Insights on Swiss Language Requirements
| Jehona Islami | Mihaela Dumitru

Insights on Swiss Language Requirements

In this blog, Fragomen's Jehona Islami and Mihaela Dumitru discuss language requirements for Switzerland

In order to help the integration of non-EU/EFTA nationals anticipating to stay in Switzerland for longer periods of time, the Swiss government enacted a requirement compelling non-EU/EFTA nationals to submit a language certificate or an enrolment confirmation to a cantonal language course in January 2019. The intent was for this rule to apply to non-EU/EFTA national spouses or other dependents over 18 years old accompanying a non-EU/EFTA national with a permanent residence (C Permit) or a residence permit (B Permit). The main goal is for these individuals to be able to communicate in the spoken language of the place of residence (German, French or Italian).
 
Our practical experience demonstrates that foreign nationals are still struggling when it comes to meeting this requirement, so in this blog, we give more insights as well as share our experience in practice with the language certificate requirement for Swiss immigration purposes. The focus will be on non-EU/EFTA national spouses as well as dependents over 18 years of a non-EU national B or C permit holder. 
 
Background for the new integration rules 
 
The requirement stated that the cantonal  language competence must be at least at reference level A1. During the transition and implementation period in 2019, the authorities accepted all language certificates or enrolment confirmations, even if the language school or the language certificate was not a certified one. From 1 January 2020 onwards, however, the language certificate needs to have been issued by a certified and recognised language school that complies with internationally recognised quality standards. Accordingly, from this date onwards, only language certificates issued by a provider recognised by the Confederation (State Secretariat for Migration- SEM) will be accepted. Read more here
 
What this means in practice 
 
Individuals of non-EU/EFTA nationality who are already in the possession of a B or C permit or are in the process of obtaining a B permit and who wish to bring their family members to Switzerland would typically have to apply for a family reunion. For accompanying family members who are of non-EU/EFTA nationality, among the usual documents required, individuals need to submit either a language certificate (from the list of certificates accepted) or an enrolment confirmation attesting that the spouse or other dependents over 18 years of age are going to take a language course upon arrival in Switzerland, with the aim of completing a recognised language test for A1 level. Non-EU national spouses or other dependents over 18 years of age of a Non-EU national B or C permit holder already in Switzerland will have to submit the actual language certificate by the time their permits will be renewed, at the latest (as a reminder, B permits for Non-EU nationals are issued with a validity of one year).
 
What challenges do people encounter?
 
Exemptions 
Language certificates can be waived if: 
• The official cantonal language spoken at the place of residence is the mother tongue of the spouse 
• Compulsory schooling was attended for at least three years in one of the Swiss official languages 
• Education at upper secondary level (e.g., apprenticeship, high school or technical college) or tertiary level (e.g., university, college or university of applied sciences) was completed in the official cantonal language
• The spouse can provide medical evidence that he or she has limited cognitive abilities 
 
Need to know more? 
 
For further information and advice on immigration in Switzerland, please contact Mihaela Dumitru at [email protected] or your Fragomen immigration professional. This blog was published on 13 August 2021, and due to the circumstances, there are frequent changes. To keep up to date with all the latest updates on global immigration, please visit our dedicated COVID-19 site, subscribe to our alerts and follow us on LinkedIntwitterFacebook and Instagram.