So this week Julie and I applied to get our residency permit approved for another year. I still find this whole process easy, but silly. So here is a little bit of information about the different permits you can get for Switzerland. I am not going to talk about the process if you marry a Swiss citizen. That is something completely different. I am sure I am going to butcher some of this; so please do NOT take it as legal advice.
The first is the visitor permit. This is the standard permit you get when you show up at a Swiss port of entry with your US passport. It is a short term permit good for 90 days each year. This permit is granted to anyone visiting Switzerland that has a valid passport issued by another country. This is quite simply a permit that allows you to vacation here.
The next is the L permit. This permit allows you to work in Switzerland, but it is supposed to only be for a short time. The L permit lasts one year, and I believe it can be renewed once. This would be the type of permit you get if your company is sending you here to install some computer software, or something like that. The cynic in me says this is just so the government can get some tax revenue from you.
After this one comes the B permit. This is what Julie and I have. The B permit is the first of two levels for long term residents. The B permit lasts for 5 years, and I think it can be renewed only one time for another 5 years. This permit does come with some restrictions concerning the number that can be issued each year to Non EU citizens. It was granted because a company asked for the permit, and certified that there is no one in Switzerland or the EY that could be found to fulfill the job. These are similar to the H1-B visa in the US. These are limited to about 4500 per year for people not an EU citizen, but the number is higher, because the family members are also given this visa. For a Non EU citizen to be granted one of these permits here are the requirements that MUST be met:
Employees who do not originate from an EU/EFTA
country can only work in Switzerland in senior
management positions, as specialists or other
qualified personnel. Permits are only granted in
the overall economic interests of Switzerland.
A person with a degree from a university or
institution of higher education plus several
years of professional experience is deemed to
be qualified. Depending on the profession or
specialization, people with special training and
several years of professional experience are also
This is a pretty high bar to meet, and basically means that from outside the EU you are not going to be granted a long term residency permit unless you are sponsored by an organization.
The final level of residency permit is the C permit. You an apply for this after you have been here 5 years and there is no expiration date on this permit. This is for the people that have decided they want to make Switzerland their home, but do not want to try and fight through the headaches to get citizenship. This permit allows you basically all the rights, except voting, of a Swiss citizen.
The B permit is an annual permit, for people not from the EU. If you are from the EU it is a 5 year permit. Even for Non EU residents five years is still important. The B permit is valid for 5 years, even though it is renewed every year, and the permit can only be renewed one time. This gives you a total of 10 years on the permit, at which time you either leave, or try and get approved for the C permit. It is tied to employment. I believe the law states the permit is revoked if you have gone 12 months without employment.
I honestly do not know why this bothers me so much, but it does. Maybe I have a little OCD in me. If the permit is good for 5 years, then make it for 5 years. Otherwise, change the wording, and say it is a one year permit, and can be renewed up to 10 times as long as you are gainfully employed. I think the other reason I get annoyed with this, is that the terms of the permit are explained so much better on the non-government websites. On the main government website, the only place I can find where it talks about the B permit is in the section for EU citizens. So I guess the bottom line, is that just like the US Government, the Swiss Government makes things harder! That should probably be what I take away from the 48 hours I have sat and stewed over this whole thing!
These residency permits have been in the news a lot lately. Not so much because of the permits, but because the government has been in trade negotiations with the EU. The main sticking point is residency and ability to move for EU citizens. In the EU, there is full freedom of movement. You can move from country to country whenever you want. The reality is that only a small number of people actually do this. Switzerland though, has basically said anyone can come here provided they already have gainful employment, or are sufficiently wealthy to sustain their own livelihood and be able to purchase health care. The Swiss do not want to open up the borders completely, because they are are afraid people will come here, and then cause the social welfare net to explode. This is going to be interesting, because just like the UK is finding out. An individual country needs the EU a lot more than the EU needs the country. Almost 80% of the products on Swiss shelves originate in the EU. 45% of Swiss exports go to the EU.
Other than the B permit being an annual permit instead of a 5 year permit, the other thing I find irritating are the restrictions upon buying a house. In some areas the restrictions are not a burden, but in the larger cities this permit makes buying a home next to impossible. The restriction is that I can buy a primary residence. That sounds great, BUT… the permit holder can only buy a residence that their family and only their family lives in. In and around Zurich, there are almost no single family homes. It is simply too expensive to build a home for one family. I am itching to do some lawn work, or gardening, or anything other than mopping the floors and cleaning the bathrooms! I would start washing the windows, but it has rained for the last three days, and it is supposed to keep raining for the next three or four days. I hate to waste the time washing the windows when they will immediately get dirty because of the rain.
My final thoughts this morning concern how the rest of the world looks at the US each and every time a gun death makes the news over here. Believe it or not, it is pretty damn frequent. The US has a lot of problems and gun deaths are only one of them. Personally, I am more concerned about the fact that one of our political parties no longer believes in telling the truth. That to me is a bigger concern than gun control. However, at least to what I see here, the rest of world thinks our wild west infatuation with guns is our number one problem. To me the situation should be pretty darn easy. Put limits on how many rounds a gun can hold, start tracking all ammunition purchases, and hold the gun owner criminally and civilly responsible if their gun is the cause of an injury to someone else and self defense was not in play. None of those things goes against the constitution. Unfortunately our politicians do not have enough integrity to actually do anything to try and solve a problem.
I can already hear people saying, ” Cars kill more people than guns.” Those people are right. We also have put all kind of rules and regulations in place that govern the use of automobiles. This even though the constitution allows freedom of movement. I used to believe in the concept that the US could solve her own problems. I realize that our politicians do not really care about solving problems, they only care about the money trough to which they are attached. The older I get the more I think we are simply going to have to live with the devastation we cause each other until the whole system collapses on itself.
Pretty bleak thought to end this week’s post with, but I am in a place right now that I am honestly scared for the place I call home.
Hopefully next week, I can be more optimistic.