SWITZERLAND: Stricter Language Requirements Now in Force

Effective 1 January 2020, existing language requirements must be evidenced using recognized language diplomas/certificates, from accredited institutions.

The language requirements were updated effective 1 January 2019 but, until the end of 2019, the Swiss cantons had the authority to decide which certificates were acceptable to prove the required level of language proficiency.

Who is affected?

The language proficiency criteria affect, among others, applicants for new non-EU/EFTA temporary residence permits (type B) for family reunion and applicants for permanent residence permits (type C).

The changes do not apply to holders of short-stay L permits, 120-day permits or those coming to work in Switzerland with just an online notification, nor to spouses of EU/EFTA nationals.

Exemptions

No proof of language skills is required for applicants whose native language is the one spoken at their place of residence in Switzerland, or who have completed primary school, secondary school or university in the language spoken at their place of residence in Switzerland.

Nationals of Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Liechtenstein, Netherlands, Portugal and Spain are also exempt.

Language skills

  • For a permanent residence permit (type C) based on residency of ten years (or five years depending on nationality or immigration status as spouse or registered partner of a Swiss national or as spouse of a C permit holder), the applicant must demonstrate oral language skill of level A2 and written language skill of A1.
  • For an anticipated request for a permanent residence permit (type C), the applicant must demonstrate oral language skill of level B1 and written language skill of A1.
  • For a residence permit (type B) for family reunification, the applicant will have to demonstrate oral language skill of level A1.

Sanctions

Authorities may impose sanctions if integration agreements are not fulfilled:

  • A permanent residence permit (type C) may be downgraded to a temporary residence permit (type B);
  • A temporary residence permit (type B) may be revoked if the permit holder does not comply with the terms of the integration agreement for non-excusable reasons.

Our Advice 

Employers who may be affected should consult a Newland Chase immigration specialist for case-specific advice.

For general advice and information on immigration and business travel to Switzerland, please contact us.