Special work permit based on trainee exchange treaties
Work experience abroad is currently in great demand and highly valuable nowadays. To broaden the professional experience and language skills of young professionals, Switzerland has concluded bilateral trainee exchange treaties with several non-EU countries, currently Argentina, Australia, Canada, Chile, Indonesia, Japan, Monaco, New Zealand, the Philippines, Russia, South Africa, Tunisia, Ukraine and the USA (“third-country nationals”).
In principle, third-country nationals are subject to the strict admission requirements of the Federal Act on Foreign Nationals and Integration (“FNIA”). However, according to our experience a ‘young professional work permit’ is a simplified and less bureaucratic way for young professionals and Swiss companies looking for talents to obtain limited work permits and qualified workers respectively.
In principle, the following admission criteria apply for a young professional work permit:
- Third-country nationals who are between 18 and 35 years old (for citizens from Australia: 20-30 years; from New Zealand and Russia: 18-30 years)
- Completed vocational education (apprenticeship, university of applied sciences or university; for Canada also current students)
- The traineeship may only take place in the studied profession or field of study and on a full-time basis (certain professions may additionally require licenses)
- Remuneration must be in line with local and industry standards, particularly for career starters
- Employment contract with usual content as well as a detailed training program
- Maximum duration of internship: 18 months
- Part-time work or self-employment are not permitted
- The number of young professionals may not exceed 5% of the total staff of the hiring Swiss company
The application for a young professional work permit must consist particularly of an employment contract with a specific training program. The application must be submitted by the applicant and third-state national, respectively, to the competent Swiss representation (embassy/consulate) in her/his home country. The processing times vary from country to country but roughly amount to four to twelve weeks upon submission. The third-state national must await the decision abroad.
If the third-state national is subject to visa requirements, a visa must be obtained from the competent foreign representation before entry into Switzerland.
Duration of young professional work permit and extension
A young professional work permit can be issued for a maximum of 18 months. Within this total duration, several stays as well as an extension of the permit may be possible. Once the total duration has been exhausted, the general strict admission requirements of the FNIA, like generally for all third-country citizens (mainly the so-called national priority of Swiss and EU nationals), apply for a new permit.
Exception: admission to compulsory traineeship during educational program
However, if the traineeship is a compulsory part of the pursued education program to be completed, other admission requirements apply. This applies to citizens of all non-EU countries, regardless of whether a trainee exchange treaty has been concluded with such country.
An application for a work permit for a traineeship in Switzerland as a compulsory part of vocational education or studies pursued abroad must be submitted by a traineeship placement organization (e.g. IAESTE) to the competent cantonal labor market authority. In particular, the following documents are required: a certificate of enrollment covering the entire duration of the traineeship as well as a confirmation letter from the educational institution that a compulsory traineeship forms part of the study plan.
Experience has shown that contact should be made with the placement organization well in advance of the start of the traineeship due to rather lengthy processing times.
Permit duration and extension
A work permit for a compulsory traineeship can be issued for a maximum of twelve months. An extension or a further traineeship are not possible.