Friday, August 1, 2008


By Ueli Sommer 

On January 1, 2008, the Foreign Nationals Act (the “Act) came into effect. The provisions of the Act mainly apply to citizens from outside the European Union (“EU”) and the European Free Trade Association (“EFTA”). The Act, in principal, is a compilation of the former Federal Law on the Residence and Settlement of Foreigners as well as of various related ordinances and guidelines. There are, in principal, no substantial amendments with regard to the issuance of work and residence permits for Non-EU/EFTA citizens. 

According to the Act, the requirements for a work and residence permit for Non-EU/EFTA citizens are handled strictly and applicants have to pass through a multi-level procedure on a cantonal and federal level. Cantonal quotas limit the number of permits to be issued (limiting quota). Non-EU/EFTA citizens are granted access to the Swiss labor market only upon proof that no suitable Swiss national or EU/EFTA citizen could be found for the vacant position (priority to Swiss and EU/EFTA nationals). Further, the salary and working conditions must be in accordance with the conditions customary to the region and the particular sector. Finally, the foreign national must fulfill certain personal requirements and residence permits may be issued to managers, specialists or other qualified employees only. In addition, a sustainable integration in the Swiss labor market and the social environment of the applicant must be expected, inter alia, based on the language abilities. As an exception, not all personal requirements have to be met. E.g. with regard to management transfers within international companies, a residence and work permit may be issued even if the relevant person is not fluent in one of the Swiss national languages (German, French, Italian and Rhaeto-Romanic). The admission and residence of EU/EFTA citizens are governed by the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons between the EU and Switzerland. Citizens from a primary EU country (Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Finland, France, Greece, United Kingdom, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Austria, Portugal, Sweden, Spain), from Malta, Cyprus or from an EFTA country (Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein) do, in principal, not need a work permit and have to apply for a residence permit only. Citizens of a new EU member state (Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Slovenia) have to apply for a work and residence permit and fulfill further requirements based on the temporary regulations negotiated between Switzerland and the EU.