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The Implementation of Integration Agreements for Foreign Nationals in Switzerland
| Cesare Annecchiarico

The Implementation of Integration Agreements for Foreign Nationals in Switzerland

Whenever foreign nationals come to Switzerland to work, they go through a complex process before they can actually enter the country and start working. This process ensures that foreign workers are allowed to live and work in Switzerland legally. The same applies if spouses or children are involved. The spouses may also want to work and the children have to go to school, for example. Apart from the laws that have to be observed for these processes, work, school, and other aspects are an important part of the integration.

Among other things, the Federal Act on Foreign Nationals (FNA), introduced in 2005, has been renamed to the "Federal Act on Foreign Nationals and Integration" (hereinafter referred to as the FNIA) since 01 March 2019. With regard to integration, this should be improved for foreigners through positive incentives and appropriate measures. As an example, the Confederation wants to facilitate access to the labour market for refugees and temporarily admitted persons or bind residence permits to concrete integration agreements.

Art. 54 FNIA, states that integration promotion will continue to be based on existing federal, cantonal and communal structures. More precisely, this means that integration takes place in school-based and extracurricular educational and care services, at work, spatial development, sport, the media and/or cultural offerings. This integration is, of course, also linked to certain criteria. Pursuant to Art. 58a AIG, foreigners are expected to respect public safety and order, the values of the Federal Constitution, extend their language skills and participate in economic life or acquire education.

All cantons agree on certain integration goals with the Confederation in order to implement integration on the part of the state. These goals are then implemented by means of a programme. In the Canton of Zurich, for example, there is a "Cantonal Integration Programme" (KIP 2). The current programme runs from 2018 to 2021. In the Canton of Zurich, the programme focuses on three priorities. These would be "Information and Counselling", "Education and Work" and "Understanding and Social Integration." Find more information here.

Language is the Key to Integration: What does that mean for foreign nationals?

If you want to integrate into a foreign country, you can do this especially if you speak the language of that country. Language is the key to integration. It is no different in Switzerland. That's why the cantons are linking the granting of permits directly to the linguistic abilities of the individual, now and in the future. Here, too, federalism is taking hold. This means that the cantons themselves determine how the laws are applied. This, in turn, means that there are differences in linguistic integration at the cantonal level. The cantons of Lucerne and Solothurn can be mentioned here as examples: In the canton of Lucerne, as in the canton of Solothurn, linguistic competence must be demonstrated above all in the case of residence permits B and permanent residence permits C. In the canton of Lucerne, family members of Swiss nationals must present at least one registration and payment confirmation for a language course as part of their family reunification. This language course must bring the person to a certain language level. If, for example, it is necessary to apply for a C permit, the language skills must already be at level A2 (oral) and A1 (written). For a B permit, the language skills at level A1 are required.

The law is implemented differently in the canton of Solothurn. If an application for a B permit (residence permit) is submitted in the canton of Solothurn for third-country nationals, the application with confirmation of payment for a language course in Switzerland must be submitted at the latest when the family reunion is dealt with. Until the end of the year 2019, a temporary solution will apply whereby any language certificate confirming level A1 will be accepted. However, certified language certificates, such as those of the Goethe Institute, TELC or similar, must be submitted from 1 January onwards.

At first glance, this sounds complicated and difficult to implement. However, it should not be forgotten that one of Switzerland's most important goals is to promote integration and thus coexistence.

Do you have any questions about living and working in Switzerland? Contact me at Cesare Annecchiarico: cannecchiarico@fragomen.com