Contractors' Questions: Do I need a visa for Switzerland?

Contractor's Question: Are British citizens required to have a visa to work in Switzerland? As a UK national, I've been told some job sites that I would require a visa for a few Zurich-based contracts. But doesn't Switzerland's status in the EEC entitle free-movement of Britons to work there? If it doesn't, how quickly can I arrange the relevant visa and paperwork to work at a Swiss client company?

Expert's Answer: British, and indeed European, passport holders do not need a visa to travel to Switzerland. Switzerland is part of the EU social charter for the free movement of labour to and from its borders. That said, a person still requires a residence and work permit to work in Switzerland and there are a number of different types of permit.

To obtain a work permit:

* An employer in Switzerland must announce to the competent authority the activity for a short period (three consecutive months or 90 days per calendar year) of the nationals of the former EU Member states.

* The Nationals of the former EU Members States intending to work in Switzerland for more than 90 days are required to obtain a work permit for the length of their stay. The approval of the commune of residency must be obtained to make the request.

* For jobseekers from the new EU Member States, the application for a work permit must be made by the employer to the competent authority.

Fortunately, this process is extremely fast and a person can start work immediately while the paperwork is being processed. As a freelance contractor, you must also be aware that if you work in Switzerland you must work through a company/agency that holds a valid labour leasing licence and manages your payroll as an employee.

The expert was Paul Matthews of Capital Tax Consulting. Further information on working in Switzerland as a British national is available from Sigma.