Switzerland–Work permit quotas
2 March 2015
On 28 November 2014, the Swiss government made the decision to reduce the number of work permit quotas available Swiss-wide for non-EU/EFTA nationals and for assignees from EU/EFTA member states, effective 1 January 2015.
The quotas are now limited to the following numbers:
- 4’000 L permits for non-EU/EFTA nationals
- 2'500 B permits for non-EU/EFTA nationals
- 2'000 L permits for EU/EFTA nationals
- 250 B permits for EU/EFTA nationals
The cantonal quota entitlement is subject to a yearly review released by the Federal Council. Each canton has a different quota entitlement. The annual quota is divided and released on a quarterly basis and is expected to be full by the middle to end of each quarter, which means applications can be delayed until the quotas for the next quarter are released.
In a number of cantons, there are currently no more L permit quotas for this quarter, i.e., until 1 April 2015. Note however that this only applies to the L permit, and although the quota for B permits has been reduced for 2015 as well, they are currently still available.
In certain cantons, such as Zurich, it will not be possible to extend L permits for EU/EFTA assignees that will expire between now and 1 April 2015. In other cantons, such as Basel and Geneva, an extension should still be possible.
There has been no official statement from the State Secretariat for Migration (the former Federal Office for Migration) on this point as this will not be an issue for many organisations with expatriate populations coming into Switzerland. The L permit is not as favourably used due to the limited duration, with the B permit being preferred for longer international assignments, and the 120-day work permit being preferred for short-term business visits. G permits (applicable for commuters) are not impacted by this.
Recommendations on how to deal with the current situation
- Organisations should strategically consider what their current employment needs are and if there are local resources available in Switzerland instead of international assignees.
- As EU/EFTA work permits for local hires are not falling under the quotas, where possible, companies may try to offer local Swiss employment contracts.
- For senior/strategic roles that need to be filled by assignees, it may be worth delaying the start of assignments that were due to begin in quarter 1, 2015 to the following quarter.
- Consideration of commuter or cross-border employees who require a G permit where there is no quota attached.
- In Zurich and in other cantons where the quota has been reached, it may be possible to request 120-day work permits and file an extension application for a longer term work permit approximately one month prior to the release of the new quota.
- In other cantons where no quota is used for permit extensions, permits can be extended normally.
What should you do going forward?
Due to the lower quotas, the immigration authorities have tightened application practices, such as closer scrutiny of applications, increased salary requirements (wage equalisation), and stricter extension rules. The authorities are also assessing applications in more detail and are responding with additional questions or a refusal but typically with the right to be heard (this trend has been already recognised).
These measures have made obtaining work permits slightly more difficult, but getting a Swiss work permit is still possible for those that meet the conditions or work in a shortage industry. In order to mitigate this issue, organisations should ensure that they:
- First check resources available within the Swiss labour market before filling the position with an assignee.
- Adopt a forward-looking staffing/work permit application plan in order to avoid delays as best possible, as the authorities will treat applications according to the first received, first processed principle.
- Draft application letters carefully, focusing on clear explanations and evidence of applicants' skills and their link to the planned activities in Switzerland.
- Respect the minimum salary requirements imposed by the Swiss authorities (Swiss peer-level salaries and additional payments/allowances for housing/meals).
The changes to the work permit quotas for 2015 will see the immigration authorities more closely monitor all work permit applications made.
Alternative solutions are available, as mentioned above, by transferring employees with an EU/EFTA nationality on a local Swiss employment contract or by implementing commuter or cross-border working arrangements.
We recommend that companies review their workforce planning strategy to assess the need for assignees coming into Switzerland and take care when drafting applications for future work permits, ensuring they meet all the legal requirements.
Deloitte can support you with your workforce planning and international assignment strategy and policies.