• Adrian Tüscher, Partner |

As of 1 January 2023, several amendments regarding Swiss immigration law will come into effect. KPMG Law provides you with an overview of the latest decisions taken by the Swiss Federal Council.

1. Quotas 2023

The quotas for 2023 remain at same level as in 2022. Quotas will be applicable for the following groups of employees:

  • Non-EU citizens both on assignment and local hires (incl. UK and Croatian citizens)
  • EU/EFTA citizens on assignment

1.1. Quotas for non-EU/EFTA citizens

Swiss employers may continue to hire highly qualified employees with other than Swiss or EU/EFTA citizenship, provided the applicable strict legal requirements are met (among other criteria: Priority of Swiss/EU citizens, available quota etc.).

The Federal Council has decided to leave the quota for 2023 unchanged. i.e. for 2023, 8,500 permits are available, divided into:

  • 4,500 long-term permits (type B)
  • 4,000 short-term permits (type L)

The new quotas will be released on 1 January 2023.

1.2. Quotas for UK citizens

The Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons (AFMP) between Switzerland and the UK is no longer applicable as a consequence of Brexit. Consequently, UK citizens are basically treated equally to non-EU/EFTA citizens and their admission to the Swiss labor market as assignees (for more than 90 days in a calendar year) or local hires is therefore subject to quotas. 

The Federal Council has released a quota of 3,500 permits, divided into: 

  • 2,100 long-term permits (type B)
  • 1,400 short-term permits (type L)

These quotas will be released on a quarterly basis starting 1 January 2023.

1.3. Quotas for Croatian citizens

As per 1 January 2023, access of Croatian workers to the Swiss labor market will again be restricted as the number of workers from Croatia has exceeded the thresholds set out in the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons (AFMP). The Federal Council therefore decided to apply the safeguard clause provided for in the AFMP. In total 2,157 permits will be available for Croatian citizens in 2023 (provisional numbers – final figures to be confirmed at the end of the first quarter of 2023:

  • 1,150 long-term permits (type B)
  • 1,007 short-term permits (type L)

Whether the restriction will apply beyond 2023 (max. 5 years) is subject to the Swiss Federal Council’s decision. It is expected that such a decision will be taken in late 2023.

1.4. Quotas for assignees from EU/EFTA countries

Furthermore, the quotas for assignees from the EU/EFTA region remain unchanged. Hence, overall 3,500 permits will be available, divided into:

  • 3,000 for short-term permits (type L)
  • 500 long-term permits (type B)

These quotas will also be released on a quarterly basis. Due to the pandemic, the quotes were not fully utilized in 2020 and 2021. At the end of October 2022, the third-country quotas were exhausted by 75% (B) and 68% (L).

2. Safeguard clause to apply for Croatian citizens

As of 1 January 2023, the safeguard clause will come into effect in order to limit the number of Croatian citizens coming to Switzerland for work since the pre-agreed threshold has been exceeded. Croatian labor was in high demand especially in manufacturing and construction. Further, demand was particularly strong in the hospitality, trade and employment services. An increase in Croatian labor was also recorded in sectors with higher skill requirements, such as planning, consulting and IT services.

As a result, the thresholds set out in the AFMP has been exceeded. The Federal Council has therefore decided to apply the safeguard clause for all Croatian citizens coming to Switzerland. 

In accordance with the legal provisions, Switzerland will reintroduce quotas for B- and L-permits as of 1 January 2023 (see above). Hence, a Croatian citizen may (i) either apply for the Swiss work and residence permit based on a local employment contract after having entered Switzerland by registering with the local population office or (ii) file an application including all relevant documents (i.e. copy of valid passport or ID, copy of Swiss employment contract) with the cantonal migration office which is competent for the future Swiss residence prior to entering Switzerland. In the latter case, the authority will – provided a quota is available – issue a decree (in German: “Zusicherung der Aufenthaltsbewilligung”) based on which the individual may register with the local population office within 14 days after having entered Switzerland, but in any case before taking up work in Switzerland. The second option (i.e. filing an application before entering Switzerland) will ensure the individual as well as the future employer that a quota will be available and that a Swiss work and residence permit may be issued accordingly. Whether the restriction will apply beyond 2023 (max. 5 years) is subject to the Swiss Federal Council’s decision. It is expected that this decision will be taken in late 2023.

3. Job registration requirement

Every year, the Federal Council updates the list of occupations that are subject to registration. This list contains every occupation in Switzerland with an unemployment rate exceeding 5%. Swiss employers are obliged to register open positions of listed jobs at the local unemployment office. In addition, they are not allowed to publicly advertise open positions within five working days after their registration. The regulation aims at making jobs in areas with higher unemployment rate available exclusively to Swiss citizens before offering them to EU/EFTA and other citizens. The job registration requirement provides priority for Swiss citizens over EU/EFTA citizens for a limited period. 

The updated list of job openings which are subject to registration from 1 January 2023 can be accessed via this link. 

The list of occupation types that are subject to the job registration requirement was extended in 2021 and 2022 due to the pandemic and the consequential rise of unemployment. For 2023, however, the number of occupations has been reduced. 

4. Admission of non-EU/EFTA citizens holding a Swiss university degree

The Federal Council has released a message that non-EU/EFTA citizens graduating from a Swiss university or a Federal Institute of Technology with a master or a doctoral degree in an area with a shortage of skilled workforce should have simplified access to the Swiss labor marked. 

Already today, graduates from non-EU/EFTA countries with degrees e.g. in mathematics and computer science may be exempt from quotas in case they pursue gainful work in Switzerland in areas with a shortage of skilled workers. The Federal Council has proposed to amend the Federal Act on Foreign Nationals and Integration (FNIA) regarding such graduates from Swiss universities. In the future, they will be able to stay and work in Switzerland if they are employed in areas with high scientific or economic interest for Switzerland. For such employments, the quotas, which are normally applicable for non-EU/EFTA job seekers, will be lifted. Nevertheless, the other admission requirements (e.g. education and employment in areas with high scientific and/or economic interest for Switzerland) will remain the same. In practice, hiring non-EU/EFTA citizens with a Swiss university degree will be in the discretion of the different cantons and can hence still be a complex process.

It is estimated that around 200 to 300 graduates per year will benefit from this amended FNIA. In general, this group of people is well integrated in Switzerland. 

The planned amendment in the FNIA is expected to enter into force once and if it passes public hearing and the decision by the parliament. 

5. Switzerland extends protection status S for Ukrainian Refugees until Spring 2024

In March 2022 the Federal Council activated the protection scheme (status S) for “people in need of protection” due to the outbreak of the Ukrainian war. The protection status, which was limited to one year, has now been extended by the Federal Council until 4 March 2024. A condition for the lifting of status S is lasting stability in Ukraine, which, according to the Federal Council, is presently not the case.

Therefore, Ukrainian citizens and non-Ukrainian citizens with valid residence permits in Ukraine who have fled the war can still apply for the protection status (S-permit) in Switzerland. The S-permit can be applied at any open border crossing or at one of the six federal asylum centers. The entry visa exemptions for Ukrainian citizens still applies.

The federal as well as the cantonal authorities have agreed to extended support measures and according to the immigration authorities in Switzerland, the resident’s offices of the respective municipality will be responsible for processing the extension of S-permits. 

At this point in time, the registration offices cannot confirm the details of the process of permit extension. It is expected that the process will involve S-permit holders to appear at the local Swiss authorities in charge, in person, and to complete an extension form. As the authorities expect a large demand for permit extensions in the coming few months, an expected processing time is difficult to communicate but the process is estimated to take approx. 3-5 weeks, at least. However, the right to remain (working) will still be valid once the application has been submitted with the authorities, even if the current permit has expired and the new has not yet been issued.

6. Switzerland and the UK extend the Services Mobility Agreement (SMA) until end of 2025

The SMA between the UK and Switzerland, which was due to run out at the end of 2022, has been extended until 31 December 2025. The bilateral agreement applied since January 2021 facilitates access for services providers despite the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union and services to alleviate the immediate effects of Brexit on companies and working professionals. 

As a result of the extension of the SMA, service providers located in the UK may still send their employees or themselves to Switzerland to provide services for up to 90 days in a calendar year using the online notification procedure. The following employees can be registered: 

  • UK-citizens employed in the UK (incl. self-employment); and
  • Non-UK citizens employed in the UK, if integrated long-term in the regular labor market in the UK (either for at least twelve months with a temporary residence permit or with a settlement permit).

Self-employed service providers who are EU/EFTA citizens resident in the UK can continue to provide services if the following two conditions are met: the service provision has started no later than 31 December 2020 and a written contract has been concluded before that date. 

The SMA only applies to cross-border services provisions of up to 90 days per calendar year and per employer. Any local hires are governed by the FNIA.

7. Language requirements for EU citizens of countries with a settlement treaty in place

EU citizens of countries with which Switzerland has concluded a settlement treaty are generally entitled to a C-permit after an ordinary and uninterrupted stay of five years, if the integration criteria are met and no grounds for revocation exist. Citizens of these countries (below) were previously exempt from the general language requirements in connection with a C-permit application.

Switzerland has particularly concluded settlement treaties with the following EU-countries:

  • Belgium
  • Germany
  • Denmark
  • France
  • Liechtenstein
  • Greece
  • Italy
  • The Netherlands
  • Austria
  • Portugal
  • Spain

On 1 October 2022, the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) has issued a directive amendment to the FNIA. According to the amendment, foreigners applying for a C-permit must prove that they possess the required language skills (at least: oral A2, written A1). The cantons are yet to transpose this directive into their practice, but it’s expected that the first cantons will start as of 1 January 2023. Hence, EU citizens of these countries will soon need to meet the required language requirements to obtain a C-permit as a new prerequisite.

The KPMG immigration team will make sure to share any future immigration-related changes on the different media channels (Flash Alerts, Social Media, Client Mailing). In case you have a general query or even a specific case, do not hesitate to contact your immigration experts at KPMG.

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