SWITZERLAND – Government Invokes “Safeguard Clause” to Impose Quota on Residence Permits for Bulgarian and Romanian Nationals
- From 1 June 2017, nationals of Bulgaria and Romania (EU-2) will be subject to a new annual quota of 996 long-term B permits, released quarterly.
- The Swiss Federal Council announced on 10 May 2017 that it would impose the quota, invoking the “safeguard clause” provided for in its bilateral treaty with the EU.
From 1 June 2016, the Swiss government lifted the immigration restrictions on nationals of Bulgarian and Romania, in accordance with the bilateral Agreement on free movement of persons with the EU.
Since then, Romanian and Bulgarian nationals have been treated the same as other EU nationals in terms of access to the Swiss labour market. No prior work permit approval is required for EU nationals to work in Switzerland with a Swiss local employment contract. As with other EU nationals, all that is required, prior to starting work, is a simple registration at the local residents office of the municipality of residence.
According to the “safeguard clause” (Art. 10 Abs. 4c of the Agreement), the Swiss government is, until 31 May 2019, entitled to impose quotas in case immigration from Bulgaria and Romania surpasses by 10% or more the median of the previous three years. Such a decision can be made between 1 June 2017 and 1 June 2018. Between June 2016 and May 2017, the threshold for the granted residence permits (category B) was significantly exceeded. In 2016, the migration balance from the EU-2 countries doubled compared to the previous year, to around 3300 people.
This increase is in contradiction to the general trend of a diminishing migration balance from the EU / EFTA area. Since the introduction of full freedom of movement for nationals from Romania and Bulgaria on 1 June 2016, more and more workers have migrated to seasonal jobs. These professions show above-average unemployment rates.
In the case of short-stay permits (L permits), the threshold to allow the safeguard clause to be invoked has not been met.
- Companies intending to hire Romanian or Bulgarian nationals in Switzerland should plan to submit permit applications in good time to avoid issues.