March 19, 2014

On February 9, 2014 a Referendum Against Mass Immigration, which was held on popular initiative, was narrowly accepted in Switzerland. As a result, Switzerland’s immigration policy will need to be amended to include quantitative limits and quotas. The Swiss authorities have 3 years to implement the new provisions. At the moment it has not been decided yet how high the quotas will be, nor who will determine the quotas.

Implementation Schedule

The Federal Council has taken its first decisions on the subject, and has defined an initial implementation schedule:

  • By the end of June 2014 an implementation plan will have been drawn up by the Federal Department of Justice and Police (FDJP) and the Departments of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) and Economic Affairs, Education and Research (EAER);
  • By the end of 2014 a draft for the new law will be presented for consultation;
  • In the meanwhile Switzerland will hold exploratory talks with the EU to seek solutions with regards to the Agreement on Free Movement of Persons between the EU member states and Switzerland.

Impact on Current International Agreements

The Agreement on Free Movement of Persons between the EU and Switzerland will continue to apply in full until the new law will be implemented. At the moment Switzerland is applying the Safeguard Clause in this agreement, which means that quota currently apply for Category B Residence Permits for employed and self-employed nationals of EU-8* and EU-17** member states, who want to work for more than 1 year in Switzerland. The Safeguard Clause will apply until April 30, 2014 for EU-8 nationals, and until May 31, 2014 for EU-17 nationals; after these dates no restrictions will apply anymore to nationals from these countries, until the new law comes into effect.

Category L Residence Permits, for stays up to 1 year, are not affected by the current quota. Separate restrictions still apply to nationals from Bulgaria and Romania, which can remain in place until latest May 31, 2016.

Free movement was supposed to be extended to nationals of Croatia, after their ascension to the EU in July last year. However, the new constitutional provisions prohibit new international agreements to be concluded that are not compatible with the introduction of new quotas. Switzerland has expressed its intention not to discriminate against Croatians, and will seek solutions with the EU to avoid this.

Effect on Swiss Nationals in EU and EU Nationals in Switzerland 

EU nationals who are currently already in Switzerland should not be affected by the new law. Article 23 in the Agreement on Free Movement of Persons states explicitly that in case of non-renewal or termination of the agreement the acquired rights by individuals will not be affected. Therefore, also Swiss nationals who are already staying in an EU country based on the agreement will be able to stay there, even if the Agreement would be terminated.


Since the new law is only expected to come into effect within 3 years from now, no immediate action needs to be taken by employers. However, for their long term strategizing they should take the re-implementation of restrictions for EU nationals into account.

Pro-Link GLOBAL will continue to monitor the developments in Switzerland and will provide updates when new information becomes available.

* EU-8 Countries: Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia
** EU-17 countries: Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom

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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 Pro-Link GLOBAL’s Knowledge Management team. Pro-Link GLOBAL worked with our PLG | KGNM Correspondent Office in Switzerland to provide you this update.

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