In 2017 there will be 7,500 B and L permits available to non-EU workers, 1,000 more than this year, news agencies reported. However that’s still 1,000 fewer than in 2014.
The increase will come as a relief for cantons that rely on specialist foreign workers such as Geneva, which ran out of permits in March.
In August Geneva cantonal authorities wrote to justice minister Simonetta Sommaruga to say they were extremely worried they could no longer offer the permit to “highly qualified non-European specialists”.
In 2014 the government allowed a total of 8,500 permits (B and L) for non-EU workers, but this was reduced to 6,500 in 2015, following the acceptance of the February 2014 anti-immigration initiative.
In 2015 Geneva was able to top up its cantonal quota with unused permits from 2014, which were held in a federal reserve. But this year both its own quota and the federal reserve were used up by August.
Geneva and other Swiss cities that have a high number of international companies feared the situation could make those employers think twice about remaining in the country.
Economics minister and Swiss president Johann Schneider-Ammann joined with the cantons in pushing for a return to 2014’s level of permits, feeling it would help the economy by creating jobs, said news agencies.
Foreign specialists in certain areas – such as pharmaceutical research and IT – are urgently required, feel the cantons.
However the Federal Council felt an extra 1,000 would be enough, with a further 1,000 to be held in a federal reserve.
Though the situation doesn’t affect EU workers, who can currently be recruited by Swiss companies without restriction, it could be a sign of things to come should the country impose some form of quotas next February in accordance with its implementation of the 2014 anti-immigration initiative.
The Swiss parliament is currently favouring a ‘light’ solution which would see the country favour native workers over EU immigrants in certain sectors or regions only if immigration becomes a particular problem.
But according to a leaked document received by Swiss broadcaster SRF, the EU has “serious reservations” about the legality of the Swiss solution, reported 20 Minutes.