Getting a Job in Switzerland Without Speaking German

a man using his laptop searching for a job.

Switzerland is an incredibly diverse country when it comes to languages and nationalities. It’s also one of the best places in the world to work abroad. Yet, if you are considering relocation to Switzerland for work, you should be aware of the language requirements of local employers. In the end, the primary language that is spoken there is German. So, can you live and work in this fantastic country with only English?

Getting a job in Switzerland with no German skills is possible. Non-EU citizens will encounter more obstacles when finding a job and getting a residence permit. They must possess in-demand qualifications and skills to qualify. At the same time, finding employment in Switzerland is easier for EU/EEA nationals.

Switzerland has some of the highest proportion of foreigners in Europe, which is about 20% of the total number. Moreover, more than 1.5 million of them are employed in Switzerland. In this article, we explore the options of getting hired with no skills in the German language, how to relocate to Switzerland as an English speaker, and much more.

You could also try to move to Switzerland without a job. Read how to do it in this article.

Can you work in Switzerland without speaking German?

a bay side view of Switzerland overlooking buildings and mountains.

Working in Switzerland without speaking German is definitely possible if you have the right skills for it. Unskilled jobs for English speakers are available in tourism, hospitality, and food services.

Speaking German isn’t essential to get a job in Switzerland, but having language skills will give you a much better outlook.

German is and will always be very important, and anyone who speaks it to a level of fluency will have an advantage in the local market. If you speak Swiss German, you have even better chances.

There are many international organizations that can become your future employer. Especially professionals in IT, engineering, finance, and Life Sciences are highly sought after by companies. 

If you want to work in an international institution or multinational corporation, you may be able to get by with English only.

In local Swiss companies, however, you will always need at least a basic knowledge of the respective languages that are used in the region.

After all, many expats speak only English and work in Swiss or international companies in positions that require only English.

Nonetheless, if your job allows you to work in English, only you might need to speak some German or French to get through daily life. English won’t bring you far, especially in smaller cities and villages.

How much will you make in Switzerland? Check out this guide on Swiss salaries.

Languages in Switzerland

Language requirements for future employees also depend on the region you plan to work in. You might be surprised how language-diverse Switzerland is.

The country is split into different parts where different languages are spoken. There are German, French, Italian, and Romansh parts. Percentage-wise, German is spoken by 64% of the population, French by 19%, Italian by 8%, and Romansh by 1%.

Therefore, if you are considering learning a foreign language while in Switzerland, German will be the best option, followed by French.

Moreover, when looking for a job, you should consider the language of the region where you plan to work.

Working in Switzerland

Many dream of working in Switzerland, but how accessible is the job market for foreigners? Overall, the situation will be different whether you are an EU or non-EU national.

Employment of non-EU citizens requires the applicant to fulfill several conditions in the first place. These might include experience, education, and skill level.

Consequently, Switzerland is known for its restrictive immigration policy and quota system for work permits. Despite these facts, foreigners with the right skills have great job opportunities in Switzerland. Moreover, EU and EEA citizens have access to the job market similar to the Swiss.

That said, foreign workers are employed under the same conditions and salaries as Swiss nationals. So you can benefit greatly while working there.

When searching for a job in Switzerland, you should focus on the most popular cities among foreigners. They usually have a large number of international companies and many positions in English or French.

For instance, Geneva has the highest percentage of foreign employees, about 50%. For a job in finance, check out companies in Zurich.

Look for a job in high demand

Some jobs in Switzerland are in-demand due to the lack of applicants. Foreigners, especially from non-EU countries, have better chances of getting employment and residence permit for these positions. To be eligible for application, you must either have a vocational qualification or a university degree.

Foreigners with no training have little to none chance of getting hired in Switzerland. They simply won’t receive a residence permit. On the other hand, EU/EEA nationals can get a job even with no qualifications.

Some of them include:

  • Accountants/financial jobs, such as auditors, accountants, financial analysts
  • Cleaning/housekeeping staff
  • Highly educated professionals, such as project managers, lawyers, notaries, researchers
  • Chemical, mechanical, electrical, civil engineers
  • Administrative and office staff, such as assistants and receptionists
  • Drivers, such as truck drivers, couriers, drivers in construction machinery transport and public transportation
  • Workers in the hospitality industry
  • Management/executive staff
  • Sales representatives in the B2B, B2C and customer support sectors
  • Skilled workers, such as electricians, welders and mechanics

The majority of high-demand jobs in Switzerland fall into the following categories: 

  • Trade, Construction & Engineering
  • Digitization & Project Management
  • Service sector
  • Health and Social

Read our dedicated article about current in-demand jobs in Switzerland.

Where to look for a job in Switzerland?

Online is the best way to find a position in Switzerland. Here are some of the most popular online job boards in the country:

Work and residence permits in Switzerland

a mid-day photo of Switzerland's view.

Before you consider working in Switzerland, you must check whether you need a visa and a work permit.

Since 2002, EU and EEA citizens have a right to reside and work in Switzerland. At the same time, the restrictions for non-EU citizens have become stricter.

That said, if you are an EU citizen, you don’t need a residence permit in the first three months of your job search in Switzerland.

If your search lasts longer, you must apply for a residence permit for the subsequent three months.

As an EU citizen, you can use the services of state employment offices; they will help you to find the right position. For this, you must register with your regional employment office (ORP).

However, if you’re a non-EU/EEA citizen planning to move to Switzerland for work, you should apply for a short-stay or long-stay visa. To qualify for a work visa, you must first find a job in the country.

EU citizens

EU and EEA citizens don’t need a residence permit if they work for an employer in Switzerland for less than three months or no more than 90 days per calendar year.

To work for a longer period, EU and EEA nationals must apply for a residence permit at the municipality of their residence in Switzerland. For this, they need:

  • a valid identity card or passport
  • a declaration from your employer that he will employ you or a confirmation of employment (e.g., employment contract).

The residence permit will be valid for the duration of the employment, and you can change a job or employers.

Moreover, EU/EEA citizens are free to:

  • Choose their place of residence and canton of employment
  • Change your job and/or employer
  • Bring the family to Switzerland
  • Get a work permit for family members

Non-EU citizens

Working in Switzerland is more difficult as a non-EU citizen. Your potential employer must prove that there are no Swiss or EU citizens available for the position. Only after that will you receive a residence permit.

Moreover, nationals of non-EU countries can only work in Switzerland if they possess particular qualifications. For example, executives, specialists, and degree holders with several years of professional experience have good chances of getting a job and a work visa.

They also must have a work permit to take on any employment, even for a short duration.

The application process can be pretty tedious and bureaucratic. Don’t be surprised if many employers prefer EU citizens or Swiss nationals when hiring.

Your work and residence permit lies in the responsibility of the Swiss employer. That’s why many try to avoid hiring foreigners. Companies have to go through various bureaucratic procedures in order to hire a non-EU national.

There is also a set criteria for granting work permits, including the type of job, qualifications, and nationality. The final decision will depend on the particular canton and the department where the application is lodged.

Work permit

For non-EU citizens, a work permit is usually linked to their residence permit. The type of permit you need depends on your nationality, employment contract, and other factors.

Requirements for employment of non-EU nationals in Switzerland include:

Firstly, your future employer must prove that Switzerland has an economic interest in hiring you and that the employer couldn’t find a suitable person in the Swiss and EU/EEA labor market. Plus, the company must offer you the same compensation and conditions as they would the Swiss employee.

In Switzerland, employers are responsible for getting permits for their foreign workers. That’s why not many companies are willing to hire someone from abroad. It’s just too much work for them.

Working in Switzerland with only English

English-speaking jobs in Switzerland

Where can you work without German in Switzerland? Most common jobs that you can do without speaking German or French in Switzerland:

  • IT jobs
  • Jobs in tourism
  • Software developer
  • Chef
  • Au Pair
  • Waitress/waiter
  • Cleaning personnel
  • Translator
  • Teaching personnel

Tourism, by far, gives you the best chances to get a job with no qualifications in Switzerland. Hospitality and tourism are some of the most significant sectors in the country, employing many foreign workers. 

Hence, tourism provides numerous employment opportunities for Swiss nationals and foreign workers alike, often with no requirements for qualifications and language apart from English. 

The majority of these jobs are seasonal or summer jobs. Commonly, seasonal workers get a permit in Switzerland for three or six months. The visa and work permit can also be easily obtained compared to regular full-time jobs.

For example, you could find work in bars, restaurants, and hotels or in one of the many ski resorts in the Alps, which frequently welcome seasonal workers.

You could also instruct winter sports – English-speaking ski and snowboard instructors are always in demand. Thus, speaking English and one official language in Switzerland will be very helpful.

Where to look for English-speaking jobs in Switzerland?

You can find a job that doesn’t require German skills on one of these websites:

Teaching English

Teaching English is a common way of making a living as a native English speaker. You will have various employment opportunities in Switzerland, including schools, universities, language schools, and others. Here are some of the websites for teaching jobs in Switzerland:

Can you live in Switzerland if you are only speaking English?

You can live without speaking local languages in Switzerland, especially in cities like Zurich, Geneva, and Basel. They all have a high percentage of foreigners.

However, integration into society isn’t possible if you don’t speak the same language as locals do. Besides, it can be challenging to make friends with someone who isn’t a foreigner.

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