The devastating impact of the announcement in December 2009 by Switzerland, that it planned to halve the quotas of permits for foreign workers, is being experienced  in March 2010, less than three months following the decision.  

The drastic decision was made by the Swiss Government in a move to curb their advancing unemployment ratios, which reached a four-year high in October 2009, and to stem the rising tide of migration into Switzerland which equalled 70,000 people in 2009.

Annually, the Swiss Federal Council “Bundesrat” allocates Quota numbers establishing the number of foreign nationals who may enter Switzerland to take up employment; the Quotas are administered by cantonal authorities.

Employers planning on bringing foreign workers to the more populated Cantons such as Zürich, Geneva, Basel and Vaud will need to move quickly to ensure that they are able to secure a work permit within the Quota limits.  

Once the Canton has depleted the allotted Quota, employers are prohibited from applying for a work permit.

The Cantons issue work permits known as a

  • B permit for an assignment longer than one year, and
  • L Permit, for an assignment up to one year.

There are exceptional circumstances under which a Canton may issue a work permit following the utilization of the Quota, provided it has received an additional allocation of Quota numbers from the Federal Authorities.

The circumstances would include;

  1. The employer proving exceptional circumstances related to the specific job or project; and
  2. The  foreign worker would be critical to the Swiss company, or local Canton would benefit; and
  3. The foreign worker would be required to provide skills that are not readily available locally as a result of proprietary knowledge, and
  4. The foreign worker would be required to earn a salary matching the stated skills.

The Cantonal Authorities who administer the Quotas have been negotiating with the Federal Authorities to obtain an early release of additional Quota numbers that are currently allocated for release in June 2010. At this time, there has not been any success with this approach.

There is some relief for employers if the pending transferee falls into one of these categories, then their work permit would not be subject to the above;

  • An Employer seeking to extend an existing work permit;
  • An Employee from one of the EU10  countries , Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Bulgaria and Romania would not be impacted as their Quotas were not lowered in 2010;
  • The short term work permit of four months, is not subject to the Quota allocation, and this may be an option for Employees. This short term work permit is not renewable nor is it extendable from within Switzerland, so there are restrictions that should be borne in mind when selecting this option.

The depletion of the Quotas across the Cantons, will impact Employers who are planning a first time filing of a work permit in Switzerland, in addition to foreign workers already in possession of an L permit, and who seek to convert their L Permit into a B Permit. They will be impacted by the minimal numbers of “B” Permits left in the Quotas.

Please reach out to your Pro-Link GLOBAL Immigration Professional in order to plan any work permits into Switzerland. Pro-Link GLOBAL worked with our PLG |KGNM Correspondent Office Switzerland in Zürich to provide you this update.