Foreign population

The foreign population includes anyone residing in Switzerland at a given time who does not have Swiss nationality.

The foreign population's residency in Switzerland is governed by different permissions to stay, which define the length of time people can legally stay. Furthermore, the type of permit granted and the actual length of residence in Switzerland determine whether a foreign national is attributed to the permanent or non-permanent resident population.

The permanent foreign resident population is the reference population used in population statistics.

The non-permanent foreign resident population serves to provide information on foreign nationals who have recently arrived in Switzerland or who stay there for a short period of time.

The different permissions to stay and permits are describe in the Foreign Nationals and Integration Act (Ausländer und Integrationsgesetz) and in the Asylum Act. (Asylgesetz). They are granted by the federal, cantonal and communal authorities.

The cross-sectional analysis relates to the permanent foreign resident population and describes it at a specific point in time, in this case at the end of a calendar year. It shows that more than a quarter of people living in Switzerland are foreign nationals. Most of them are European nationals and hold a settlement permit (permit C).

Learn more: Composition of the foreign population

The longitudinal analysis relates to the foreign population residing permanently and non-permanently in Switzerland - and thus observes both types of population. It aims to study a cohort, i.e. a group of people who have experienced the same demographic event in one year, over a long period of time. A longitudinal perspective, therefore, makes it possible to trace the legal pathways of people who have immigrated to Switzerland. Most foreign nationals who immigrated in 2011 and remained continuously in Switzerland until 2021 obtained a longer-term permit during this period.

Learn more: Change in status

Further information



Federal Statistical Office Section Demography and Migration
Espace de l'Europe 10
CH-2010 Neuchâtel



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