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I got my Swiss C Permit! :switzerland:

I've waited five years for this!

As the title says, after five years of being in the country, I finally got my Swiss C permit! For those of you that don’t know, this is basically the Swiss version of the US’s Green Card (i.e. a permanent resident), which makes you like a Swiss citizen in every regard but three:

  • You can’t vote.
  • You can’t serve in the army.
  • You can’t run for office.

Aside from that, it gives you countless benefits:

  • It lets you stay in the country for as long as you want, with no conditions on renewal. In particular, you don’t need to keep a job, be studying or anything; you can just stay here and live here as if you were a normal citizen. However there is one caveat: If you leave the country for more than 6 months without telling the authorities, you lose your C permit (unlike with citizenship where you keep it for life).
  • You’ll be looked at more favorably when applying for places that ask for your permit type (one big example: housing), since you can only get this permit after at least 5 years being in the country.
  • You’ll get your tax returns quicker, as you don’t have to pay tax at source and you’ll instead pay this at the end of the year (which means you don’t have to wait 3 years to get your money back!)

The list goes on, but this does give you some noticeable advantages if you live in Switzerland. To be honest, I didn’t notice too much of a difference, since my Polish citizenship allows me to live and work here in Switzerland no problem due to agreements with the EU, but to third country nationals (basically, people without EU/EFTA passports), getting this is a huge deal.

To them, getting the C permit acts as a sort of freedom, since you don’t have to be working to stay in the country. You don’t have the stress of having to renew your permit every year and hoping you’re still employed, since beforehand your permits only last one year (instead of 5). And it lifts a giant weight off your shoulders, letting you finally settle down here without having to worry about being actually able to live here.

Yes, the US actually counts as a third country! Only (most) European countries have freedom of movement into Switzerland, and the US is not one of them.

Some countries are more equal than others

The process for applying for your C-permit depends on your nationality. Independent of whether or not you are a European citizen, some countries have the advantage that they can apply for the C permit after 5 years instead of the usual 10.

Since I was in Switzerland with my Polish citizenship, this means that I technically would have had to wait 10 years to get it. However, you can get yours in 5 years because of some rules I’ll outline below. There wasn’t any clear guide online on how to get it, so I decided to write a quick one for anyone that wants a C-permit and was in my situation.

Getting your C permit

Before I start, I want to mention that I went through the process in Kanton Zurich. The process is probably pretty similar in other Kantons, but I wouldn’t know for sure.

Again as I said, if you are not registered under the select list of countries in Switzerland, to get your C permit, you actually need to be living in the country for 10 years. However, if you can show you’re “successfully integrated”, this process can be cut down to 5 years. What this means in Kanton Zurich is that you can speak B1 German and write A1 German. See Section 6.3 “Erforderliche Dokumente” for more information.

Unfortunately, you have to learn your articles. Not perfectly, but good enough to know how to sort of use them in conversation. I'm not saying I'm perfect yet either! Picture Source.

So, what I did is that after 5 years of living here, I went to the local Personenmeldeamt with the following documents:

  • My University Diploma from ETH.
  • All of my work documents (proof of employment, contracts and terminations).
  • A confirmation that I didn’t get any social help from the state. For Kanton Zurich, you can get this confirmation here.
  • All of my Betreibungsauszüge (Debt Extracts) from the last three years. If you lived in the city of Zurich for this time, you can order them online here.
  • Your B1 German Certification. I personally went with TELC, but you can do any of the following exams: (telc, Goethe, ÖSD, SDS, TestDaF, KDE or fide). Source.

After that, I simply went to the Personenmeldeamt, with all of these documents, paid 110 CHF, and then waited until my permit came. This took around 2 months, after which I got a letter in the mail saying that a package was waiting for me at the Personenmeldeamt. I then went the following morning at 8 am to pick up my C permit which was waiting for me!

Studying :arrow_right: working vs. Working the whole time

My case was a bit special, since I came to Switzerland to study, and then I found a job here. Note that if you come to Switzerland to work, you can get your C permit after 5 years of continuous employment (continuous meaning no major pauses between jobs, i.e. less than 3 months).

However for my case it was a bit different. The years you spent during your studies don’t count, EXCEPT if you stay in Switzerland after you’re done and work continuously for two years afterwards.

Final words

Finally, this is my personal experience going through the whole process, but I’m sure that if you have to go through the same, it might be different. I’m not married and have no kids (yet), but this could be a different process if you’re in a different stage of life than me.