To ensure the existing mutual rights and obligations of its citizens continue to apply after Brexit, Switzerland and the UK signed a Bilateral Agreement on 25 February 2019 guaranteeing the acquired rights of their citizens currently living abroad in the UK and Switzerland, respectively. This agreement also governs the rules for UK citizens intending to move to Switzerland and Swiss citizens intending to move to the UK after 30 March 2019, regardless of the Brexit terms ('Deal' or 'No deal' scenario).
Switzerland and the UK: partners since 1891
The UK is an important partner for Switzerland in many areas, including migration. The relations between Switzerland and the UK are based currently on the bilateral agreements with the EU, which includes the agreement on the Free Movement of Persons (AFMP).
In order to ensure that the existing mutual rights and obligations continue to apply to their citizens after the UK leaves the EU, Switzerland and the UK signed an agreement (‘Bilateral Agreement’) on 25 February 2019 that guarantees the acquired rights for life.
Deal or no deal? What happens next?
In the event of a ‘Deal scenario’ and therefore if the UK leaves the EU on the basis of a withdrawal agreement, the provisions of the AFMP will continue to apply to Swiss and UK nationals during the transitional period (i.e. until the end of 2020). The ‘Bilateral Agreement’ will come into force as of 1 January 2021, thus continuing to guarantee the acquired rights.
No Deal scenario
In the event of a ‘No deal scenario’, the AFMP would no longer apply as of 30 March 2019. The ‘Bilateral Agreement’ will thus enter into force immediately on 30 March 2019, thus ensuring a smooth continuation of the relationship between Switzerland and the UK.
What does this mean for:
- UK citizens already in Switzerland
They will continue to benefit from the same rights as now. The ‘Bilateral Agreement’ will safeguard the acquired rights in both scenarios (‘Deal’ or ‘No deal’).
- UK citizens entering Switzerland after 30 March 2019
Regardless of the scenario (‘Deal’ or ‘No deal’), UK citizens entering Switzerland after 30 March 2019 will have a separate status. To a certain extent, this will be similar to that of other third country citizens, but UK citizens will not be subject to entry visa requirements.
The exact work-permit application procedure for UK local hires and assignees still needs to be defined, but we expect it to be similar to the one currently in place for EU assignees, i.e. employees will need to await the approval of the competent labour authority prior to taking up employment. There will be no entry visa requirements.
For employment periods longer than four months, the issuance of work permits will be subject to a specific quota. This quota will be allocated from a different ‘pot’ than that of third country citizens. From 30 March until 31 December 2019, it will amount to 3,500 permits for the whole of Switzerland.
- In the event of either scenario, the rights acquired under the AFMP by Swiss and UK citizens currently living and working in the UK and Switzerland, respectively, will be safeguarded.
- For UK nationals wishing to take up employment and/or residence in Switzerland after 30 March 2019, a new immigration procedure will apply, the details of which still need to be defined. What is certain at this time is that the issuance of work permits to UK nationals will be subject to a specific quota and there will be no entry visa requirements.
For help in navigating how Brexit will impact your business, contact Mirela Stoia, Director Immigration Services at PwC Switzerland.
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