The Swiss government has decided to increase the quota for visas issued to skilled workers who are citizens of non – EU member countries. The new quota is set to be applied starting with 2017, raising the number of visas from 6,500 to 7,500. This decision was made after various companies operating in Swiss cantons complained about the fact that their quotas have already been used for the year of 2016.


More work permits in 2017

This decision represents only a compromise made by Swiss authorities, as the number of L permits and B permits issued in 2017 will still be 1,000 fewer work permits being issued, as opposed to 2014, when a curb on foreign immigration was imposed in Switzerland.

The economic ministers from three of the most prosperous Swiss cantons (Geneva, Basel City and Zurich) have already stated in July 2016 that it is a real necessity to allow the access of more skilled workers from non – EU countries on the Swiss labor market. Some Swiss companies have also declared that they will be forced to move activities and projects in other countries if they are not able to recruit enough skilled workers and specialists outside of the EU.

The main concern of Swiss authorities is to implement this initiative vote in a way that doesn’t directly violate the bilateral agreement with the European Union on the free movement of people. The decision from 2014 was meant to cut down the number of non – EU work visas from 8,500 annually to 6,500 annually, in order to respect the will of Swiss voters.

The reduction of work visas was also implemented to create an incentive for Swiss companies, for them to make more effective use of the available Swiss workforce, instead of “importing” foreign workers.

However, this decision was greeted with protests from larger Swiss companies because their motivation was that there is a lack of qualified workers on the Swiss market.


Cantonal quotas

Several Swiss cantons, including Geneva, Zurich or Vaud have already used up their yearly quota of work visas. In September 2016, Swiss Economics Minister Johann Schneider – Ammann said he would try to convince his colleagues to return to 8,500 permits issued annually.

For the year of 2016, Swiss companies were allowed to recruit a maximum number of 6,500 workers from non – EU member states. Of this, only 2,500 are B permits (temporary residence permits) and 4,000 are L permits (temporary residence permits for up to 1 year).

For the year of 2017, 4,500 L permits and 3,000 B permits will be distributed among Swiss cantons. In comparison in 2014, 3,500 B permits and 5,000 L permits were issued and distributed among Swiss cantons.


How to obtain a work permit as a non – EU citizen

Non – EU citizens may obtain a work permit in Switzerland only if they have an employment contract with a Swiss company.

The respective company must submit an application form to employ a specialist from non – EU states in order to obtain a short – term work permit for up to 120 working days per year.

Non – EU citizens may obtain a B permit if they have an employment contract for a limited period of time. The permit is valid for one year, with the possibility to renew it for another 364 days. Non – EU citizens employed based on an employment contract for an unlimited period of time, may apply for a long – term work permit, valid for up to 5 years.

For more more information on how to obtain a Swiss work permit, it’s recommended to contact the local authorities in the Swiss canton where you intend to work and live. However, keep in mind that a specialized firm is your best options to obtain a work permit in Switzerland, as they are able to provide you with all the necessary information and to handle the legal requirements.

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