New language requirements – Swiss Immigration

Effective as of 1st January 2019 the revised Swiss Federal Act on Foreign Nationals and Integration (FNIA) was enacted. The authorities will evaluate on a case-by-case basis and in accordance with their own practice, the fulfilment of the following integration criteria:

  • Respect of public order and security
  • Respect of constitutional values
  • Language skills
  • Participation in economic life or acquisition of education.


What is new

The new law provides for a certain level of integration in Switzerland as a necessary requirement for obtaining as well as retaining a work and residence permit.

There are different ways of measuring the level of integration and the authorities may ask for proof of official Swiss language skills or other evidence.

The revised law provides for: 

  • harmonised (minimum) language requirements throughout Switzerland for C-permit applications
  • language requirements for (some) B-permit applicants


Who’s affected? 

Basically, almost all non-Swiss-nationals* may be affected by the new law. 

Three permit categories will be affected by the changes.  

• Family members of non-EU/EFTA nationals who hold a B or C permit through the family regrouping provision are subject to language requirements, except children under 18 years.
• B permit holders with permits converting into C permits will have to meet specific language requirements.
• Applicants for so-called “anticipated C permits”, the language requirements have been tightened.

  * Exceptions only apply where unrestricted residence rights are explicitly provided for in an international treaty. 


New requirements for B-permit applicants? 

As per the revised law, dependent with non-EU nationality aged 18 or older, who apply for a B-permit must be able to demonstrate either: 

• their verbal and writing skills in the language spoken in the region of Switzerland in which they live or intend to relocate to upon presentation of a language certificate (Level: at least A1); or
• that they are at least enrolled on a language course which will lead to acquisition of the above-mentioned language skills.

Caution: These new requirements apply to both: 

  • first time B-permit applications
  • B-permit extension applications


Foreigners with a Swiss national language as their mother tongue will be considered to have adequate knowledge of a Swiss national language. The same applies for foreigners who have completed three years of compulsory schooling in a Swiss national language. 

As of January 1st, 2020, the language certificate must be obtained from an accredited institution. 

It is recommended that organisations anticipate the provision of language courses to comply with the new requirements for their foreign employees that may be potentially impacted by the changes. Providing the appropriate language courses as part of the relocation process for new arrivals to Switzerland seems as an appropriate measure to take. 

For following countries language certificate for B or C permit is not required: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Greece, Germany, ItalyLichtenstein, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain

Next steps

If you have not done it yet, identify your affected workforce and inform them about the new requirements. You might want to support your employees with a list of accredited language courses and language schools. Speak to your local Santa Fe representative for further advice or support.

Should you have any questions, please contact the following:

Frank Jura
Director Immigration Germany & Switzerland

Anne Konikoff
Immigration Specialist

Helena Lillieroth
Immigration Administration Assistant


About our Immigration Services

Our immigration services manage thousands of visa applications every year for a multitude of international companies. Our experienced immigration experts and migration agents handle the immigration process for you and provide simple reporting and guidance on immigration matters.

About us

Santa Fe Relocation is a global mobility company specialising in managing and delivering high-quality relocation services worldwide. Our core competence is providing services that help corporations and their employees relocate and settle in a new country, assisting them with immigration, home and school searches, language and cultural training, property rentals, and domestic and international household goods shipments. We provide these services to a consistently high standard, locally and globally. A key strength is our ability to manage these services through our own operations around the world.

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