Switzerland/United Kingdom – Bilateral post-Brexit agreement approved by the Swiss Federal Council
The Swiss Federal Council has approved the Swiss-U.K. agreement. The agreement has yet to be ratified by the U.K.
What does this mean?
The new Swiss-U.K. agreement will administer the status of U.K. nationals in Switzerland and Swiss nationals in the U.K. following Brexit. The effective date of the agreement depends on the outcome of negotiations between the EU and U.K.:
- If a deal is reached, the Swiss-U.K. agreement will enter into force after the transition period ends, on Dec. 31, 2020 (there is a possibility that the transition period will be extended).
- If no deal is reached, the Swiss-U.K. agreement will enter into force on Mar. 30, 2019.
Key points of the Swiss- U.K. agreement:
- Work authorization. U.K. nationals registered in Switzerland and Swiss nationals registered in the U.K. before the Swiss-U.K. agreement comes into force, as well as their dependents, will preserve their status under the EU-Swiss Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons (FMOPA).The agreement also covers cross-border workers in both countries such as G-permit holders working in Switzerland.
- Permanent residence. U.K. nationals already residing in Switzerland and Swiss nationals already residing in the U.K. will remain eligible for permanent residence after five years of legal residence, as under current rules.
- Post-Brexit arrivals. Dependents of U.K. and Swiss nationals already residing in the respective host country who arrive after the Swiss-U.K. agreement comes into effect will also fall under the scope of the FMOPA. U.K. and Swiss nationals who arrive in the respective host country after the agreement comes into force will require work authorization and a residence permit. In Switzerland, the entry and exit of U.K. nationals and their family members will be regulated by the Schengen rules.
While many EU member states are currently establishing unilateral measures to protect U.K. citizens’ rights under a no-deal Brexit, Switzerland must take a bilateral approach to its Brexit planning, as the country’s immigration regime does not fully fall under EU mobility regulations. Switzerland is not part of the EU but is a member of Schengen, a peculiarity which distinguishes Switzerland’s immigration regime from that of its European neighbours.
Switzerland has established various bilateral agreements that support free movement to and from the country. Currently, relations between the U.K. and Switzerland are governed by the EU-Swiss Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons (FMOPA). After Brexit, the U.K. will no longer be an EU member and the agreement will not cover U.K. citizens.
The agreement, if ratified by both countries, will provide some certainty to employers as well as to U.K. and Swiss nationals residing in the respective host country. While some post-Brexit and post-transition procedures remain unclear, it is likely that employees will be able to continue working and residing in their respective host country based on their current status. Employers should ensure that sufficient preparation is afforded to those nationals who will require work and residence permits in a post-Brexit scenario.