The Federal Council recently invoked the safeguard clause contained in the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons between the European Union and Switzerland. This clause allows Switzerland to implement unilaterally a quota system for Romanian and Bulgarian nationals from June 1 2017 to May 31 2018.
In February 2014 the Swiss people adopted a popular initiative aimed at stopping mass immigration. The new constitutional text requires the Federal Council and Parliament to introduce a new admission system for all foreign nationals within three years that restricts immigration by means of quantitative limits and quotas (and gives priority to local workers). Parliament recently voted on the law's final draft.
Switzerland recently ratified Protocol III, which extends the Agreement on Free Movement of Persons to Croatia. Croatian nationals now have restricted access to the Swiss labour market. Priority will be given to local workers, and the checking of work and salary conditions as well as quotas will apply up to December 31 2023. Croatian nationals can now also apply for a border commuter permit in Switzerland, provided that the work location in Switzerland is within the Swiss border zone.
The Federal Council recently announced that the total number of work permits submitted to quotas for 2017 will be increased from 8,750 to 9,750. In order to provide the Swiss economy with the requisite amount of permits in 2017, the Federal Council decided to allocate 7,500 permits for highly qualified nationals – an increase of 1,000 permits for non-EU and European Free Trade Association nationals.
The Federal Council has finally submitted a proposal for new legislation to the National Council in order to implement the initiative regarding the avoidance of mass immigration, which Switzerland accepted in 2014. While the initiative requires that immigration be restricted by means of quantitative limits and quotas, the National Council has decided that no such restrictions should be implemented.
The revision of the Federal Act on Foreign Nationals is under consideration by the Federal Council. Based on the Code of Obligations, expenses for housing, boarding and travelling of a deputed foreign worker must be borne by the employer. However, this obligation is being reviewed for long and short-term deputation.
The Federal Council recently decided that the transitional provisions of the Free Movement of Persons Agreement will end on May 31 2016 for Romanian and Bulgarian nationals. Bulgarian and Romanian nationals will be eligible for a Swiss work and residence permit once they have been provided with a local employment contract in Switzerland and are registered with their commune of residence.
Three major changes of practice have occurred recently regarding work permit applications, particularly for foreign employees working on a deputation model. Zurich labour market authorities limit the stay of deputed employees to 48 months, despite existing social security treaties and the practice of other cantonal authorities. An extension is possible in exceptional cases, as long as good reason can be provided.
The Federal Council recently announced that the total number of work permits submitted to quotas for 2016 will remain at 8,750 – the same number as in 2015. In order to stay innovative and internationally competitive, the Swiss economy is dependent on qualified specialists. The Federal Council therefore confirmed the dual system for the admission of foreign workers.
The Swiss authorities have exhausted the third-quarter EU employee deputation quotas at their disposal. Employers wishing to depute EU employees to Switzerland for more than four months must wait until the new quarter's quotas are released on October 1 2015 in order to obtain approval for work permits.
The Federal Council has adopted a motion proposing that Parliament increase the existing upper limit of administrative fines prescribed in the Posted Workers Act. The upper fine limit would increase from Sfr5,000 to Sfr30,000 in case of breach of minimum wage and work conditions. The change aims to prevent foreign employers from salary dumping on the Swiss market.
The Federal Council has decided to implement the mass immigration initiative consistently. Quotas and quantitative limits will apply to all foreign nationals wishing to immigrate to Switzerland. In order to reduce immigration pressure and demonstrate goodwill, the Federal Council first wishes to implement local changes by promoting work for the unemployed and the integration of disabled people into the labour market.
The Federal Office for Migration is now known as the State Secretariat for Migration. The name has been changed due to the authority's growing importance and wide-ranging responsibilities. The State Secretariat for Migration is the federal authority which regulates the conditions under which people can enter Switzerland in order to live and work. It also decides who will receive asylum.
The Federal Council has announced that the total number of work permits submitted to quotas for 2015 will be reduced by 27%. The council decided to reduce the amount of available quotas for non-EU and non-European Free Trade Association nationals and service providers, in order to encourage Swiss companies to better tap the potential local workforce.
Foreign employers deputing employees to Switzerland must cover the actual costs of boarding, lodging and transport. The costs must be paid on top of salary and cannot be included as part of the Swiss minimum salary customary for the place and trade. Swiss authorities accept that in practice foreign employers use a monthly lump-sum allowance system in order to cover the costs.
Croatia's accession to the European Union has had no bearing on the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons between Switzerland and the European Union. The admission of Croatian nationals to Switzerland is still subject to the provision of the Foreign Nationals Act. However, Switzerland grants unilaterally preferential treatment for Croatian nationals who want to come to Switzerland to work.
The Agreement on Free Movement of Persons is once again applicable to EU-25 nationals, provided that they come to Switzerland to take up employment or have sufficient financial means. Until the law regarding a quota system is adopted, the agreement will continue to apply between Switzerland and the European Union.
The Swiss public recently approved a popular initiative aimed at stopping mass immigration. This brings with it the prospect of systemic changes to Switzerland's immigration policy. The new constitutional provisions require that immigration be restricted by means of quantitative limits and quotas. The outcome of the referendum can be described as a pivotal decision with far-reaching consequences.
The Federal Council has announced that the total number of work permits submitted to quotas for 2014 will remain the same as in 2012 and 2013. The council is reserving 3,000 L-permit quotas and 500 B-permit quotas for service providers of EU and European Free Trade Association member countries. To be eligible, a worker must seek to provide services in Switzerland for more than 90 days or 120 days respectively.
Third state nationals entering the Schengen Area must hold a travel document valid for at least three months beyond their intended stay. As part of the Schengen Area, Switzerland must ensure that travel documents are in line with this regulation on work permit applications or visa matters.