The US has liberal labour laws and employment protections are minimal. An additional aspect of working conditions in the US is that companies are generally quick to hire staff again when business is good ('hire and fire'). Workers have an average of 10 paid days' leave per year, which increases with years of service. 

Work permit

In order to work, foreigners first need a visa, either a 'non-immigrant' visa for a temporary stay or an 'immigrant' visa for permanent residence. Temporary work visas are for people who wish to enter the US for temporary employment and are not considered permanent or indefinite. For each of these visas, the prospective employer must submit an application to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). In order to obtain the visa, the Department of Labor must issue a certificate stating that there is insufficient qualified labour available in the US for the relevant occupation and that the employment of a new immigrant will not adversely affect the wage structure and working conditions of local residents. To work in the US, everyone needs a social security card to obtain a social security number. 

Placement services

There are state employment offices and private employment agencies whose activities are regulated by law.

Foreign nationals can also make use of private employment agencies. These charge a certain percentage of the first wage as a fee, but usually at the employer's expense. There are also executive search firms for executive posts and employment/recruitment firms for entry-level and mid-level jobs. US recruitment companies can also be contacted from Switzerland. The contact details of private employment agencies can be found in newspapers and in the Yellow Pages under Employment Agencies. In addition, a number of charities, church organisations and trade unions provide recruitment services in the US. Many universities across the country have college placement offices that offer career guidance and job placement services. Career centres are interesting for newcomers, as they organise job fairs, establish contacts with companies, conduct workshops, provide counselling and job application training, and arrange internships. 

Recognition of qualifications

There is no single authority in the US responsible for the recognition of degrees and other qualifications earned abroad. Based on international agreements and the practices of the US education system and labour market, three such authorities are recognised:

  • The school or higher education institution, for students with qualifications obtained abroad who wish to study in the US; 
  • The employer, in the case of jobseekers who present degrees or other qualifications obtained abroad;
  • State or territorial licensing authorities, for people who wish to practise a regulated profession in the US and present degrees or other qualifications acquired abroad.

Most of these competent authorities in turn rely on expert recommendations by credential evaluation services. 

Self-employment and starting your own business

When starting a self-employed professional activity in the US, there are many details to consider. These details may differ from state to state. In addition to various visa regulations, this mainly concerns legal and tax-related matters. If you have any questions or doubts, the Swiss-American Chamber of Commerce can provide assistance. Swiss citizens may also contact Switzerland Global Enterprise. A separate network called 'Swissnex' covers the specific areas of science, education, the arts and innovation. It is based in Boston, San Francisco and New York. 


Innovation and Partnerships

Consular Directorate CD
Effingerstrasse 27
3003 Bern


Helpline +41 800 24-7-365 / +41 58 465 33 33

Start of page