Virginia, US
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| Mihaela Dumitru

Understanding Swiss Work Permit Quotas

Are you preparing to move soon to Zurich, Bern, Geneva or another Swiss international hotspot?

Expat life in Switzerland has much to offer and provides a great intercultural experience—from discovering the countryside, like the mountainous resort of Zermatt; to learning how Swiss people celebrate the Swiss National Day; to savouring Switzerland’s legendary dishes, such as Rösti or Raclette.

However, no matter how attractive all this can be, it is important to know that from an immigration perspective, obtaining a work or residence permit in Switzerland can be tricky without a basic knowledge on how the Swiss immigration system works.

In this blog, I will approach a recurring topic related to Swiss Immigration: work permit quotas. Simply put, quotas limit the access to the Swiss employment market for foreign nationals. .

As a general rule, if you want to work and live in Switzerland for more than four months, you need to apply for a permit, which is in essence, a quota permit (except for EU 27 /EEA on local employment). Depending on your nationality there are two types of quota permits: short-term L permits and long-term B permits.

As of January 1, 2018, the Swiss Federal Council released a number of L (4,500) and B (3,500) permits for non-EU nationals, which are divided between the Cantons and the Federal Authority. On the last statistic published by the State Secretariat for Migration, at the end of May 2018, the Swiss Federal Reserve still had 1,279 B permits and 2,561 L permits available (also including the previous years’ reserve). The total remaining cantonal stock at the end of May 2018 amounted to 742 B permits and 972 L permits.

Read more in this alert

 
How do quotas work for EU nationals?
 
Although EU nationals can benefit from the agreement on the free movement of persons, this is only valid with a local employment contract. If an EU national is on an assignment in Switzerland, his or her work authorisation is also subject to quotas. On January 1,2018, the Swiss Federal Council released 3,000 L permits and 500 B permits for the year 2018 for EU-27 / EEA on assignment. These quotas are released on a quarterly basis and are available to all cantons in Switzerland. The last statistic published by the State Secretariat for Migration at the end of May 2018 shows that 32% of both L and B quotas are already equally exhausted.
 
Quota Restrictions: What citizens of Romania, Bulgaria or Croatia should know
 
If you are a citizen of Romania, Bulgaria or Croatia, there are some red flags with regards to further quota restrictions.
 
For citizens of Romania and Bulgaria, the Federal Council has decided to extend the ‘validity of the safeguard clause’ for an additional year. This clause relates specifically to B permits in relation to the provision of the Free Movement of Person Agreement. The quotas for B permits for these two nationalities amount to 996 and are released quarterly, until May 31, 2019.  At this point, the quota applies to those on unlimited local employment contract or those who are self-employed.
 
After May 31, 2019, Romanian and Bulgarian citizen will enjoy full freedom of movement that their fellow EU 27 / EEA member already benefit from.  Read more in this alert. 
 
As for the access of Croatian citizens to the Swiss labour market, the quotas apply to both L and B permits. In January 2018,he Federal Authority released a limited number of L (748) permit and B (78) permits. The quotas are released quarterly and apply to both assignments and local employment contracts. 
 
In order to avoid any immigration issues, plan your move to Switzerland ahead of time and seek certified guidance if you are experiencing any troubles through this complex process.
 
Through this blog, we will keep you updated on developments on the quotas available and other immigration topics. Should you have any questions or enquiries related to the topic discussed above please feel free to contact mihaela.dumitru@fragomen.com / swissinfo@fragomen.com
 
In the meantime, we wish you lovely travels to Switzerland.