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G-Permit and Your Rights as a Cross-border Worker in Switzerland

A cross-border worker is someone who resides in one of the neighbouring countries, such as France, Germany, or Italy, but works in Switzerland. A G-Permit is typically provided to cross-border workers.

For decades, cross-border commuters have been such an important part of Switzerland’s workforce.

It is a mutually beneficial arrangement in that it benefits both parties: workers get better earnings than they would in their home countries, and Swiss firms acquire staff for occupations that they can’t fill with local workers.

For example, 60 percent of medical personnel at Geneva University Hospitals (HUG) are French citizens. In Ticino, cross-border workers in the medical field are just as important: the canton’s health industry employs roughly 120 physicians and 500 nurses who come daily from surrounding Italian districts.

Frontier workers are also common in service industries such as hotels and restaurants, as well as retail.

Cross-border workers in Switzerland

According to the Federal Statistical Office, some 343,000 cross-border commuters were working in Switzerland in 2020 (latest numbers available), up from 329,000 in December 2019. (FSO).

The bulk of commuters (55%) come from France, 23% from Italy, and 18% from Germany.

While Geneva has the biggest number of cross-border workers (90,000, or a quarter of the entire workforce), Ticino has the highest percentage (29 percent).

Cross-border workers commute to their Swiss jobs.
Cross-border workers commute to their Swiss jobs.

Who can apply for a G-permit?

If you are a foreign national living in a border zone of a neighbouring country, you can apply.

If you are a Swiss citizen who lives on the other side of the border (as some dual nationalities do), you do not require a work visa in Switzerland.

The State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) defines border zones as “the regions fixed in cross-border workers treaties concluded between Switzerland and its neighbouring countries” — that is, regions that are near enough to the Swiss border to allow daily commuting to and from work.

If you are not a citizen of a border country but of a third country (one that is not a member of the European Union), you can still apply for a G permit if you have lived legally in a country near Switzerland for at least six months.

If you satisfy the requirements listed above, the next step is to look for a job in Switzerland and a firm willing to recruit you.

You cannot apply for a permit unless you have a job lined up.

You can apply for a G permit with the canton where your work is situated after you have a job contract.

What does the G-permit give you access to (and what does it deny you access to)?

The majority of cross-border workers go to and from work every day, but they must visit their primary residence abroad at least once a week.

Unless it’s a temporary contract, in which case the G-permit is only valid for the duration of the job, the G-permit is good for five years. The permits are only valid in the cantons that issue them.

A cross-border permit does not provide you access to a B or C permit, or citizenship in Switzerland.

What are your rights as a cross-border worker in Switzerland?

The Omicron variant of COVID-19 has become dominant in countries across the globe, such as in South Korea and New Zealand. With the looming threat of Omicron outbreak and another lockdown, it is best to review the rights of a cross-border worker in Switzerland.

During a COVID-19 lockdown, your Swiss employer’s firm will have to shut down.

The case is applicable to restaurants (without take-out), hairdressers, and other businesses that were unable to function during a lockdown, not a company going bankrupt.

If you are unable to work for whatever reason, regardless of where you live, you are entitled to receive 80% of your income from your employer if your employment agreement has not been terminated.

Your company should apply to the cantonal employment authorities for partial unemployment benefits (RHT), and you should get 80% of your pay instead of 100%.

Documents and temperature of cross-borders are regularly checked.
Documents and temperature of cross-borders are regularly checked.

However, because social security contributions are computed at 100% of the wage, the net amount you would get will be less than 80% net. If your employer so desires, he or she may pay you the remaining sum.

The Swiss Federal Council voted in March 2020 to expand the RHT beneficiaries’ circle to include on-call workers, trainees, spouses/registered partners of employers, and staff on fixed-term contracts.

Trainees and spouses/registered partners of people in a position equivalent to that of an employer, however, will no longer be eligible for RHT as of June 1, 2020.

Your Swiss employer may only be able to offer you 50% of the time you are entitled to under your employment agreement, rather than 100%.

Regardless of where you live, your company should apply to the cantonal employment authorities for partial unemployment benefits, and you should receive 50% of your paycheck plus 80% of 50%, or an additional 40%.

However, because social security contributions are computed on 50% of the wage, the net amount you would get will be less than 40% net. If your employer so desires, he or she may pay you the remaining sum.

You are sick during a lockdown.

You are entitled to 80% of your pay throughout your time of protection, as long as you submitted your employer with a medical certificate within five days of your sickness.

Even in a lockdown, the terms of your Swiss employment agreement cannot change.

Are you under quarantine and unable to work as a result?

If you came into contact with someone who was infected with COVID-19 and need to be quarantined, a medical certificate must be shown.

Your company may request that you work from home during the quarantine. If working from home is not an option, you will still be entitled to your income since your company will deduct it from your lost-wage compensation (APG).

Can contracts be amended as a result of lockdown?

Please keep in mind that your job contract cannot be changed without your approval. In actuality, many employees may accept contract changes in order to avoid losing their employment in this uncertain economic climate.

If your employment contract was lawfully altered and you only have a 50% employment contract, you can apply for partial unemployment benefits from the social security authorities in your employer’s nation, i.e. Switzerland.

Are you asked to report to work during lockdown?

If you and your company are implementing social distancing measures, and you are not sick or deemed vulnerable, refusing to work would constitute a breach of your employment contract.

If, on the other hand, you need to care for your children because schools are shutdown and there is no other option for childcare, your employer is required to pay you 80 percent of your salary through the “assurance perte de gain maladie” that he or she would have purchased – for his or her employees.

If you are unable to come to work in Switzerland because your employer failed to give you with the necessary signed document permitting you to cross the border from your country of residence to Switzerland, this is your employer’s fault, and he cannot be excused from his obligation to pay you your income.

If, on the other hand, you did not complete the relevant form in your home country justifying your departure from your home country country to work in Switzerland or did not present your frontalier permit when leaving your country of residence to enter Switzerland, you are responsible for not showing up for work and your employer will be relieved of his or her obligation to pay you your salary.

What if you get fired as a result of lockdown?

Double-check that your legal rights were upheld.

Because you no longer have a Swiss work contract, you will be subject to the unemployment laws of your home country rather than those of Switzerland in this circumstance.

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