SWITZERLAND – Safeguard Clause Brings In New Quotas for EU Workers
The Swiss government has taken a controversial decision to extend quotas on long term B permits for workers from the eight countries which joined the EU in 2004 (“EU8”). Furthermore, quotas will now also be applied for the issuance of B permits for workers from “old” EU countries – also known as “EU17”.
What Is EU8 and EU17?
The “EU8” are eight countries which joined the EU in 2004: Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovenia and Slovakia.
The “EU17” are the seventeen EU member states which comprised the EU prior to its expansion in 2004 plus Malta and Cyprus; i.e.: Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal, Sweden, Spain, the United Kingdom
What are Switzerland’s Quotas?
Switzerland operates a quota system for the issuance of work and residence permits for non-Swiss nationals. Quotas are in place for residence permits for non-European Union nationals and also for EU8 nationals and EU2 nationals (Romanians and Bulgarians, who joined the EU in 2007).
At this time, there are no quotas in place for EU17 nationals; however, this is set to change.
Under the agreements Switzerland has with the EU, there is a clause which allows quotas to be unilaterally placed on the issuance of permits to EU nationals, up until 31 May 2014, provided the number of residence permits issued to employed and self-employed persons from EU states has exceeded the average for the three preceding years by at least 10 per cent. Each category is calculated individually.
It is expected that this criterion will be met by the end of May and, therefore, we can expect to see quotas imposed in the issuance of B permits to EU17 nationals as well as EU8 nationals. The quota for EU17 nationals will be 53,700 permits for the year. The quota for EU8 nationals will be 2180 permits for the year.
Impact on Applicants
The quotas are being imposed on B permits, which are long term residence permits, valid for up to five years, and renewable. Once the B permit quotas have been reached, applicants will be issued with L permits instead – valid for up to 12 months and convertible into a B permit after two years.
Since L permits will be issued instead of B permits, there is no need for employer to fear that employing EU nationals will no longer be possible or will be challenging. However, administratively, the decision is irritating, since L permits need to be renewed every year, and since L permits are “short term” permits and grant the holder a slightly less preferable status in Switzerland – this may be an issue for individuals wishing to lease or buy property, for example.
- Note that quotas on B permits for EU8 nationals are being extended, and are likely to be introduced for EU17 nationals from 1 June
- If your company has EU national employees moving to Switzerland in the near future, warn them that they may be issued with L permits rather than B permits and look into possible consequences of this.