Switzerland introduces controversial new quotas for Long Term 2004 EU8 Nationals


Having voted against EEA membership in a referendum in 1992 and against EU membership in 2001, Switzerland has since maintained its relationships with the European Union through an extensive series of bilateral agreements. These agreements apply to freedom of movement of EU nationals, and ordinarily promote easy access to the Swiss labour market under the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons. Yet a clause within the agreements states that Switzerland may introduce permit quotas “if deemed necessary to protect national interests.”

Switzerland has recently decided that such national interests are being compromised, and has therefore decided to place its immigration policy under greater scrutiny.  Immigration levels, which have always been a controversial issue within Swiss politics, have risen rapidly within the last three years, triggering the implementation of the quotas which can be brought into effect if immigration levels in the previous 12 months have been at least 10 per cent higher than the average of the preceding three years.  Numbers of immigrants entering Switzerland from the eight countries that acceded to the EU in 2004 (the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia) have already exceeded these levels several times.

Who will be affected?

The new quota system will affect those who would apply for a local contract, the duration of which would be longer than 30 months, i.e. a “B” (long term) permit rather than an “L” (short term) permit.  It is also only applicable to EU8 nationals, which has provoked anger from both the countries affected and the President of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, who stated his “regret” at Switzerland”s decision to “discriminate against eight EU member states. ““B” permit approvals will accordingly be capped at 2000 per year, with 500 being issued for every quarter. 

As a result of the quota system, applicants from the EU8 countries will now additionally require their employer in Switzerland to assist their application with evidence that they have undergone an intensive search to hire a resident Swiss labourer before favouring the migrant worker.

Employees who are already in Switzerland will not be affected by the new measures, nor will those who have already received confirmation of their application to work in Switzerland, and other permit types remain unaffected.

The new system came into play from 1 May 2012, with quota figures being released quarterly.

Advice and guidance for employers wishing to hire non-EEA/EU “third state” foreign nationals in Switzerland

Workers from states outside of the EU or EFTA, known as third states, can enter Switzerland in order to work, although numbers are limited.

Here are a few key things to bear in mind if hoping to employ a third state foreign national:

  • Third state nationals require their employer in Switzerland to ensure that no resident Swiss labourer, or EU/EFTA resident labourer, can do the equivalent job as that of the migrant they wish to bring into the country.
  • Vacant positions should be registered with the Regional Employment Offices, as well as registering the vacancy in the European Employment System.
  • The employer will need to explain why no resident labourer could be found as well as providing evidence of what mediums were used in order to advertise the position.
  • Employers must ensure that salary and other terms of employment for the migrant worker match the conditions set for the relevant sector and region. This ensures that Swiss workers are protected against wage dumping and foreign workers are protected from exploitation, and for certain sectors these can be found in collective labour agreements.
  • The prospective employee also needs to have a degree from a university or institution of higher education. In addition they will need to show evidence of several years of professional experience.
  • The documents needed to prove the above requirements are their curriculum vitae, their education certificates and references. Applicants will need to submit copies of the original documents and a translation if they are not in German, French, Italian or English.
  •  Exceptions to the above requirements are made in certain situations, such as where the country urgently requires highly qualified scientists, persons of economic significance and those wishing to take up temporary teaching positions.
  • Family members of third state workers will require a permit, although this does not apply to those with long-term resident permits.

For any further information on the above, please do contact us.

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