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07 June 2019
The Foreign Nationals Act has been renamed the Foreign Nationals and Integration Act, with effect from 1 January 2019.
The Foreign Nationals and Integration Act has revised the earlier provisions and introduced new ones to encourage and support foreign nationals' integration into Switzerland. Further, the act now includes provisions relating to the integration of non-EU nationals in Switzerland.
Like the Foreign Nationals Act, the Foreign Nationals and Integration Act sets out integration criteria for foreign nationals living in Switzerland, even after having granted a residence or permanent residence permit. Foreign nationals must respect and maintain public security and order, as well as the values set out in the Constitution. Further, they must participate in economic life or undergo training. The Foreign Nationals and Integration Act has brought additional requirements – namely, basic language skills.
In the event that an applicant does not meet the abovementioned criteria, the Swiss cantons may, pursuant to the Foreign Nationals and Integration Act, implement 'integration agreements' setting out concrete targets and fixed deadlines for foreign nationals. For example, a canton may require a foreign national to attend a language course within a certain period and if the person fails to comply with the agreement, their residence permit may be revoked.
As mentioned, Foreign Nationals and Integration Act's new provisions impose stricter requirements on language skills for foreign nationals. Applicants must now meet the following requirements.
Before their arrival in Switzerland, spouses of foreign nationals that have a permanent residence permit (C permit), B permit or a temporary admission (F permit) must produce:
One year after arrival, they must prove that they have reached the required level and can communicate in that language.
Conditions for granting C permits
C permits will be granted only to foreign nationals who meet the integration criteria and demonstrate A2-level verbal language skills and A1-level written skills in the national language spoken in their place of residence. This requirement also applies to EU nationals.
However, for foreign nationals from countries with which Switzerland has concluded an 'establishment agreement', the granting of a permanent residence permit may not be contingent on language skills. Hence, nationals from Germany, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Spain, the United States, France, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Liechtenstein and Portugal need not prove their language skills in order to obtain a C permit.
When applying for the early approval (ie, after five years) of a C permit, applicants must demonstrate B1-level verbal language skills and A1-level written skills in the national language spoken in their place of residence.
Downgrading of C permits to B permits
A permanent residence permit can be revoked and replaced by a residence permit (ie, downgrading from a C permit to a B permit) if the integration criteria are not met, particularly at the time of renewal. If downgraded, a new C permit will be granted only after five years.
For more information please contact Rayan Houdrouge or Maxime Gay-Crosier at Lenz & Staehelin by telephone (+41 58 450 70 00) or email (rayan.houdrouge@LenzStaehelin.com or email@example.com). The Lenz & Staehelin website can be accessed at www.lenzstaehelin.com.
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