29 April 2020


It is expected that by July 1, 2021, all cantons in Switzerland will have completed the changeover from paper-based work and residence permits to credit card format. The main reason for the change from paper format is its inadequate compliance with current security requirements. The new credit card-sized permits are not only more handy and modern, but also more forgery-proof.

In addition to EU/EFTA nationals with L, B and C permits, the change also affects the following foreigner permit holders:

  • cross-border commuters, regardless of their nationality (G permit);
  • family members of diplomats who are pursuing gainful employment in Switzerland (Ci permit)
  • asylum applicants during the asylum procedure (N permit);
  • provisionally admitted persons (F permit)

For non-EU/EFTA citizens and those who cannot rely on the Schengen Agreement, Switzerland has been issuing foreigners' permits in credit card format since the end of 2008 and since 2011 they have even included the biometric data. In the case of the new credit card-sized permits for EU/EFTA nationals and the other groups mentioned above, however, biometric data will deliberately not be included.


The cantons are responsible for changing foreigners' permits to the new credit card format. They will issue the above-mentioned permits only in credit card format from July 1, 2021 at the latest. In the Canton of Zurich, for example, the new permits have been issued since February 3, 2020. However, there will be no change for foreigners' permits already issued in paper form. They will remain valid until their expiry date, even if this date is after July 1, 2021. An exception is made for N and F permits, for which no implementation date has yet been set.


Applications for L, B and C permits for EU/EFTA nationals and Ci permits for family members of diplomats working in Switzerland will continue to be processed by the municipal services. However, it is no longer necessary to submit a passport photo, as the facial images and signatures are recorded at biometric recording stations in the respective cantons. In contrast to the data capture for biometric permits, however, no data chip is created and no fingerprint is taken. In Zurich, such an enrolment station is located at the Migration Office itself. The appointments for data collection are usually made by the staff of the Residents' Registration Office.

The procedure for issuing a new permit for cross-border commuters (G permit) differs from the above. In this case, the applicants are given an appointment to record their facial image and signature directly by the Migration Office via their employer.


In addition to the change of format, the content of the newly issued permits will also be changed. For example, the current address will no longer be visible on the foreigner's permit. Instead, only the location of the issuing authority and the cantonal abbreviation will be printed. Employer information will also no longer be printed on the permit. The only exception is the foreigner's permit G, which will indicate the employer in the field "Notes".

Furthermore, since November 1, 2019, cross-border commuters from non EU/EFTA countries have to report a change of employment even after five years of employment, analogously to the regulation for cross-border commuters from EU/EFTA countries. Non-compliance with this reporting obligation will result in criminal sanctions.

Do you have any further questions about foreigners' permits? Our immigration team will be happy to advise you.

Authors: Sheila Pfenninger and Beatrice Leistner

Topics: Immigrationwork and residence permitscredit card format


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