Planned amendments to Swiss immigration law (FNIA)

Discover how proposed changes to the FNIA could redefine the residence criteria for non-Swiss nationals and impact Swiss employers.

Center of life interest in Switzerland as a new formal legal criterion for a Swiss residence permit? Read more about the planned amendments in our blog:

Center of life interest – contemplated Swiss immigration legislation changes and their effects for non-Swiss nationals

What would change?

The planned modernization of the FNIA aims to stipulate that a Swiss residence permit may only be obtained and retained if the person's center of life interest is located in Switzerland. Additionally, it is proposed that the permit be revoked if the center of life interest is moved abroad.

The rationale behind this amendment is to clarify the criteria for granting residence permits. The concept of the required center of life interest has recently been perceived as being diluted by Swiss court rulings. 

Who would be affected?

The legislative changes would affect non-EU/EFTA citizens applying for or holding a Swiss residence permit. 

Short-stay permits and cross-border permits will not be affected by this potential change, given that they do not, by definition, require a center of life interest in Switzerland.

The proposed changes will not apply to citizens of the EU/EFTA (and the United Kingdom, if covered by the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons AFMP), as the AFMP does not require a center of life interest in the host country. However, it should be noted that – irrespective of the possible changes discussed in this article - recent Swiss court rulings also require EU/EFTA nationals to be willing to settle in Switzerland in order to obtain/keep a residence permit. Therefore, if the person concerned is a cross-border commuter, in absence of said willingness to settle in Switzerland, any existing EU/EFTA residence permit may be revoked and replaced by an EU/EFTA cross-border commuter permit.

What does “center of life” mean in the context of Swiss immigration legislation?

When evaluating the focal point of an individual's life, several criteria are taken into account. The primary determinant is not simply where someone works or goes to school, or even where they spend most of their time. Rather, the focus is on where their domestic, family, social and private life unfolds. Indicators used for such assessments may include the residence of the nuclear family, the frequency of the person's presence at their home address, insights from social services or local authorities, and activity on social media platforms. In addition, evidence may be obtained through police investigations at the individual's residence, testimony from neighbors or landlords, telephone records, financial transactions, rental agreements, passport stamps or testimony from third parties through interviews.

The inherent risk for employers 

The proposed shift towards greater use of the ‘center of life interest’ principle poses certain risks for employers. In order to obtain a Swiss work permit, employers often rely on the employee's center of life interest being in Switzerland. If the employee fails to provide this proof and subsequently does not receive the work permit or its extension, the employer may be at a disadvantage. However, data protection regulations may limit the employer’s ability to obtain all relevant information from the employee. Implementing processes to monitor changes and their impact in a compliant manner that protects both the employee and the employer will be critical.

When will the amendments come into force?

For now it remains uncertain if and when these changes will be implemented. We expect updates from the Swiss authorities in the coming months.

The KPMG Immigration Team is monitoring the developments and will keep you updated.

Shirin Yasargil

Director, Attorney-at-Law, HR Legal Services

KPMG Switzerland

Blog author Michelle Koller
Michelle Koller

Expert,Legal Services

KPMG Switzerland