As a result of the referendum held on 23 June 2016 and after a long period of uncertainty, the UK and EU parliaments approved the withdrawal agreement bill on 23 January 2020. The UK will exit the EU on 31 January 2020. The transition period will last until 31 December 2020.
Impact of Brexit on Switzerland’s and UK’s immigration policies
Until now, the relations between Switzerland and the UK were based on the bilateral agreements between the EU and Switzerland. These agreements included the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons (AFMP), which is particularly important in the area of immigration policy. All these agreements will no longer apply to Swiss-British relations after the UK has left the EU. However, there will be a transition period lasting until the end of 2020. During this transition period, the AFMP will still continue to apply between Switzerland and the UK, i.e. the status quo.
‘Mind the Gap’ strategy
Within the framework of the so-called ‘Mind the Gap’ strategy, which the Swiss Federal Council adopted on 19 October 2016, two agreements were prepared with the aim to safeguard and, where necessary, extend existing mutual rights and obligations of Swiss and UK nationals.
The so-called ‘Provisional agreement of 10 July 2019 on mutual access to the labour market’ was designed for a no-deal scenario and thus will no longer enter into force since the UK and EU were able to agree on a withdrawal agreement.
The ‘Agreement on citizens’ rights’ of 25 February 2019 will enter into force and will ensure legal certainty: all Swiss and UK nationals shall retain their respective residence authorisations, social security entitlements and the recognition of professional qualifications after the UK has left the EU.
What happens after 2020?
The Swiss Foreign Nationals and Integration Act, currently applicable to non-EU nationals, will apply equally to UK nationals. This means that Swiss employers wishing to hire UK nationals will need to file an application with the relevant cantonal authority evidencing the necessity to hire the individual. The salary and employment conditions will have to be in line with Swiss requirements. Approval for a work permit of more than four months will be conditional on the availability of a work permit under the quota system.
UK nationals who wish to work for an employer in Switzerland for up to three months can no longer use the online notification procedure. They will need a work permit.
UK employers who wish to assign employees to work in Switzerland can no longer use the online notification, unless the service provision has started in or before 2020 and the assignment is based on a valid service contract between the UK assigning entity and the Swiss company to which the person is assigned.
Family members of UK nationals wishing to move to Switzerland will have to prove that they speak the local language to a level equivalent to A2 (A1 written) of the European reference framework. For a first-time application/extension, proof of enrolment in a language course to gain these skills should be sufficient.
UK nationals will continue to be exempt from Swiss entry visa requirements. Similarly, the UK has given assurances that Swiss nationals will also remain exempt from the requirement to obtain a visa for travel to the UK.
- After the UK leaves the EU on 31 January 2020, the rights acquired under the AFMP by Swiss and UK nationals currently living and working in the UK and Switzerland, respectively, will be safeguarded.
- There will be a transition period, expected to end in December 2020, during which the AFMP will continue to apply, i.e. the status quo.
- After the transition period, UK nationals wishing to take up employment in Switzerland will be subject to a new immigration procedure: an application will need to be submitted evidencing that Swiss minimum salary and employment conditions are met, and approval will be conditional on the availability of a work permit under the quota system. Employers are encouraged to plan ahead to take into account the additional administrative process.
- UK nationals will remain exempt from entry visa requirements after Brexit.
For help in navigating how Brexit will impact your business, please contact PwC Switzerland’s Immigration Team at email@example.com.
More Brexit related information can be found here.