Before Brexit, UK citizens could freely travel, reside, holiday, and work across the EU and Switzerland. But the
condition of Switzerland after Brexit ceased to be the same after January 1, 2021.
BOn June 23, 2016, British voters opted to exit the European Union. So on January 31, 2020, the UK quit the EU. Following
the UK's exit, there was a transition phase until December 31, 2020. During this phase, the bilateral agreements between
Switzerland and the EU were still applicable to the United Kingdom.
While Switzerland is not a member of the EU, they still share many bilateral agreements. Now, Brits seeking to visit,
live, or work in Switzerland after January 1, 2021, face certain challenges due to the UK's vote to leave the EU.
What’s the citizens' rights agreement between the UK and Switzerland?
Switzerland has begun implementing its "mind the gap" policy in reaction to the UK's exit from the EU, ensuring a smooth
continuation of the UK-Swiss alliance.
The two governments signed a Citizens' Rights Agreement, as well as trade, air services, road transport, insurance, and
services mobility agreements, to protect existing rights and establish future arrangements for people and enterprises.
The agreement reached on February 25, 2019, keeps Swiss people living in the UK from losing their Agreement on the Free
Movement of Persons (AFMP) rights, including residency, social security benefits, and professional recognition. In the
same vein, residents of the UK with an AFMP residence permit who are currently living in Switzerland can rest easy.
However, after January 1, 2021, British citizens living in Switzerland are covered by Swiss social security. This
decision was made to improve social security cooperation, as well as remove duplicate insurance and coverage gaps for
those insured by both nations' social security systems. So, Switzerland and the UK’s new social security cooperation
agreement took effect on November 1, 2021.
With the UK-Swiss agreement, 43,000 British citizens live in Switzerland, 14,000 Swiss citizens live in the UK, and
approximately 2,600 British citizens travel to Switzerland to work.
As a British national, can I freely travel to Switzerland?
In late December, as the new coronavirus spread, Switzerland banned British travelers from leaving and entering the
country. By the 8th of February, the bans were called off. However, Switzerland still considers the UK a "high-risk
country" and maintains tight entrance restrictions.
But for Swiss citizens, residents, and others under extraordinary circumstances, entry exemptions may be granted.
For the citizens of the UK who lived legally in Switzerland or commuted across the border before December 31, 2020, they
preserve their European free movement rights under the UK-Swiss Citizens’ Rights Agreement. However, those who did not
get these privileges are now classified as third-country nationals.
Just like the other EU Schengen zone members, Switzerland has agreed to visa-free travel for short visits. British
passport holders do not need a visa to visit Switzerland or other Schengen countries for up to 90 days in any 180 days.
This means that while those who take short vacations or visit relatives will not notice, people that travel frequently
or spend time in Europe will have a different perspective.
But then again, starting tentatively in 2022, UK citizens will need a visa waiver to visit the EU or Switzerland for
holidays, short visits, or business. This will cost €7 (CHF7.50) and be provided via a European scheme comparable to the
ESTA authorization required for US travel.
Are there any new border checks for British citizens entering Switzerland?
Since January 2021, British nationals have had to use the "All passports" lane at Swiss airports, rather than the one
reserved for EU, EEC, or Swiss citizens, regardless of an available residency or cross-border permit. Also, they can't
use the e-gates.
The British embassy in Bern advises holders of Swiss resident permits to travel with a passport - valid for at least six
months - as well as their Swiss residence permits to cross Swiss and other Schengen borders.
According to the UK government website, British visitors traveling to Europe may be requested to show proof of financial
support. They may also be required to present their stamped passports and documentation of return or onward travel.
Can I travel with my pet?
Pets, meat, and dairy products from the UK are now subject to tighter regulations in Switzerland. With effect from
January 1, 2021, they are under the same laws as imports from third nations. So, they must go through a new four-month
Animals and animal products from the UK (England, Scotland, and Wales) now face the same import restrictions as those
from other countries, and they are subject to EU import laws.
Only Geneva, Zurich, and Basel airports currently accept dogs, cats, and ferrets, while Geneva and Zurich airports
accept birds directly. As for entry by land, border inspections, for example in France, are required to enter the EU.
After which, you may then enter Switzerland with pets as usual.
For a British student applying to a Swiss university, what do I need to know?
PFor UK students studying in Switzerland before December 31, 2020, nothing has changed. Your business remains the same.
However, from January 1, new British students studying in Switzerland are subject to the Foreign Nationals and
Integration Act (FNIA). Although they face stricter entry requirements, they do not need a visa to study in Switzerland,
and their tuition fees will stay unaltered (ranging from CHF500-2,000 per semester, plus other additional fees).
Can I still work in Switzerland as a British national?
Those who were legal residents of Switzerland before January 1, 2021 (about 43,000 persons) will be allowed to stay and
live as usual.
The UK-Swiss Citizens' Rights Agreement will continue to protect people already living and working in Switzerland after
Also, a work permit holder retains all current residency and employment rights. So generally, they can live normally.
However, after January 1, 2021, British citizens are no longer automatically entitled to live or work in the EU or
British nationals who seek to work in Switzerland must follow the Foreign Nationals and Integration Act (FNIA). One
major change though is the annual quota system for new applications (2,100 long-term B residence permits and 1,400
short-term L permits for 2021).
Newcomers will also face increased competition for jobs. Their career prospects in Switzerland are now limited to highly
qualified "important managerial and specialist" roles and are second in consideration after Swiss and EU/EFTA citizens.
Most importantly, job seekers must now get a work visa before traveling to Switzerland.
How can Sigtax help you?
Contact our team of work permit specialists today at sigtax.com to walk you through getting legal work permits in
Switzerland, from short-term permits to initial residence permits, permanent residence permits, and Cross-border
And if you want to set up a business, we are also specialized in the swift incorporation of companies in Switzerland,
depending on the availability of the required documents.