Workers from third countries

Workers from third countries

All foreign citizens are obliged to respect the legal procedures to exercise their activity in the Swiss territory. So what are the criteria required to give permission to foreigners to work?

Work permits, and in particular their application for third-country nationals, are subject to the Federal Law on Foreign Nationals (LEtr) and its implementing ordinance, the Ordinance on Admission, Stay and Gainful Employment (OASA).

Any Swiss or Swiss-based employer wishing to hire a non-European foreign citizen in Geneva, with or without taking up residence, must follow the following procedures

Researching the local market

Swiss workers must be given priority. Indeed, the Swiss and European job markets must be properly explored through advertisements (newspapers, private placement agencies …)

The announcement of the vacancy must be sent to the Cantonal Employment Office (OCE), 21 days before submitting an application for a foreign worker to the Foreigners and Confederates Service (SEC). A form is available at the following link

An application for a third-country national

An application can be submitted as soon as the Swiss and European job markets are not satisfied with their local search. Therefore, the request consists of the following elements

  • An M2 application form from the Service Etrangers et Confédérés (SEC), which is the same one used for the B and L booklets, is available at the SEC and on the website
  • A general cover letter explaining the employer’s situation, plans and reasons for recruiting a third-country national, including the results of the search.
  • An employment contract ratified at least by the employer,
  • The curriculum vitae with the diplomas (copies) of the foreign worker
  • Copy of a valid ID and two passport photos
  • The situation of the company’s personnel at the time of the application, including the number of employees, their nationalities and the types of permits held by the company

Filing of the application

Each application must be filed with the Foreigners and Confederates Service (SEC) by the employer by submitting a file. The SEC opens a personnel file for each alien and establishes a thorough review. A foreigner is therefore carefully monitored for every move in the country.

OCIRT Demand Analysis - Foreign Labour Sector

The OCIRT is another body that analyses the file. After being analyzed by the SEC, the latter transfers the file to the OCIRT, which continues to observe the application with regard to the respect of the order of priority, the working and salary conditions, the personal qualifications of the foreigner and the consideration of Swiss economic interests.

The decision

Depending on the circumstances, the decision is sent and reanalyzed to the Tripartite Market Commission of the Canton of Geneva. The procedure before the commission takes 2 to 3 weeks for ordinary files. OCIRT directly handles decisions for stays of less than four months between 1 and 6 days. The decision of the OCIRT, of favorable notice or refusal, is sent in writing to the employer. In the event of a favorable opinion, the file must be sent to the Federal Office for Migration (ODM) for approval. All in all, the process takes about eight (8) weeks

The appeal

It is possible to request a review of the OCIRT decision. The employer has every right to make a claim. An appeal against a refusal decision of the OCIRT is possible within 30 days of notification. The appeal process is explained in the denial letter to the employee.

Granting of authorization

The OCIRT always refers the foreign worker’s file to the SEC so that the latter can establish and issue the requested authorization. There is no exact time frame for this process. This depends on the additional information or documents to be prepared by the employer at the SEC.

Special cases - border permits

A third-country national can apply for a border work permit (G permit). The Foreigners and Confederates Service (SEC) is responsible for the preliminary examination. However, these are rare and/or exceptional cases.

The nationals have the possibility to work in Switzerland despite the long procedures to follow.

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