At the beginning of 2022 a series of measures were announced by the Swiss Federal Council to optimise the admission of qualified specialists from third countries (Non-EU/EFTA). The aim of these potential changes was to simplify the immigration process for certain groups of individuals and thus strengthen the Swiss economy. Now the Swiss government has published the new directives outlining more details about these changes, which are coming into effect immediately.
The Swiss immigration system for non-EU/EFTA nationals is based on the principle of “priority of domestic workers”. In order to hire an employee of non-EU/EFTA nationality, Swiss employers must prove that no equally qualified person could be found on the domestic (Switzerland and EU/EFTA) labour market. This so-called “labour market test” process makes it difficult for Swiss employers to hire skilled workers from Non-EU/EFTA countries.
In order to enhance the innovative capabilities of the Swiss economy, the Federal Council announced a series of possible measures at the beginning of 2022 aimed at removing administrative hurdles and accelerating processes. The purpose of these changes is to facilitate the recruitment of third-country nationals in areas with a proven shortage of skilled workers.
New Changes as of 2023
On 1st February 2023 the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) published the new directive for the Federal Act on Foreign Nationals and Integration (FNIA).
The following main measures have been implemented as of 1st February 2023:
Removing the condition of proving that priority was given to domestic workers, provided that there is a shortage of skilled workers in the specific economic area.
According to the new directive it can be assumed that domestic potential has been exhausted in professions that are demonstrably affected by a distinct structural shortage of skilled workers. Often these are skilled workers who are also not available or only insufficiently available in the EU/EFTA labour market. In these cases the legally stipulated proof of priority in enforcement can be eased.
As a consequence of the new directive, authorities responsible for examining work permit applications may refrain from demanding that concrete search efforts have been made.
The following occupational fields may fall under the enforcement relief with regard to the obligation to provide search evidence:
- Managers (executive positions) in information and communication technology, management consultancy, the finance and insurance sector, the machinery, electrical and metal industry and the production of chemical and pharmaceutical products, as well as foodstuffs.
- Engineering professions, scientists and researchers in mathematical, scientific and technical fields, as well as specialised professionals in information and communication technology;
- Certain Health Care Professions;
- University Teaching Staff.
Allowing 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 a shortage of qualified workers;
In these cases the requirement has been lowered from 10 years and set to a minimum of 5 years of work experience in the particular field of activity.
Implications for Swiss employers
Employers who want to hire skilled workers from non-EU/EFTA countries will face less restrictive regulations. If a Swiss employer wants to hire an employee of a Non-EU/EFTA country for a position within a professional field with a shortage of qualified workers, the authorities may refrain from demanding labour market testing.
With this simplification of process it will be less complicated for Swiss employers to hire qualified Non-EU/EFTA employees who fulfil the above-mentioned requirements. This should also have a positive impact on the overall processing time as well as on the administrative costs related to labour market testing.
Conclusions and recommendations
The new regulations will impact the process for non-EU/EFTA nationals positively. However, given that the changes are specific to certain groups and fields of activity, they leave generous layout possibilities for the cantonal authorities. Deloitte will closely monitor how the new regulations are implemented in practice. We recommend to conduct a thorough review on a case-by-case basis well in advance whenever the requirements for the simplified process seem fulfilled.
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