Switzerland has imposed restrictions on the number of EU nationals who can work legally in Switzerland.
In recent years there has been a consistent growth in the number of migrant workers coming to Switzerland. This is viewed by some as having a negative as well as a positive impact on the Swiss economy and infrastructure such as the labour market, the social security system and the housing market.
The Safeguard Clause
In order to address concerns about current immigration levels, the Swiss Federal Council has invoked the safeguard clause contained in the Agreement on Free Movement of Persons.
The safeguard clause permits Switzerland to unilaterally impose restrictions (through the use of quotas) on the number of residence permits to be issued to employed and self-employed persons from the so-called EU-17 states (largely the non-Eastern European member states) which will apply for one year.
The Federal Council has also decided to extend the restrictions already in place for 5-years' residence permits for nationals of the EU-8 states (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia) for another year.
The quota to apply in respect of nationals from the EU-8 states will be 2,180 and in respect of nationals from the EU-17 53,700.
The Federal Council has not introduced quotas for short term residence permits for workers from any EU states.
The Federal Council is aware that the safeguard clause is only a short term measure and that further measures with a long term effect may be required to fully address the concerns currently being raised about the high levels of immigration. However, the Federal Council reiterated its view that the free movement of persons also brings many benefits to the Swiss economy.
Employers should take into account that the quotas above will quickly be exhausted, and applications should be made sooner rather than later to have more chance of success.
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