For once in my life, getting a C felt better than getting a B. I am talking about work permit in Switzerland, of course.
When I first arrived here, back in 2008, I started as a G type worker. G type permits are for those who work in Switzerland but live in the neighboring countries, and they are the greatest presence here in Ticino - they commute every day from nearby Italy, enjoying the higher wages and enduring the endless queues on the motorway.
G type workers aren't seen with much love in this region. If you have a G permit, the average person in Ticino will think of you as a kind of a freeloader, earning money from them but not spending them on Swiss goods and taxes. Also, they will secretly blame you for the "wage dumping" problem that Ticino is currently facing.
Moving to a "B" Work Permit
I quickly "upgraded" to a Type B work permit. This kind of permit is very popular among those who decide to move here. It means you live and work here. These permits last for five years and have no limitation of the type of work or the city of residence.
Switching from G to B was quick and painless: It required just a couple of forms sent to the local Immigration Office, and there it was a month later!
Graduating to the Ultimate "C" Work Permit
Five years had passed, and as I visited my local Immigration Office for renewing my B permit, I was kindly informed by the clerk that I qualified for a Type C work permit.
Type C work permits are like the highest possible standard for immigrant workers. They don't expire. And they formally compare you to a Swiss citizen - apart from voting and compulsory army service. Hence, type C work permits are seen by Swiss people as the closest thing to a next of kin. My husband and daughter had just gotten their C permits and I was desperately envious of their premium status - I finally got my chance for getting even!
Getting from B to C work permit is (rather) long and complex, at least for an Italian girl living in Lugano:
First of all, I had to schedule a visit to an Italian law court. There, I queued for an hour so that I could get my statement from the Criminal Record Office, in which it said that I was, after all, a clean and diligent citizen.
Then I had to order a similar document from the Lugano government office, where it stated that I was just as good and clean. Of course, the document from Lugano could be ordered online and was delivered the next working day, and it cost half as much. But let's not drag Italian bureaucracy into a fight against Switzerland - it would be humiliating!
No Selfies Allowed!
Then, it was time for the much dreaded visit to the Swiss photo booth. I hate the Swiss photo booth, and I am pretty sure it hates me.
Swiss photo booths are run by a very smart software that recognizes whether you are sitting too high or too low, and whether you're not smiling enough, or too much! They have very strict rules regarding your head's positioning, and of course, you only get to try three times.
Each time I have to get my picture taken at the booth, I put on my best shirt and necklace, I wear make up and go to the hairdresser. I feel like I am going to a first date.
Interviewing with the Law
Then, of course, come the interviews. Two interviews, in fact: One with your local council officer, and one with the police. Both of them want to know all about you, your family, your work, and one thing in particular: The money. For getting a C work permit you really must prove that you can provide for yourself, your family, and then some.
I went to both interviews feeling particularly nervous. I do not know why, but being escorted to a room inside Lugano's police headquarters made me feel like some sort of criminal. When the Police officer told me something that sounded like "The more you tell me, the happier I am.", I suddenly turned into the fat boy from the Goonies during the confession:
And then I waited... And waited... And after a couple of months, it was finally in my mailbox! The C Work Permit!
Now my life as an Italian expat in Switzerland is complete. See you in a few years when I'll be aiming for the Swiss passport - and then I'll look down at you rest of the world!
- Swiss work permits explained on the Immigration Office website and comparis.ch
- Interesting brochure on living and working in Switzerland
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