As we approach the end of 2022, we would like to summarise the past few months but also look ahead into the new year and elaborate on changes that are expected from a Swiss immigration perspective.
Switzerland is known as a country with reliable and consistent immigration processes and rules. 2022 has been an exception and there have been a number of changes to the immigration landscape throughout the year.
Switzerland’s Immigration processes have returned to a pre-COVID status;
- Work permit applications are being processed as per the usual requirements
- business travellers no longer face any additional administrative burdens when intending to travel to Switzerland
- and remote work has even become popular within the authorities themselves.
Introduction of S – Permit Status
The conflict in the Ukraine led to the introduction of a new immigration permit type known as the S-permit. This status enables refugees to obtain a residence status in Switzerland within a short period of time and without undergoing the usual asylum process. Initially, the status was announced for a fixed duration of 12 months. At the beginning of November, the government decided to extend the duration for an additional 12 months until at least March 2024.
Revocation of Visa Collection
In July, the Swiss government decided to simplify the last part of the immigration process for non-EU/EFTA nationals already living in the Schengen Area and who are planning to stay in Switzerland for more than 90 days. Individuals who hold a valid residence permit or valid D-visa from a Schengen country are exempt from the collection of a Swiss visa. They can travel to Switzerland and complete the registration formalities upon receipt of their final decision from the competent immigration authorities.
New Language Requirements
A few weeks ago, and as a result of a judgement from the Swiss Federal Court, the government adapted some changes for certain nationalities in connection with the permanent residence permit (C permit) application process. While previously no language requirements had to be met by those individuals when aiming to apply for the C permit, the government is now asking that applicants provide proof of language skills at level A2 (spoken) and A1 (written). This change will affect the following group of nationalities.
Austria, Belgium, France, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Italy, Principality of Liechtenstein, Netherlands, Portugal and Spain.
Activation of Safeguard Clause for Croatia
As a result of the high numbers of Croatian national works who entered the Swiss labour market since the beginning of this year, the Swiss Federal Council decided to invoke the safeguard clause for Croatia. Starting as of 1 January 2023 Swiss employers will be required to make sure that a work permit is granted to Croatian nationals before they take up employment in Switzerland.
Extension of Services Mobility Agreement Switzerland - UK
Switzerland and the United Kingdom had concluded the Services Mobility Agreement in 2020, effective as of 1 January 2021. The agreement is of temporary nature and was initially agreed for a duration of 2 years. Beginning of November, the Swiss Federal Council decided to extend the agreement for a duration of 3 years until 31 December 2025.
The agreement was and will continue to be important from an immigration perspective, as it covers the notification procedure. This system allows UK-based services providers to obtain work authorisation for Switzerland for up to 90 days per calendar year.
Work permit quotas
Switzerland has a quota system in place, with different quota numbers for non-EU/EFTA nationals, EU/EFTA national service providers as well as for UK nationals. Additionally, Croatian nationals will be subject to quotas as of 1 January 2023 too.
The current data released by the Swiss government shows that the work permit quotas for the year 2022 were not exhausted. At the end of November the Federal Council announced that the number of work permit quotas for 2023 will remain the same. The volumes are:
Quotas for Non-EU/EFTA Nationals :
A total of 8'500 quotas will be available for specialists from Non-EU/EFTA countries. There are going to be 4’500 long-term B permits and 4’000 short-term L permits.
Quotas for EU/ EFTA Nationals Service Providers :
Approved are 3'500 quotas in total, 3'000 L permits and 500 B permits.
Quotas for UK Nationals:
Although from an immigration process perspective UK nationals fall under the category of non-EU/EFTA nationals, they do receive their own work permit quota allocation.
For the year 2023 the Swiss Federal Council approved again 3'500 quotas for specialists from the UK: 2'100 long-term B permits and 1'400 short-term L permits.
Quotas for Croatian Nationals:
As of 1 January 2023 Croatian Nationals will again be subject to Swiss quota system. There will be a total of 1'150 long-term B permits and 1'007 short-term L permits available for Croatian Nationals entering into local Swiss employment contracts.
Please find our blog on this topic with detailed background information here.
Upcoming changes for 2023
Simplification of Process for Non-EU/EFTA Nationals
Beginning of 2022, the government announced their plans to ease the requirements for the work permit application process for non-EU/EFTA nationals. The aim is to reduce the administrative complexity of the process. There are the following three measures planned:
- Removing the condition to proof that priority was given to domestic workers, provided that there is shortage of skilled workers in the specific economic area;
- Allow admission to the Swiss market to individuals who do not have an academic background but instead can provide strong evidence of work experience in the field of activity which is suffering from shortage of qualified workers;
- Ease of requirements for individuals who wish to move from employment to self-employment.
The authorities at Cantonal as well as at Federal level are currently in discussions about the final framework of these changes. The announcement about and introduction of these changes is expected to take place in the first quarter of 2023.
Facilitation of Admission for Student of non-EU/EFTA nationality
The government has decided to change the Swiss Foreign Aliens Act with regards to students completing their studies at a Swiss university. Third-country nationals who obtain a Masters’ or Doctorate’s degree from a Swiss university shall benefit from a simplified process when it comes to admitting them to the Swiss labour market. The new rules are expected to apply to those who will engage in an area that suffers from shortage of skilled workers and only if the activity is of scientific and economic interest.
These changes will also have a direct impact on the work permit quotas. So far, the issuance of a work permit for a non-EU/EFTA national student has required a work permit quota from the non-EU/EFTA quotas. It is foreseen that the quotas will not be applicable to this group of individuals once the changes have come into effect, which will likely be mid to end of 2023.
Recognition of Croatia as Schengen-Country
On 8 December 2022 the Council of the European Union decided that Croatia will become part of the Schengen Area as of 1 January 2023. The Swiss Federal Council has adopted this decision and will acknowledge Croatia as a Schengen Country starting 1 January 2023.
In practice, this will have impacts on the types of visas and immigration documents that Croatia will be issuing and their validity in other Schengen countries such as Switzerland. Furthermore, it will lead to the abolition of border controls to other Schengen Countries.
If you would like to discuss any of the above topics, please do reach out to our key contacts below.