What is the change? Switzerland has invoked the safeguard clause of the free movement agreement to impose work permit quotas on nationals of Bulgaria and Romania.

What does the change mean? For 12 months beginning June 1, Romanian and Bulgarian nationals will have restricted access to the Swiss labor market if they want to work under a B resident permit. B resident permits will be capped at 996 for the two nationalities for the year and will be distributed on a quarterly basis. Short-stay L permits are not affected, as there was no basis for invoking the clause for L permits.

  • Implementation time frame: June 1, 2017 to May 31, 2018.
  • Visas/permits affected: B resident permits.
  • Who is affected: Bulgarian and Romania nationals intending to work in Switzerland on local employment contracts.
  • Business impact: Employers should anticipate the restricted availability of B permits for Bulgarian and Romanian hires.
  • Next steps: Employers can hire Bulgarian and Romanian nationals before June 1 and receive a B permit outside the quotas (provided the employment contract is unlimited). If the work start date is on or after June 1, the B permit will come off a quota.

Background: The Swiss government lifted work permit requirements for Bulgarian and Romanian nationals in April 2016, according to its agreement with the EU on free movement. Since that time (starting June 1, 2016), Swiss employers have been free to hire Bulgarian and Romanian nationals without applying for work permits and with only a municipal registration procedure necessary as the basis for their residence permits.

A safeguard clause of the Swiss-EU agreement allows Switzerland to impose quotas on Bulgarian and Romanian nationals if immigration exceeds a level that is 10 percent above the median of the previous three years. In 2016, migration from Bulgaria and Romania to Switzerland reached 3,300, doubling that of the previous year, while migration from other EU/EFTA countries declined.

The Federal Council invoked the safeguard clause for a period of one year. Under the agreement, Switzerland may invoke it until May 31, 2019.

BAL Analysis: Swiss employers hiring Bulgarian and Romanian workers should prepare for the possibility that quarterly quotas may fill up quickly in the coming year.

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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