Help - questions about family reunification


I would really appreciate some advice as I am going round in circles with this on google!

By way of brief background: My husband is an EU citizen with a job offer in Geneva from June next year. I am a UK citizen and we currently live in the U.K. with our children. The first three months of his new job will be working from home (as for various reasons we aren’t able to move to Geneva until September). The offer is for a permanent job. I might have a job with my current employer that I could continue in Geneva, but there’s a good chance I won’t and will have to seek employment once we arrive. Our plan is also for the children (also EU citizens) to enrol in a local school.

I would be very grateful for some guidance on a few queries:

- would i have the right to live and work (including looking for work) immediately from our arrival in Geneva in September (via the family reunification process)? Or is there a delay in obtaining the permit/regarding when I can apply for this.

- could we request a permit for me to live and work in Geneva (through family reunification) immediately upon my husband starting his job in June or would this only be possible once he is physically present in Geneva (ie from September)?

- most importantly, I understand that being a spouse of an EU citizen who is employed in Geneva on a B permit gives me a right to live and work there too, but, for the purposes of finding a job, will I be considered as a National of a third country and therefore be at the back of the queue when it comes to getting a job? Or am I treated equally to an EU citizen, thanks to the permit obtained via family reunification?

- can we enrol the children in a school prior to arriving in the territory? They will need to start in September but we cannot relocate before then (my current contract expires at the end of August).

Thanks so much in advance!

Yes, you have the right to live/work in Switzerland so long as your husband has his permit.

You would have to check with the Geneva migration office re his working for the company before he moves here. Yes, he’s an EU national, but they’d need to see his employment contract and often they also ask for to see your rental contract for where you’re living since that governs who you apply to permits for. If he decided to live in Vaud canton for example then it wouldn’t be Geneva that he applies to for a permit, but Vaud canton. And no, you wouldn’t be able to apply for family reunification before you come because one of the requirements is to show that your Swiss accommodation is big enough to house all your family so if he’s working from home in the UK that simply isn’t possible.

No, you don’t fall under the non-EU hiring criteria under EU family reunification.

Where your children will go to school will depend on where you end up living so no, you won’t be able to enroll them before that. Switzerland doesn’t really have a system where you choose where your children go to school, they’re allocated their school places by the commune you live in.

I would point out that it’s possible for your husband to move here in June and you and the kids follow later. That’s what we did when we moved; husband started in June and then I followed with all the moving stuff in September.

Despite how the politicians plugged it, neither does the UK. What they have is the ability of schools to choose which kids attend!

How old are the kids?

You are not subject to the restrictions of non EU and to make it easier, I would indicate that on your CV so that recruiters do not exclude you in principle based on nationality.

For Geneva public schools, the 2024-25 school year begins on 19 August 2024. You may want to consider having the kids here and settled into accomodation before that if you want them to start school with all the other kids.

As others have said, your location will determine what school they will attend so you need to be here before they could determine schooling. Given the challenges of finding housing in Geneva, this could easily take many months unless you have a huge budget for housing. Typically, people stay on temporary housing until permanent can be found. This could easily involve children being at one school for a short period of time and then moving to another school once permanent housing is found.

Thanks for all your helpful replies!

@Medea Fleecestealer: that all makes sense, thank you for your comprehensive answers to my queries. We are going to query with my husband’s employer how they expect the remote working arrangement to work - the contract says that it is subject to him obtaining the authorisation to work before the contract start date, and says he and his employer must make their best efforts to achieve this. I have no idea how it works in practice though.

@kri: they are 3 and 6 (but the 3 yo will be 4 by the time we move). That’s a useful tip re the CV!

@runningdeer: thanks for this, I didn’t realise they started mid August. I do worry about them having to change school once they have already had to settle into a brand new school. However, if we cannot find an apartment then we might have to do as you suggest (temporary apartment and school).

We are excited to move but equally I am having serious doubts it is the right decision, given how tricky it might be to find somewhere to live within our budget and to sort out the necessary permits and enrol in school 🙁

Well, if he was here in Switzerland it would just be a case of him registering with the commune he’s living in to apply for his permit and then he could go to work. See the FAQ’s here…ml#-1597848978

However, that’s unlikely to apply if he’s working from home abroad.

Bear in mind that as an EU national your husband is not restricted to living in Geneva canton; he could live somewhere in Vaud canton if that’s more likely to fit your budget. Obviously need to think of things like commuting times, etc, but many people work in Geneva and live in Vaud canton.

I'm an EU citizen and was living in the UK when I received my job offer for my Swiss role. This was the middle of Covid (Feb 2021) and I asked if I could work from home (i.e. the UK) for the first few months to delay having to do an international move during a pandemic.

I was told this was impossible; to get a Swiss contract, I had to have a Swiss permit. To get the permit, you must have an address in Switzerland, which requires a rental contract of some sort (mine was just an AirBnB but it still showed that I was officially resident).

So I would double-check on the possibilities of this, if I were you. Keep in mind that your husband's new company's HR department may not be familiar with all of the cantonal residency / permit requirements. And of course, different cantons may have different rules (you'll get used to hearing this about Switzerland).

Good luck with it all!

Consider preparing your children by speaking French with them (assuming you don't already). The younger the easier they learn, and with almost a year to go it should be easy to give them a good headstart.

Here you can see a table explaining the age of starting school.

If your children do not already speak fluent French, they will most likely start off in a class to help them integrate. Such classes teach French in general, but also aim to work out what the children already know, e.g. counting or the alphabet, or drawing and games, and help them to learn the corresponding vocabulary in the local language. They also look for areas in which an incoming child may be further advanced or lack knowledge relative to those already in the Swiss system, so that the gradual transition into the regular school will be smooth.

I’m not sure whether this will apply to the younger child, but is likely for the elder.

What a great opportunity you have, and are affording your children!

Immigration is a bumpy road, so the more you research (as you are doing now, so well done for that) the better it will all work out. You seem to have internalised that “here” isn’t going to be like “there”, and that’s a big mental leap that some newcomers don’t seem to manage, ever, but you already have.

Many who come here start off in temporary accommodation, and then find the right place, later. Sometimes employers help with finding such a temporary home, if asked.

From what I’ve seen, as long as each family member understands that there are going to be changes, and things won’t be completely clear at each turn, and as long as everyone really knuckles down to learn the local language and understand how things work, here, it works out. You may well find that, a year after arrival, you’ll look back and realise how far you’ve moved beyond your current - understandable! - doubts.

Thanks for all of your messages, I am really grateful for your replies!@Doropfiz in particular, thank you for your words of reassurance, it is much appreciated!

I forgot to say in my initial message that my children are already fluent French speakers (it is our “home” language), so I am hoping this will help with the transition (although my eldest has not yet learned to read or write in French, only English).

Fortunately my husband’s new company do seem very willing to give us advice to help with the practicalities of the move and ensuring we have the correct permits. They have told my husband that they are happy to either apply for the B permit or a G permit for him, depending on where he wishes to live.

From this, have a further query, in case anyone could help:

Is it possible for us to live in France and for me to still work in Geneva on a G permit? I understand that I would need to have a résidence permit in France and have lived for six months in the area. What I am not clear on though is whether:

(a) the French permit for “droit de vie privée et familale” (which I understand is equivalent to the Swiss family reunification) would amount to a “permis de séjour durable” for the sake of the Swiss G permit rules; and

(b) if the answer to the above is “yes” + I had lived for at least six months at the French-Swiss border), would I still be considered as a third country national and therefore subject to the ‘back of the queue’ treatment when applying for a job in Geneva? Or would the fact that I have the French equivalent of a family reunification residency permit also afford me this status in Switzerland (ie that I would be treated in the same way as an EU citizen)?

Thanks very much in advance!

Is your husband French? If so I’d live in France and then after 3 years apply for citizenship and make your life a whole lot easier.

Note that while your husband’s employer may be able to advise him, they can’t apply for a permit for him as he is an EU national. He has to apply himself.

Not sure on the G permit side for you. See this:

“Third-country nationals will only be given a cross-border commuter G-permit, if they have a permanent residence permit in a neighboring country. They also need to have had their residence in the neighboring country’s border zone for at least six months and fulfill the labor market requirements. G-permits are usually valid for one year, and are limited to the border zone of the issuing canton. Third-country border commuters require permission to change jobs or occupations.”…willigung.html

If that does apply then you would need to have permanent residency in France which takes a minimum of 5 years to obtain before you could apply for a G permit. Whether that applies if you’re effectively on a family reunification G permit I don’t know. You’d have to ask the cantonal authorities to be sure.

@Medea Fleecemaster - thank you! I checked the G permit point with the Geneva cantonal authorities (I emailed them at 19:30 and by 8:30 the next morning I already had a response - so efficient!). Unfortunately even if I met the permit requirement in France and the 6 month rule, I would still be considered as a third country National when applying for jobs.

So, we will be looking at Switzerland rather than France to live. However, I am now worried about enrolling the children in primary school - according to the Geneva cantonal website, it can take 6-8 months to get a B permit via family reunification. I am not sure how/if it is possible to enrol the children in a Swiss school for August/September 2024 if we don’t get have the B permit via family reunification? They are registered as EU citizens but I am not sure that makes any difference in the situation (ie as they are minors they would still need to come over via the family reunification route)?

Apologies for all the additional questions - I am most grateful for all your tips and advice!

Your kids don’t need to apply for family reunification. As EU citizens they just register in person with your husband. From the day of registration they will be given a school place. (Make sure they have valid EU passports/ID cards).