For members


How moving to another Swiss canton could complicate a foreigner’s life

Even for a Swiss citizen, relocating from one canton to another is often a burden. For a foreign national, such a move could be even more of a headache.

The Swiss flag
Image by Ruth Vivian Aschilier-Foser from Pixabay

As Switzerland is such a small country, you may think that changing your place of work and residence is no big deal, apart from the usual stress of packing and transporting your belongings from point A to point B.

That is true if you move within the same municipality or the same canton, in which case the administrative burden is minimal

But changing cantons is usually more onerous — even more so for foreigners with certain types of work permits.

New canton, new rules

While federal laws apply across Switzerland, the cantons wield quite a bit of power as well.

Each one has its own laws, as well as various rules and regulations — including those relating to foreigners.

READ ALSO: Why Switzerland’s cantons are so powerful 

That’s because certain cantons are more inclusive of foreigners — in terms of political rights and citizenship — than others.

Studies have shown, for instance, that in terms of naturalisaton, “the cantons of Zurich, Appenzell Ausserrhoden and Jura have the most inclusive provisions. At the opposite end of the spectrum, the cantons of Aargau, Schwyz and Graubünden have the least inclusive provisions, generally imposing higher requirements in terms of residence, language, civic and cultural integration, good moral character and economic resources.”

Yet another study revealed that the level of tolerance toward foreigners differs across the country, with the split observed along the geographical and linguistic lines. 

For instance, foreign nationals are “perceived as different” less frequently in the French and Italian-speaking cantons than in the German ones, with the exception of Zurich.

There is also an urban – rural divide at play.

“Openness is comparatively less wide among those politically oriented to the right and those living in sparsely populated areas,” the study found.

Overall, “the population living in urban spaces turns out to be more open to national or cultural difference. Inhabitants of densely populated municipalities generally show more openness than people living in low-density areas”.

All those factors play a role in how easy or difficult a transition from one canton to another could be for a foreigner.

You can’t just pack up and move to another canton. Photo by Brina Blum on Unsplash

But there is more to consider as well.

Other difficulties foreigners could face in another canton are more of an administrative and practical nature:

Work permit

While people from the EU / EFTA states and their family members don’t require a new permit if they move to another canton, those from so-called third countries, who have short-term L or B permits face tougher rules.

They can’t just pack up and move because their permits are not automatically transferred to and valid in another canton.

Instead, they must request a new permit from the canton they are moving to, and that could pose a problem.

The reason is that non-Europeans are subject to more restrictive conditions than their EU /EFTA counterparts, including permits based on the quota system.

As individual cantons have only a limited number of permits for third-country nationals, and the hiring requirements are very specific (only highly-qualified professionals who can’t be found either in Switzerland or the EU / EFTA), it is unlikely that these people will be allowed to change cantons.

The only exception would be if the third-country national has lived in Switzerland long enough to receive a permanent residence B or C permit, in which case they can move around the country the same way as people from the EU / EFTA.

READ ALSO: Does my work permit let me move from one Swiss canton to another?


Moving within the same linguistic region is much less of a hassle than relocating to a canton where a different language is spoken — unless, of course, you are proficient in that language as well.

The linguistic factor is important not only from the practical point of view — the ease of communication and integration — but also because it is a determining factor in whether or not you can obtain the Swiss citizenship.

Candidates for naturalisation must demonstrate A2 level writing ability (elementary) and B1 (intermediate) spoken skills set out in the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages. 

And knowing one national language is not sufficient if that language is different from that of your new canton.

For example, if you used to live in Zurich (and speak German), and move to Geneva, you must master French in order to be eligible for naturalisation.

That may be less of an issue if you don’t plan to apply for citizenship, but will still be important from the practical point of view.

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For members


What are your rights to time off in Switzerland if your child is ill?

Certain countries are more generous than others when it comes to allowing workers to take time off if their child is ill. What does Switzerland allow?

What are your rights to time off in Switzerland if your child is ill?

Under Swiss law, employees working in Switzerland with care responsibilities are entitled – under certain conditions – to take time off work and fulfil their duties towards their children or relatives.

According to the Swiss Code of Obligations the general rule is that a parent is entitled to up to three days of paid leave per incident to look after their sick child and up to 10 paid days each year in total.

What do I do if my child falls ill?

It is important to bear in mind that even with the Swiss law on your side, you will need to follow a few simple steps before taking time off work to care for your sick child.

In principle, taking time off to care for a sick child is no different from taking time off when you are ill yourself.

In either case, you must notify your employer as soon as possible. If you present a doctor’s certificate to your employer, they must grant you up to three days’ paid leave to look after your ill child.

Because of Switzerland’s rather formal working culture, you will usually need to give your boss a ring to let them know your child is ill, but this can vary from workplace to workplace and some companies may be okay with an e-mail instead.

In some workplaces, employees may be allowed to work from home, so if your child’s illness doesn’t prevent you from working altogether, you can ask if this is an option for you (but don’t strain yourself if a lot of help is required).

However, while you shouldn’t be put off from taking a leave when you need it, for minor sicknesses – such as the cold or a flu – most companies will expect to be notified every morning whether you will be working that day.

If you are absent for more than three days due to your child’s illness, you must present additional doctor’s certificate stating the date of the examination (after the initial three days) but not the diagnosis. The latter is subject to strict medical confidentiality in Switzerland.

READ MORE: What to do if you need a sick day in Switzerland

Do I run the risk of losing wages?

If you are employed and unable to perform work due to your child’s illness, then your employer will be required to pay your salary for a period of time based on the duration of your employment and whether your company has a sickness benefit insurance for employees – just as they would if you yourself were to fall ill.

Swiss employment law only mandates that employers offer basic paid sick leave: generally, three weeks in your first year in the job, rising with each additional year to around four months maximum, depending on the canton.

However, many Swiss employers take out insurance that covers a more generous sick pay deal. Individuals can also take out such insurance for themselves, including if they’re freelancers or unemployed.

But while most employers in Switzerland have this insurance, some don’t. If you happen to work for the latter kind, you will continue to get your salary but for a very limited period: three weeks in the first year of employment, with increases for every additional year, up to a maximum of four months.

This period does, however, vary depending on the canton.

Could I be fired?

Employees are protected against dismissal during their entitlement to care leave for a maximum of six months.

READ MORE: Reader question: Does my Swiss employer have a right to fire me when I’m sick?

What happens if my child falls ill several times in a row?

If a child is sick several times in a row or if several children need to be cared for, one parent can stay at home for up to three working days per case of illness and per child.

Parents are required to organise care for their child during this time if the illness lasts longer or, alternatively, take vacation days until their child recovers.

What happens if my child has a chronic illness or is severely ill?

Parents whose child has a serious health impairment and needs more care are entitled to care allowance and paid leave for a maximum of 14 weeks if certain conditions are met.

To classify as a serious illness, the child’s health must have deteriorated dramatically — in other words, a severe physical or mental illness, which doesn’t include broken legs or arms for example.

The care leave must be taken within a period of 18 months after receipt of the first daily allowance and can last a maximum of 14 weeks. Employees can take the care leave either all at once or on a weekly or daily basis.

The daily allowance amounts to 80 percent of the average gross income before the start of the care leave, but is capped at a maximum of 196 francs per day.

READ MORE: How sick leave pay in Switzerland compares to other countries in Europe

Care leave is also granted if one parent works or if one or both parents work part-time. If both parents are employed, each parent is entitled to seven weeks of childcare leave.

However, you can also agree on a different distribution of your care leave. It is also possible for the parents to take their share of the leave at the same time. The employer does not have to approve the change in distribution, but must be informed about the childcare leave arrangement.

Two sum up, these are, per government, general rules:

“A worker may be absent to look after a sick child on the condition that they provide the employer with a doctor’s certificate. The period during which the worker is unable to work may be up to three days, depending on the age and health of the sick child. Some circumstances however, require a longer absence. In that case, the salary is due for a limited period, according to the same rules as those applicable in the case of a worker not covered by insurance (see above). However, parents must try to find alternatives, barring exceptional cases.”