April 26, 2012

As of May 1, 2012, nationals of eight European Union (EU) countries will again be subject to an annual quota of 2,000 work permits. 500 work permits will be available each quarter between May 1, 2012-April 30, 2013.

What’s Changed?

As of May 1, 2012, the Swiss Federal Council re-introduced a one-year work permit quota restriction for nationals from eight EU countries (Czech Republic, Hungary, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Poland, Slovenia and Slovakia) that most recently joined, or “acceded”, to the EU ( “EU-8”). This quota applies to those E-8 nationals entering into an unlimited period Swiss employment contract or a limited contract longer than 30 months (i.e., a “B” permit). Quotas will not apply for short-term (i.e., 12-month) “L” work permits.

The reintroduction of work permit quotas is pursuant to a “Safeguard Clause” contained in Switzerland’s treaty with the EU. Under this clause, the Council can assess inflows of certain EU nationals and determine whether to re-introduce work/residence permit quotas. According to the Council, it will invoke this clause for all EU-8 nationals through 2014, at which time the Council will re-evaluate the quota and announce any new procedural changes.

The “B” work/residence permit is generally for foreign nationals who possess a Swiss employment contract that is valid for more than a year/for an unlimited period and is also for foreign nationals who are self-employed. “L” permits are for shorter-term assignments and/or for foreign nationals with non-Swiss employment contracts. Typically, “B” and “L” permits are adjudicated by the Labor and Immigration Office in the canton where the assignee intends to reside.

Under the new quota, there will be 500 “B” work permits available on a quarterly basis. The quota will administered at the federal level versus the cantonal level. In addition, EU-8 nationals applying for work and residence authorization must have their applications approved by the authorities in the canton of intended work and residence.

For those EU-8 nationals having lodged their applications prior to May 1, 2012, there are no changes in the requirements or their ability to renew their existing work and residence permits.


Companies are advised that given there is quarterly quota of only 500 permits, should the quota be exhausted prior the end of a quarter, applicants must await filing until new quota numbers are available in the next quarter.

It is recommended for companies to work with their global immigration suppliers to ensure that an EU-8 national’s work and residence permit application are filed properly filed and that work authorization is received prior to an EU-8 national entering Switzerland to work.

Glenn Faulk, Global Knowledge Manager, has written this alert in coordination with our Swiss KGNM-Convinus.

Caveat Lector | Warning to Reader

This content is provided for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or final guidance for any immigration matter. Readers are reminded that a country’s immigration laws and requirements may change with little to no advance public notice. Questions regarding specific immigration matters should be addressed to your Pro-Link GLOBAL specialist.