund erfolgreicher Integration beantragen."

Next, I dropped off the form in person at my communal office in Zürich (Kreisbüro). My form was forwarded to the migration office (Migrationsamt) which informed me of number of documents which I would need to submit. Good thing that I had them ready to go, because the deadline was only two weeks out...

Now hold onto something: A couple of weeks after sending in the documents, I received my shiny new C permit valid through 2020! I remember feeling ecstatic with the new permit in hand, finally feeling accepted as an equal member of this country.

All the restrictions I have mentioned above from L and B permits are gone. The only downside of having a C permit is that I need to file taxes on my own since I am exempted from the source tax. But all the privileges of a Swiss C permit by far outweigh this "small" nuisance...

How to Get the Swiss C Permit - Sansar

More Information

- Overview of Swiss Residency Types (Migrationsamt Zürich)
- Documentation about Swiss C Permits (Migrationsamt Zürich, Section 5)
- Also read how Alessandra got her C permit

Sansar Choinyambuu

Originally from Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, Sansar experienced the life in Switzerland as a trainee, student and now as a young professional and still very much enjoying it.


  • Congrats! It has been a long way to the top! Cheers and enjoy your fully-accepted stay in Switzerland!
    When you reach the red passport let us know about it.

  • Congratulations :) I was wondering if Permit L and B holders would be able to sponsor their spouse? Thanks

    • Thanks, I have no personal experience regarding sponsoring one’s spouse. Contacting your local migrationsamt would probably be the best

  • Hi Sansar,
    Congrats, you did it great!
    I have pretty much the same case, may I kindly ask you, if it is ok for you, which kind of documents you did submitted to get the permit. I tried asking in Kreisbüro and Migrationsamt but both told me that I have to apply to be informed. I am afraid they will ask me for something that I do not have or take too long to get certified and I will lose the chance and maybe get blocked for a next time. Would you please be so kind sharing this info. Many thanks in advance!

    • Hello Gil

      Glad that the article has been helpful. As it is mentioned in the article the following is pretty much all they ask for:

      – German language certificate on B1 level (Telc, Goethe, ÖSD or certificate from Allegra language school);
      – Clean criminal record from the Swiss police (can be ordered online or at the post office);
      – Clean debt record (Betreibungsauszug) from every address you have lived at during the past three years;
      – Record of five years of gainful employment or occupation;
      – Record from social offices (Sozialamt) showing that no social benefits have been accepted for the entire residency duration in Switzerland
      Cheers and best of luck for getting your permit!

      • Great, many thanks for your wishes and your kind respond, super appreciate it. I do think I will get quite quick the couple of things I do not have yet. I will keep you informed. Cheers Gil

  • Hello Sansar,

    Congratulations for your residency. I am glad for you. I have a question: I am Canadian and I would like to do a PhD in Switzerland, is there any way that after finishing the program I could apply for residency? The program is supposed to last 4 years. What do you think? Thank you very much and I am looking forward to hearing from you.



    • We specialize in assisting our clients with getting an EU residency permit through Poland. Access to 22 EU countries. Residency & Security for peace of mind.

    • The canada probably has an agreement with Switzerland that you can get the permanent residence permit after 5 years. But please double check this with the authorities.

  • Hi Sansar, our family is American and on a B Permit for 2 years now. If we get the C Permit in another 3 years, are we (you, also) allowed to work or study anywhere else in the EU? Or do yo need to have the Swiss passport? I’m trying to work out how to give our 2 children the best opportunities to live and study and work abroad when they graduate high school. I’d like them to have the opportunity to go back to America, stay in Switzerland or choose between any other EU country. Thanks! And congratulations on your permit!

    • I do not think that swiss C permit gives you any privilege on residency on other EU countries. You can probably stay in any EU country for limited amount of time (3 months) without a visa as US citizen. I do know however, that if you stay out of the country for more than 6 months cumulatively in a year, you loose your swiss C permit. When you come back the whole process starts from zero.

  • Dear Sansar,

    many thanks for sharing your valuable experience with us. This is really helpful and encouraging for all of us. I have 1 question regarding the document Record of five years of gainful employment or occupation. I myself am in a similar situation as you were (3 years on B Student Permit, followed by 2 years on L Work Permit and 1 year on B Work Permit up to now). The question is how can we provide record of 5 years of employment if we have only worked for 3 years in total? How did you go about it? What documents did you provide in this respect (confirmation by company, etc.)? Many thanks.


    • The years spent studying are regarded as gainful occupation. Your degree should be enough to prove this.

  • Thank you very much for sharing your experience. I’m a European citizen and also this week I have requested for the C-permit. However I yet don’t have the language certificate.

    1) How long does it take to obtain the certificate? Can you do the exam right away or you have to wait. My german is not amazing but I think I can get a B1 easily.

    2)How much time they give you to send all the list of documents? Is there a deadline?

  • Excellent discussion ! Just to add my thoughts , if your company wants a IRS 4868 , I filled a fillable form here

    • Nope, i didn’t write a motivation letter. I just sent all the documents along with the filled out extension form

  • Congratulations! Long process, but happy for you, you made it. Great read, liked the ” hold on to something ” part.

  • Hi there! I’m wondering if I could ask you some questions (in private) about the process as I am thinking to apply for the C permit as well! Please let me know if you’d be willing! :)

  • Many congratulations!! Your story inspires many like me. I have a question. I worked for 2 years on L permit and 2 years on B permit (bound to employer) now if I get enrolled to some masters degree program for 2 years does it count 6 years continuous stay or student years dont count? do you have any suggestion?

  • Hi Sansar,
    Thank you for sharing your inspiring experience. I am now in a similar situation. Have been living in the CH for six years. Now, I am working on a company in Zurich and I am on an L-permit, second year. I am basically in your stage 2. My question is if it is at all possible to bypass your stage 3 and directly apply for a C-permit after 2 years of an L-permit?
    Thank you again for the information you provided.

  • HMMM… Long Story… Sad and Happy!
    Congratulation at Last!!!
    Enjoy your Life there!

  • Dear Sansar,
    Thank you for such an informative article!
    Probably you could help me with my situation.
    I’have been a student since 2010, I need 1.5 more years to complete my masters degree. Now, when I’m supposed to apply for the renewal of student Permit B, I’m allowed to ask for the permit C already? I do not want to receive a refuse of a permit C, which I believe will have a negative impact entire profile. So, is it worth a try?
    Thank you in advance!

  • Hello beautiful congratulations,
    I have a question for you. I am actually in Swiss since 2012 for my studies and I got married to Swiss in 2019 so do I get a direct permit c or how does this work??

  • Thanks, Sansar, for a detailed story. I can feel your pain, as I’m a Russian citizen. I also had 2 years on L, and now B (which I have to renew every year).

    Where did you find the information about what documents you have to provide? Is there any official list?

Sansar Choinyambuu

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