What is the change? The Swiss Federal Council has announced that it will increase the number of work permits the country will issue in 2018 to both non-EU/EFTA and EU/EFTA nationals.

What does the change mean? Companies can plan for increases in the number of permits that will be available in 2018. The quota increase was announced after the cantons of Basil, Geneva and Zurich urged Swiss authorities to increase the number of work permits allowed for non- EU/EFTA nationals.

  • Implementation time frame: Jan. 1.
  • Visas/permits affected: B and L permits.
  • Who is affected: Non-EU/EFTA highly skilled employees, and EU/EFTA nationals on assignment in Switzerland for more than 120 days.
  • Business impact: Swiss cantons and business interests had hoped for higher quotas in 2018, and the increase may offer some help in recruiting highly skilled workers.

Background: For 2015, the Federal Council lowered the number of work permits it issued to non-EU/EFTA nationals by nearly 25 percent, from 8,500 (combined B and L permits) to 6,500. It also reduced the number of permits issued to EU/EFTA nationals from 3,500 (combined B and L permits) to 2,250. Quotas were slightly increased for 2016 and 2017, but Swiss cantons and business interests continued to push for a restoration of the 2014 levels, saying the lower quotas inhibited economic competitiveness and created uncertainty for companies that needed to access non-EU/EFTA professionals. With the recently announced changes, the number of non-EU/EFTA B permits, EU/EFTA B permits and EU/EFTA L permits will all be restored to 2014 levels. The number of Non-EU/EFTA L permits will remain at 4,500, the same as 2016 and 500 lower than the 2014 level.

Here’s a look at how the quotas have fluctuated in recent years:

Non-EU/EFTA B permits Non-EU/EFTA
L permits
B permits
L permits
2014 3,500 5,000 500 3,000
2015 2,500 4,000 250 2,000
2016 2,500 4,000 250 2,000
2017 3,000 4,500 250 2,000
2018 3,500 4,500 500 3,000

BAL Analysis: Cantons and the business community had hoped for a boost in the number of positions available, and the increase in non-EU/EFTA B and L permits will generally be accepted as welcome news. Employers should nonetheless prepare for the possibility that quotas will be reached in 2018, as demand for non-Swiss workers still outweighs the number of permits available. The quarterly allocation will continue to be maintained. Contact your BAL attorney with questions about individual applications for 2018 B or L permits.

This alert has been provided by the BAL Global Practice group and our network provider located in Switzerland. For additional information, please contact your BAL attorney.

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