Switzerland – Immigration Update

Popular Initiative Aimed at Stopping Mass Immigration

What has changed

 On February 9, 2014, the Swiss electorate adopted a popular initiative aimed at stopping mass immigration by reintroducing quotas (maximum numbers) for most work and residence permit categories.

As reintroducing quotas is against the concept of the Agreement on The Free Movement of Persons (AFMP) concluded between Switzerland and the European Union (EU), the Swiss authorities have since then been seeking a mutually acceptable solution with the EU in order not to jeopardize the bilateral agreements between Switzerland and the EU. The new law must be implemented by February 2017 (three years after the vote).

In order to preserve the relationship with the European Union (and related bilateral agreements), on December 16, 2016 the State Council decided to only implement a priority to the Swiss labour market and force employers to advertise open positions to the unemployment office and meet potential applicants if, in a particular industry, the unemployment rate has reached a certain percentage.

Who is affected?

  • Swiss employers looking to hire foreigners to work in Switzerland

What to expect

The concept of requiring employers to advertise open positions with the unemployment office and meet potential applicants is intended to encourage Swiss employers to fully use the local workforce’s potential.

A further vote (popular initiative and related counter proposal from the authorities) related to the same subject may apply in the near future.

What you need to do
Planning ahead

  • Further details on the above will be shared when the related acts have been officially proclaimed and published.
  • Contact your Emigra Worldwide representative for further details on how these updates may impact you or your client. 

Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons (AFMP) Extended to Croatia

What has changed

On July 1, 2013, Croatia joined the European Union (EU). However, entry to the European Union does not automatically extend the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons (AFMP) signed by Switzerland and the EU to the concerned country. Each new enlargement of the EU requires further amendments of the AFMP (through additional protocols).

Extension of the AFMP to include citizens of Croatia was negotiated under Protocol III. After the popular initiative “Stop Mass Immigration” was approved in February 2014, the Federal Council was no longer able to sign Protocol III on extension of the AFMP to citizens of Croatia. This would have been incompatible with the intended content of the new law, which tended to allow Switzerland to control and limit immigration.

Therefore, separate work permit quotas for Croatian nationals were introduced on July 1, 2014 and continue to be applied in Switzerland until Protocol III comes into force; until then, the access to the Swiss labour market continues to be governed by the Foreign Nationals Act.

On June 17, 2016, the Federal Assembly had already authorized the Federal Council to ratify Protocol III, extending the AFMP to Croatia. This was subject to the condition that a solution is found with the EU regarding the implementation of the new immigration law further to voting in February 2014.

As the solution validated by the State Council in December currently meets the EU imposed conditions, on December 16, 2016 Switzerland ratified the Protocol III extending the AFPM to Croatia.

Who is affected?

  • Citizens of Croatia

What to expect

As of January 1 2017, the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons (AFMP) will gradually enter into force for citizens of Croatia; initially, transitional measures will apply regarding the access to the Swiss labour market; priority to local workforce, check of work conditions and quotas should apply.

What you need to do
Planning ahead

  • Further details on the above news will be shared when the related acts have been officially proclaimed and published.
  • Contact your Emigra Worldwide representative for further details on how these updates may impact you or your client.

The information above was provided by Emigra Worldwide, our global network partners, and relevant government authorities. The information herein is for general purposes only and not intended as advice for a particular matter. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact the global immigration professional with whom you work.