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SWITZERLAND – New Integration and language requirements for residence permits

The Swiss Federal Council has approved a package of legislative amendments which, effective 1 January 2019, will allow the authorities to demand that foreign nationals applying for residence permits sign a cultural integration agreement and demonstrate a certain level of language skill.

Who is affected?

The upcoming new integration criteria may affect applicants for new or renewal temporary residence permits (type B) or permanent residence permits (type C). The changes do not apply to holders of short-stay L permits, 120-day permits or those coming to work in Switzerland with just an online notification.

Integration agreement

From 2019, signing an integration agreement may be a condition for the issuance or extension of a residence permit. The agreement is based on the following criteria for good integration:

  • Observance of public safety and order;
  • Respect for the values of the Federal Constitution;
  • Language skills; and
  • Willingness to participate in economic life or to acquire education.

An integration agreement may also contain concrete goals to acquire language skills and/or knowledge of Switzerland or to become more integrated economically.

The new rules even ask (but do not require) employers to inform their employees about courses or workshops to promote their integration and to support them in their participation in such courses or workshops.

Language skills

  • For a permanent residence permit (type C) based on residency of ten years, the applicant will have to demonstrate oral language skill of level A2 and written language skill of A1. Currently, no level is specified.
  • For a permanent residence permit (type C) based on residency of five years, the applicant will have to demonstrate oral language skill of level B1 and written language skill of A1. Currently, an oral language skill of level A2 is required.
  • For the extension of a temporary residence permit (type B) the applicant will have to demonstrate oral language skill of level A1. This is a new requirement.
  • For a residence permit (type B) for family reunification, the applicant will have to demonstrate oral language skill of level A1, or show proof of registration for a language course leading to this level. This is a new requirement.
  • For a permanent residence permit (type C) for the spouse or registered partner of a Swiss national or permanent type residence permit holder, after residency of at least five years, the applicant will have to demonstrate oral language skill of level A2 and written language skill of A1. Currently, no level is specified.

Sanctions

Authorities may impose sanctions if integration agreements are not fulfilled:

  • A permanent residence permit (type C) may be downgraded to a temporary residence permit (type B);
  • A temporary residence permit (type B) may also be revoked if the permit holder does not comply with the terms of the integration agreement for non-excusable reasons.

Action Items

  • Employers who may be affected should consult an immigration specialist for case-specific advice.

This alert was prepared using information provided by Sgier und Partner.

DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this immigration alert has been abridged from laws, court decisions, and administrative rulings and should not be construed or relied upon as legal advice. If you have specific questions regarding the applicability of this information, please contact Peregrine © 2017 Peregrine Immigration Management Ltd.