What is the change? Quotas on long-term work permits for most of the European Union are expiring.

What does the change mean? Nationals of 25 EU countries will be able to live and work in Switzerland on a Swiss employment contract without being subject to quotas.

  • Implementation timeframe: April 30 for EU-8 nationals and May 31 for EU-17 nationals.
  • Visas/permits affected: Long-term work permits (B permits).
  • Who is affected: EU nationals applying for long-term work permits.
  • Impact on processing times:  This does not change the work permit process.
  • Business impact:The expiration of quotas will significantly reduce the administrative and practical burdens on employers and EU national employees.

Background: The Swiss government announced it will not renew numerical limits on work permits that were due to expire for 25 EU countries. On April 30, quotas that were introduced in 2012 on eight countries (Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia) expired. On May 31, quotas introduced in 2013 on 17 countries (Belgium, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom) will expire. Bulgaria and Romania are still in transition and therefore subject to quotas on work permits until May 31, 2016 or later, depending on whether the Swiss government renews quotas after that date.

In February, Swiss voters narrowly passed a referendum introduced by the right-wing Swiss People’s Party to restrict immigration. The constitutional amendment will impose a quota system for EU and European Free Trade Association foreign workers, but the details are yet to be worked out. An implementation plan is scheduled to be completed by the end of June and a draft law is scheduled for completion by the end of the year. Until there is concrete legislation, bilateral agreements on free movement between the EU and Switzerland remain in effect.

BAL Analysis: Employers may plan assignments with certainty of the type of work permits (long term B or short-term L permit) they will be granted. Another benefit of the removal of quotas is that employees will be able to start work as soon as they register, rather than having to wait to find out if the B permit was granted. This change will also ease life for EU nationals on long-term Swiss contracts who will no longer be moved to short-term L permits (when B permit quotas were filled) that limited their daily activities. However, in light of the vote to impose quotas, BAL is closely monitoring developments in this area and will update as the legislation progresses.

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.

Copyright © 2016 Berry Appleman & Leiden LLP. All rights reserved. Reprinting or digital redistribution to the public is permitted only with the express written permission of Berry Appleman & Leiden LLP. For inquiries please contact