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Old 13.09.2017, 16:13
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South African Charted Accountant - How to find a job in Switzerland

Good day all,

I am a South African Accountant with Big 4 and international experience seeking employment in Switzerland. I know its not easy to get a visa for non EU residents.

I am very very interested in living and working in Switzerland and just need a nudge in the right direction and some insight to the market please

Totally browsing the job boards and doing all I can - applying for numerous jobs and getting the same answer - EU residents get preference.

There has to be a way/opportunity somewhere.

If anyone has tips, please reach out

Thanks

Last edited by 3Wishes; 13.09.2017 at 21:36. Reason: see PM
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Old 13.09.2017, 16:28
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Re: South African Charted Accountant seeking a job

How about a secondment to the Swiss office and taking it up from there?

Are you working in audit or specialised in another area such as tax?

There are plenty of accountant roles out there but most tend to require knowledge of Swiss GAAP or US GAAP (rather than IFRS / SA GAAP).

How good is your German? If you are fluent this might open more doors. If you are not and are really desperate to move here, learn it. I have heard mixed things about how easy or not easy it is to learn German if you are fluent in Afrikaans (assuming you speak it).
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Old 13.09.2017, 16:37
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Re: South African Charted Accountant seeking a job

Sorry, but I doubt you'll be lucky. Not only are you up against the non-EU hiring criteria which says a Swiss employer must prove they can't find a Swiss/EU national to do the job, there's more emphasis on hiring people who already live and work here since the vote to curb immigration from the EU, plus the banking sector has been shrinking over the last few years. What can you offer a Swiss employer that a Swiss/EU national can't?

If you work for one of the big 4 then look to see if any inter-company transfers might be around, but even then they'll still have to give a good reason why they can't hire someone locally.
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Old 13.09.2017, 16:38
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Re: South African Charted Accountant seeking a job

Inquired with Swiss HR about secondment opportunities in my firm - they don't have anything available now

Then, started reaching out to the rest of the Big 4 applying for open positions and as you say, German is required in some instances. However found a few positions requiring English only then it appears as if the firms are not keen to go through the work permit process. Which is strange as usually the audit firms are quite versed in the process in the rest of the world.

My experience is mostly in audit, including some consulting experience too.
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Old 13.09.2017, 16:45
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Re: South African Charted Accountant seeking a job

Yes, consulting / Big 4 are always hiring particularly people with FS experience but, from what I understand, the work permit process is extremely onerous here and there is a quota on the number of non-EU migrants can come here. I believe the quota for 2017 was exhausted last month or maybe even earlier.

Your best bet is either secondment to get yourself here and make yourself more relevant or get yourself an EU passport (probably not British) !

Either way, good luck!
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Old 13.09.2017, 16:48
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Re: South African Charted Accountant seeking a job

It's not a question of them not being well versed in the process, it's the fact that it costs them time and money to make the application so they simply won't do it unless they think they have a good chance of success. Plus in many cantons the quota for non-EU permits has already been used up for the year.

Also note that depending on the job you may need to have your qualifications recognised before you can be employed. This would be the organisation who covers that.

Would you like to work in Switzerland as an accountant or auditor?

Contact:
Federal Audit Oversight Authority (FAOA)
Case postale 6023
CH-3001 Bern
T +41 31 560 22 22
www.rab-asr.ch/en/
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Old 13.09.2017, 16:52
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I read that the quota has been reached, I was thinking of positioning myself in front of the line for next year

Thank you for the information! I will check out the website to recognise my qualifications. Super helpful! Thanks again!

Last edited by 3Wishes; 13.09.2017 at 21:37. Reason: merging consecutive replies
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Old 13.09.2017, 17:06
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Re: South African Charted Accountant seeking a job

As of 31 July 2017, 55% of the non-EU L and 65% of the non-EU B permits had been consumed, leaving 2'040 non-EU L and 1'055 non-EU B permits available.

It is likely that the three economic locomotive cantons, Zurich, Basel and Geneva, are running low on their allocated permits, as has happened in recent years. These cantons then apply for more from the Federal reserves and then go begging to the other cantons with excess supplies when the Federal reserves are exhausted.

See p. 12 for support and details (German):

https://www.sem.admin.ch/dam/data/se...-2017-07-d.pdf
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Old 13.09.2017, 20:32
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Re: South African Charted Accountant seeking a job

Thank you for the useful information about the limitations of the work permits.

So, if there are work permits available, I guess companies do not see the need of going through the process requiring

a) proof that no EU person is available to to the job, and making that investment of time and money

b) having to go the extra mile asking other cantons if they have any permits left in their quota

Is there a way I can apply for the work permit from government and then start looking for a job?

Thanks again, this forum has been so helpful.
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Old 13.09.2017, 20:58
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Re: South African Charted Accountant seeking a job

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Is there a way I can apply for the work permit from government and then start looking for a job?
As a non-EU, I'm afraid not.

The company has to apply for the permit as it hinges on proving that there is no CH or EU citizen qualified, able, and willing to do the job.

Concentrate on where you might have an advantage. What companies would require your unique skillset, what business value do you have that a CH/EU candidate would not? The companies to target might not be the obvious MNCs.

One thing to be aware of: in addition to reluctance/no need to sponsor permits, in these days of extreme belt tightening some companies reject CVs of people they assume will require relocation assistance, assuming that you not only harder to hire but more expensive as well. Think about how you might tackle that question.

It might be a long road, be prepared for that. Be flexible. And if your German* is not business standard, take time now to work on that with an eye to the long term.

Good luck!

ETA:

* Or French. Or Italian. Sorry for the Deutschschweiz-centricism.

Last edited by meloncollie; 13.09.2017 at 21:14.
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Old 13.09.2017, 21:29
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Re: South African Charted Accountant seeking a job

Learn the language, definitely! If you know some Afrikaans, then German would be easiest. If you can learn the basics in another Swiss language, too, great.

Think about what kinds of accounting/business situations you could encounter in South Africa but which do not much exist in Switzerland. Could you become the person who is the specialist link between the Swiss way of doing things (learn online what that is) and this other knowledge you alone have? Can you mix and match the accounting for international business, NPOs, NGOs, emerging markets, in a new way, so that a Big 4 company could find it advantageous to have you on the team, as someone who connects two worlds?

You could also search out South Africans already working in Switzerland (linkdin, etc.) and ask them for their advice, and how they got into and established themselves in the Swiss working Environment.
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Old 13.09.2017, 21:32
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Re: South African Charted Accountant seeking a job

Check out some suggestions in my post on this thread, as well as the other posts on the same thread.

Forget the Swiss HR for the time being - make connections with the right audit partners who can vouch for you. Won't make the permit issue go away, BUT sponsorship/endorsement of senior partners could bypass the HR barrier and considerably increase the firm's eagerness to do all they can to prove to the authorities that they cannot find any Swiss/EU to do your job.
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