June 12, 2013

On June 1, 2013, Swiss authorities introduced further work permit quotas for nationals of the EU-17 countries and three European Free Trade Association (EFTA) countries as part of the country’s continued implementation of their “safeguard clause.” Further to the activation of these quotas, the Federal Office for Migration (FOM) as also announced that those individuals affected by the quotas may not commence working in Switzerland until their long term residence permit cards (“B” permits) have been issued.

The exact details of this new implementation will depend on the specific canton in which the employee will work and reside; however, it can cause delays of up to six weeks.

What’s the “Safeguard Clause”?

As part of Switzerland’s treaty with the European Union, the Swiss immigration authorities are able to implement “safeguard” work and residence permit quotas for specific nationalities based on the demographics of the Swiss work force. These quotas were originally placed on long-term work and residence permit (“B” permit) applicants from the EU-8 member states (i.e. the eight countries that joined the EU in 2004 – Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia).

On June 1, 2013, the Swiss FOM announced that they would extend the work permit quotas to the EU-17 countries* as well as three European Free Trade Association (EFTA) countries** as previously planned.

Both quota systems are anticipated to remain in place until at least May 31, 2014, after which the Swiss Federal Council will reassess their workforce and the necessity of the quotas.

For more information on the “safeguard clause,” please refer to PLG’s Global Brief from April 2013.

What’s Changed?

Traditionally, a foreign national could begin his or her work assignment as soon as his or her Town Hall registration was complete and they were awaiting the issuance of their residence (“B” permit) card. However, the FOM has announced that those individuals affected by the work permit quotas must have their “B” permit card in hand before they may legally begin working in Switzerland.

Estimated processing times for the issuance of “B” permit cards vary depending on the specific work and residence location, but tend to range from two to six weeks.

These new procedural changes will affect “B” permit holders only; individuals with short-term work and residence permits (“L” permits) will not be affected and can commence work upon completion of their Town Hall registration.

Interpretation and Enforcement Will Vary by Canton

Many aspects of Swiss immigration enforcement are deferred to the individual states of cantons, and the implementation of this new procedure will be no different. Thus, enforcement of this law may differ drastically by canton.

The cantons of Basel, Zug, Geneva, and Vaud have already indicated that they will not strictly enforce the new regulation at the time of this writing.

However, many cantons do intend to abide strictly by the new FOM regulations and it is strongly recommended that all applicants affected by this new regulation obtain their “B” permits before beginning any work activities, regardless of the canton in which they will be working. Please coordinate with your Pro-Link GLOBAL Immigration Specialist or Swiss immigration provider if you have any questions or concerns about a specific canton or individual.


Again, further to our April Global Brief, companies need to be aware of the specific EU/EFTA nationalities affected by both the work permit quotas, as well as the new regulations determining when these individuals can legally begin working in Switzerland.

Furthermore, employers who may wish to send an EU/EFTA national on assignment to Switzerland (or who already have any EU/EFTA employee(s) in the immigration process) should add an additional two to six weeks to the overall processing time, depending on the specific canton in which the employee will work and reside.

Finally, as the exact implementation of these new regulations will vary by canton, employers should note that processing times and procedures may differ on a case-by-case basis. However, as this is a federal mandate, it is strongly recommended that all foreign applicants that fall into these quota categories obtain their “B” permit in hand before commencing any work activities in Switzerland. Employers are encouraged to coordinate with their Pro-Link GLOBAL Immigration Specialist or Swiss immigration provider if they have any individuals affected by these changes.

*EU-8 Member States – Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia.

**EU-17 and EFTA Member States – Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Denmark, Germany, Finland, France, Greece, Ireland, Iceland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, Spain, the United Kingdom.

Caveat Lector | Warning to Reader

This is provided as informational only and does not substitute for actual legal advice based on the specific circumstances of a matter. Readers are reminded that Immigration laws are fluid and can change a moment’s notice without any warning. Please reach out to your local Pro-Link GLOBAL specialist should you require any additional clarification. This alert was prepared by the Pro-Link GLOBAL Knowledge Management Team. Pro-Link GLOBAL worked with our PLG | KGNM Correspondent Office in Switzerland to provide you this update.

Information contained in this Global Brief is prepared using information obtained from various media outlets, government publications and our KGNM network of immigration professionals. Written permission from the copyright owner and any other rights holders must be obtained for any reuse of any content posted or published by Pro-Link GLOBAL that extends beyond fair use or other statutory exemptions. Furthermore, responsibility for the determination of the copyright status and securing permission rests with those persons wishing to reuse the materials. Interested parties are welcome to contact the Knowledge Management Department (km@pro-linkglobal.com) with any additional requests for information or to request reproduction of this material.