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A customs house on the Swiss-Italian border
(Keystone)

The number of people in neighbouring countries but commuting to jobs in Switzerland has been increasing steadily in recent years, and is currently close to 320,000. G-permit holders (those with a cross-border permit) now make up 6% of the country’s total workforce.

Cross-border workers, concentrated in northwestern Switzerland near Basel, around Lake Geneva and in Ticino, can be employed or self-employed. They travel to Switzerland for work mainly from France, Italy and Germanyexternal link.

The rules state that cross-border commuters must return to their main place of residence abroad at least once a week.

Third-country nationals with a permanent residence permit in a neighbouring country are also eligible for a Swiss commuter G-permit. However, they require permission to change jobs or occupations.

Unless the non-resident workers apply for an exception, they are required to take out compulsory Swiss health insurance for themselves and for family members not in active employment. More on health insurance for cross-border commuters is available from the Federal Office of Public Healthexternal link.

With free movement of labour between Switzerland and the EU in place since 2002, Swiss employers in the border regions are used to cross-border workers. Mutual recognition of professional qualifications, exemption from taxation at source, and coordination of social insurance systems help things work smoothly.

The February 2014 vote to restrict the number of EU citizens working in Switzerland raised the prospect of quotas and red tape for cross-border workers, but the compromise introduced by parliament is a light version of what was voted upon.

Under the compromise plan, Swiss residents may have priority when companies are filling new job vacancies. Family firms are exempt, and the priority rules only apply to sectors or regions with above-average unemployment.  For more information on living and working in Switzerland as an EU/ EFTA national, by nationality, see the relevant section of the State Secretariat for Migrationexternal link website. 

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