How does the migrants’ legal status evolve over time?


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Most foreigners arrive in Switzerland with a short-term permit (L permit) or annually renewable residence permit (B permit). In the years following their arrival, they gradually progress to other, more long-term types of residence status such as the settlement permit (C permit) or Swiss nationality.

As one would expect, those who already hold a B permit when they enter Switzerland remain in the country for longer than those who hold short-term permits. Of this first group, the majority of those who stay in Switzerland obtain a settlement permit after five years of residence. The proportion of naturalized persons in this population is also higher than among those who entered with an L permit. By contrast, those who hold a short-term permit are more likely to return to their country of origin (more than half leave Switzerland after just one year) and take longer to obtain a settlement permit.

These results clearly indicate that the different types of permit play the role assigned by migration policy to date – on the one hand to authorize a short-term stay (L permit), and on the other hand as the first stage of a longer term residence (B permit). The planned legislative changes mark a turning point in this respect, as the criteria for obtaining a settlement permit will become stricter.

It is worth noting that of those who arrived in Switzerland with a B permit, almost 40% left the country after fifteen years.

How many migrants get naturalized over time?


L permit: short-term permit (up to twelve months)

B permit: residence permit (renewable annually)

C permit: settlement permit (after five or ten years)

Source: Swiss Federal Statistical Office, Central Register of Foreigners (1998–2007), SYMIC Register (2008–2010), STATPOP statistics (2010–2014)

Note on the methodology: The graph shows the type of residence permit held by persons who arrived over the course of one year holding a B or L permit (regardless of age on arrival or reason for entry). Only immigrants who were still in Switzerland at the end of the year are included. Those who stayed only for a short time are excluded. These people were monitored for fifteen years and at the end of each year a note was made of their current residence permit.

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