The Swiss Federal Authority has published all new permit quotas for 2024. Please find all the details as well as updates on the admission of non-EU/EFTA citizens with a Swiss university degree and an update on Brexit’s impact on Swiss immigration. You can find updates on further topics in part I of our Immigration Outlook Blog.
1. Quotas 2024
The Swiss Federal Council has announced that the permit quotas for 2024 will remain at same level as in 2023. Quotas will be applicable to the following groups of employees:
- Non-EU/EFTA nationals
- EU/EFTA nationals on assignment
- UK nationals
- Croatian nationals
The annual quotas are rarely used up. Unused quotas from 2023 and earlier years are always carried over to the next year. Therefore, the released quotas are expected to be sufficient for the next year. Nevertheless, and particularly for the EU/EFTA and UK quotas which are released on a quarterly basis, it is worth checking the status of the quota and the best time to apply before applying for a particular type of permit.
Quotas for non-EU/EFTA nationals
There will be 8,500 permits available for non-EU/EFTA nationals coming to work in Switzerland (on assignment or locally hired). They are divided into:
- 4,500 long-term B permits
- 4,000 short-term L permits
The new quotas will be released on 1 January 2024. As at October 2023 the utilization rate was 68% for B permits and 65% for L permits.
Quotas for EU/EFTA nationals on assignment
For assignees from the EU/EFTA region there will be 3,500 permits available for 2024. They will be divided into:
- 3,000 short-term L permits
- 500 long-term B permits
The quotas are released on a quarterly basis. As at October 2023 the utilization rate was 36% for B permits and 45% for L permits.
Quotas for UK citizens
On 1 January 2021, the Free Movement Agreement (FZA) between Switzerland and the United Kingdom ceased to apply. Since then, UK nationals have been deemed as third-country nationals and, as a transitional measure, have been subject to separate temporary quotas. It is planned, however, to integrate the UK special quota into the regular quota in the medium term.
For 2024 the Federal Council has released a quota of 3,500 permits, divided into:
- 2,100 long-term B permits
- 1,400 short-term L permits
These quotas will be released on a quarterly basis starting on 1 January 2024. As at October 2023 the utilization rate was 23% for B permits and 18% for L permits.
Quotas for Croatian citizens
On 22 November 22 2023, the Federal Council decided to continue applying the safeguard clause outlined in the Free Movement Agreement concerning workers from Croatia also next year. The number of permits available will remain the same as in 2023.
- 1,204 long-term B permits
- 1,053 short-term L permits
As at the end of October 2023, the entire quota of 1204 B permits had been utilized, while 76% of the available 1053 L permits (short-term permits extendable beyond one year) were used.
2. Admission of non-EU/EFTA citizens with a Swiss university degree
The Federal Council has put forward a message aiming to simplify access to the Swiss job market for non-EU/EFTA citizens who graduate from Swiss universities or Federal Institutes of Technology with master's or doctoral degrees in fields facing a shortage of skilled workers.
Presently, graduates from non-EU/EFTA nations in subjects such as mathematics and computer science might be exempt from quotas if they seek employment in Switzerland within skill-scarce domains. The proposed amendment to the Federal Act on Foreign Nationals and Integration (FNIA) specifically targets graduates from Swiss institutions. It intends to enable them to work and stay in Switzerland, provided their employment aligns with Switzerland's high scientific or economic interests. Although this would waive the typical quotas for non-EU/EFTA job seekers, the essential admission criteria – such as education and employment in crucial Swiss sectors – remain unchanged. The discretion to grant such graduates to be hired will remain with the individual cantons, which could lead to a complex hiring process.
In recent updates, following amendments made by the National Council in March 2023, the Swiss Council of State rejected the proposal outright in its October 2023 session based on constitutional violations. Consequently, the proposal is now back with the National Council's Commission. The current outlook suggests that a final decision on this proposal might take several months. Complicating matters further, Switzerland is currently experiencing a historic surge in immigration from EU countries, intensifying discussions around relaxing immigration rules for non-EU nationals.
The Services Mobility Agreement (SMA) between the UK and Switzerland, initially scheduled to conclude at the close of 2022, has been extended and will now remain in effect until 31 December 2025. This bilateral agreement, operational since 1 January 2021, continues to be instrumental in streamlining market access and temporary stays for UK service providers in Switzerland, serving as a mitigating measure against the immediate repercussions of Brexit.
The SMA enables service providers in the UK to continue sending employees to Switzerland for up to 90 days annually using the online registration procedure. Eligible individuals include UK nationals employed in the UK and non-UK nationals employed in the UK who are permanently admitted to the UK labor market.
In practice, this means that UK-based entities will still be able to use the online registration process for short-term work in Switzerland (up to 90 days per calendar year). We can see that the online registration tool is highly popular with UK-based entities. Switzerland has a need for UK serivce providers to come to Switzerland, particularly in certain areas such as banking/finance or management.
Employers looking to locally hire UK nationals (not yet resident in Switzerland) based on a local Swiss employment contract will continue to have to respect the so called priority of Swiss and EU/EFTA nationals, meaning that – for the majority of situations and as a prerequsitie for an application for a Swiss work permit for a UK national – they will have to prove unsuccessful recruitment efforts in Switzerland and in the EU/EFTA.
The quotas for such permits have been sufficient in previous years and are expected to be sufficient in the coming year, at least based on previous years’ statistics.