01 April 2020


If third-country nationals, i.e. persons outside the EU/EFTA area, wish to establish a residence in Switzerland without pursuing gainful employment, they must meet various requirements under the Federal Act on Foreign Nationals and Integration ("FNIA") and the Ordinance on Admission, Residence and Gainful Employment ("OASA"). No permit is required for a residence not exceeding 90 days (within a reference period of 180 days) as a tourist, but any visa requirements must be complied with. If a longer stay without gainful employment is planned, a permit must be obtained for this purpose, which must be applied for before entering Switzerland at the cantonal migration office responsible for the intended place of residence.

The conditions for granting a permit vary depending on the purpose of the stay. This blog provides an overview of the possibilities of residence without gainful employment for education and further training purposes, for medical reasons and for pensioners. Please note that there is no entitlement to the granting of permits.

Residence for education and further training purposes

Third-country nationals may pursue education or further training in Switzerland (Art. 27 FNIA). However, a stay for education or further training should not be used to circumvent the stricter admission requirements. For this reason, the granting of a permit requires, among other things, confirmation from the school or university management that the education or further training can be taken up. In addition, the persons concerned must meet the personal and educational requirements as well as have accommodation that meets their needs and sufficient financial resources. According to the Migration Office of the Canton of Zurich, CHF 21,000 for twelve months is regarded as sufficient financial resources for living and appropriate accommodation.

Residence for the purpose of education or further training is generally granted for a maximum duration of eight years. It is a temporary stay, which is why the person concerned must also have the will to leave Switzerland again (Art. 5(2) FNIA). There must therefore be no evidence to suggest that the person concerned intends not only to stay temporarily but also - in circumvention of the admission regulations - to stay permanently. In this context, particular consideration is therefore given to age, family situation and previous education, as well as the labor market in the country of origin. The permit requirements are increased accordingly if the person in question comes from a country to which forced repatriation is considered difficult or impossible. If the person wishes to remain in Switzerland after completing his or her education and thus the purpose of the residence, he or she must apply for a new permit (Art. 54 OASA).

Residence for medical reasons

The residence of third-country nationals (without gainful employment) for medical treatment requires that sufficient financial resources are available and that their return is secured (Art. 29 FNIA). In this context, it is advisable to submit a medical certificate stating the treatment required and the expected duration of treatment.

Residence as a pensioner

Pensioners may be admitted for residence under the following conditions: They are at least 55 years old, have special personal and socio-cultural relations with Switzerland, have the necessary financial resources and are not engaged in any gainful employment, either in Switzerland or abroad (Art. 28 FNIA; Art. 25 OASA). The necessary financial resources are deemed to be present if they exceed the amount that entitles a Swiss citizen to receive supplementary benefits. Special personal relations with Switzerland are to be affirmed in particular if proof can be furnished of longer previous stays in Switzerland or close relations with relatives in Switzerland exist. However, according to the case law of the Swiss Federal Administrative Court, the fact that a close relationship exists with a relative in Switzerland is not in itself sufficient. Rather, there must be an autonomous relationship with Switzerland that is independent of the relatives, such as connections to the local community or direct contacts with the local population (BVGer ruling C-6349/2010 of January 14, 2013, para. 9.2.3). The authorities are very strict when considering personal relations with Switzerland.

Derogations from the admission requirements

Under certain circumstances, third-country nationals may invoke a serious case of personal hardship for a derogation from the admission requirements described above (Art. 30(1)(b) FNIA). Thus, in certain cases, a right of presence can be derived from Art. 8 ECHR, which guarantees the protection of family life. According to the Swiss Federal Supreme Court, the family relationship which, on the basis of Art. 8 ECHR, could provide such a right, is primarily the relationship between spouses or between parents and minor children living in the same household. If, on the other hand, it concerns persons who do not belong to the actual nuclear family, a family relationship worthy of protection presupposes that the foreigner applying for the permit is dependent on the person entitled to be present in Switzerland. Regardless of age, dependency can also result from special care or nursing needs, as in the case of physical or mental disabilities (cf. BGE 120 Ib 257, para. 1d et seq., p. 260 et seq.).

Do you have any further questions on the requirements for third-country nationals regarding residence in Switzerland without gainful employment? Our Immigration Team will be happy to advise you.

Authors: Ann Sofie Benz, Aleksandra Simic

Topics: ImmigrationThird-country nationalsResidence permit without gainful employment


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