A Guide to Working Abroad in Zurich, Switzerland

 A Guide to Working Abroad in Zurich, Switzerland

Zurich is regarded as Switzerland’s economic powerhouse and is one of the world’s most important financial centres. Biotech, life sciences, aerospace, automotive supply, creative economy and tourism are all expanding sectors. If you’re looking to work in Zurich, Switzerland’s largest city, you’ll find many jobs particularly for highly skilled workers and those in the financial sector. Foreigners from a country inside the European Union (EU) or European Free Trade Association (EFTA) can come freely to Zurich and look for work. Everyone else, however, must have an employment contract first and there are strict quotas, even for highly skilled professionals.

Most jobs for expats are in the finance sector, such as banking, accountancy, tax consultancy, business consultancy, and wealth management, although this sector has seen job losses in recent years.The presence of Zurich University, the ETH Zurich, and the nearby University of St Gallen all have an impact on the growth of medical technology, microtech, nanotech, and IT industries in the Greater Zurich Area. Other important sectors include architecture, engineering, the media, health, wholesale trade (especially data processing equipment and industrial machines), commerce, shipping, and education.

The Visas and work permits

Most citizens from countries in the EU or EFTA (Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein) can come to Zurich without a visa, look for work for up to 90 days, and work without the need for a work permit. After 90 days, EU/EFTA citizens must prove financial solvency (for example, by having an employment contract) and register for a residence permit. There are restrictions on Croatians, Bulgarians, and Romanian citizens coming to work in Zurich at present.

For everyone else, there are strict quotas; permits are typically limited to managers, specialists, and the highly qualified. Employers have to prove the job cannot be done by a local and apply for a permit on your behalf.


The official language of Zurich is Swiss German although English and French are widely spoken. Many of the IT, computing, banking, and engineering companies in Zurich will employ non-German speaking staff for skilled jobs that don’t involve Swiss customer services. If you can speak and write German you will greatly increase your chances of getting a job.

Zurich work environment

The work environment in Zurich tends to be formal and conservative. Working hours are between 40 and 44 hours per week but can be up to 50 hours a week. Strictly speaking, overtime is limited to two extra hours a day with 25 percent overtime pay or time off in lieu but many people work more than this for no extra pay. There are 20 days annual leave plus Swiss national holidays and Zurich’s own two extra public holidays.

Teaching English in Zurich

There’s not a huge demand for teaching English in Zurich; most residents already have a good understanding of English. However, there are opportunities to teach in a business setting, privately or in one of Zurich’s language schools; for the latter, you’ll need a degree and a TEFL, TESL or CELTA qualification plus a few years’ experience.


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