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BREXIT – Switzerland and UK Agree on Citizens’ Rights After Brexit

The Swiss Federal Council and the UK government have approved an agreement protecting the rights of Swiss nationals currently residing in the UK and the reciprocal rights of UK nationals currently residing in Switzerland, after the UK leaves the EU, either with or without a ratified withdrawal agreement.

The agreement protects rights in relation to residency, social security and the recognition of professional qualifications which are currently provided by the Free Movement of Persons Agreement (FMOPA).

The agreement enters into force on 1 January 2021 in a deal scenario (after the transition period), or on 30 March 2019 in a no-deal scenario, and covers the following areas:

  • Stays with gainful employment or self-employment;
  • Stays without gainful employment;
  • Right to family reunification;
  • Cross-border commuters;
  • Provision of services.

The Swiss and UK governments are in negotiation for a further bilateral agreement on free movement, but details of this are not clear.

What does this mean for UK nationals in Switzerland?

Gainful employment

If a UK national has registered in Switzerland before the agreement enters into force, their FMOPA rights will be protected.

If a UK national has not registered before the agreement enters into force, with a valid Swiss work contract, they will be treated like a non-EU/EFTA citizen (third-country national) after that date. They will have to apply for a work permit to the labour market authorities, and recruitment efforts and possibly a job posting, will have to be proved on application.

Cross-border commuter

If a UK national holds a G-permit in Switzerland before the agreement enters in force, their FMOPA rights will be protected.

If a UK national hasn’t exercised their right to work as a cross-border commuter in Switzerland before the agreement enters into force, they will only have the right to work as a cross-border commuter if

  • they have a permanent right of residence in a neighbouring state;
  • they have had their place of residence in the neighbouring border zone for at least six months; and
  • they work within the Swiss border zone.

Family reunification

Family members of a UK national covered by the agreement, who reside lawfully with them in Switzerland before the agreement enters into force, they will be covered by the rights set out in the agreement.

UK nationals can be joined by close family members (spouse, civil and unmarried partner, dependent children) at any time in the future if the relationship existed before the agreement entered into force, and still exists. UK nationals covered by the agreement can also be joined by new spouses or partners under current rules for five years after the agreement enters in force.

Any child born to (or who otherwise becomes a child of) an individual covered by the agreement, at any time in the future, is also protected by the agreement.

If none of these situations apply, a family reunification is only possible under the rules of the Swiss Federal Act on Foreigners and Integration.

Action Items

  • Employers who may be affected are encouraged to contact their immigration provider for case-specific advice.

This alert was prepared with information provided by Sgier + 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 © 2021 Peregrine Immigration Management Ltd.