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How will Brexit impact British cross-border workers in Switzerland?

Well over 320,000 cross-border workers commute into Switzerland daily from neighbouring EU countries. Here’s how Brexit on January 31st, 2020 will impact you.

How will Brexit impact British cross-border workers in Switzerland?
Photo: KENZO TRIBOUILLARD / AFP

With Switzerland not being a member of the European Union, British workers in the country have taken Brexit with a little less concern than many of their neighbours. 

With Brexit becoming finalised on Friday, January 31st, there are however implications that must be considered – particularly for cross-border workers. 

If you work in Switzerland but live in a neighbouring country, here’s what you need to know about Brexit. 

If you live and work in Switzerland, we’ve prepared and published a guide for how Brexit is likely to impact you

READ: Five things you should know if you're a cross-border worker in Switzerland

G-Permit workers

Cross-border workers will usually be conferred a right to work in Switzerland pursuant to what is known as a G-Permit. There are 325,291 G-Permit holders at last count, with permit holders mostly working in Geneva, Ticino and Basel. 

As reported by The Local in November of 2019, France, Italy and Germany provide the most cross-border workers. 

“The largest number — 85,100 —people came to Geneva from France, 67,800 crossed the border from Italy to Ticino, while 33,700 came from Germany and France to Basel, as the city straddles French and German borders.”

G-Permits are generally valid for a year at a time and require holders to return to their homes outside Switzerland at least once per week. 

Photo: KENZO TRIBOUILLARD / AFP

G-Permit workers after Brexit

The Swiss Citizens’ Rights Agreement, which comes in to replace the freedom of movement agreement after Brexit takes place, protects rights for UK citizens – including those of cross-border workers. 

Therefore, the rights of cross-border workers will be protected under the Swiss Citizens’ Rights Agreement. If you are currently a British cross-border worker with a valid G-Permit, your rights will be preserved. 

Workers without a G-Permit?

UK workers who have not yet exercised their rights to work as a cross-border worker may exercise this right during the transition period, provided they satisfy three conditions. 

These workers must have a permanent right of residence in a neighbouring state; have had a place of residence in the neighbouring state for at least six months; and must work within Switzerland. 

A comprehensive list of Frequently Asked Questions is provided here

What about residency, health insurance and other rights in EU countries?

Obviously, a right to work in Switzerland will not in and of itself confer you with the right to live in a neighbouring country – which can lead to problems regarding residency permits as well as health insurance and other issues. 

This will of course depend on the country in which you live.

The following links from The Local’s sister sites in France, Italy and Germany cover rights of British workers to reside in these countries. 

READ: Brexit: What do Brits in Germany need to think about before January 31st?

READ: Brexit countdown: What do Brits in Italy need to do before January 31st?

READ: Brexit: What do Brits in France need to do before January 31st?

Furthermore, as discussed in this report, health insurance rights will depend both on your residency status and how your insurance is currently being covered.

Please discuss this and relevant issues with your health provider and employer. 

Notice: As with any form of advice piece featured on The Local Switzerland, it is a guide for our readers only and does not amount to legal advice. Always seek legal advice on matters relating to immigration rights.

 

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EUROPEAN UNION

How Europe plans to ease long-term residence rules for non-EU nationals

Non-EU citizens living in the European Union are eligible for a special residence status that allows them to move to another country in the bloc. Getting the permit is not simple but may get easier, explains Claudia Delpero.

How Europe plans to ease long-term residence rules for non-EU nationals

The European Commission proposed this week to simplify residence rules for non-EU nationals who live on a long-term basis in the European Union.

The intention is to ease procedures in three areas: acquiring EU long-term residence status, moving to other EU countries and improving the rights of family members. 

But the new measures will have to be approved by the European Parliament and the EU Council, which is made of national ministers. Will EU governments support them?

What is EU long-term residence?

Non-EU citizens who live in EU countries on a long-term basis are eligible for long-term residence status, nationally and at the EU level. 

This EU status can be acquired if the person has lived ‘legally’ in an EU country for at least five years, has not been away for more than 6 consecutive months and 10 months over the entire period, and can prove to have “stable and regular economic resources” and health insurance. Applicants can also be required to meet “integration conditions”, such as passing a test on the national language or culture knowledge. 

The EU long-term residence permit is valid for at least five years and is automatically renewable. But the status can be lost if the holder leaves the EU for more than one year (the EU Court of Justice recently clarified that being physically in the EU for a few days in a 12-month period is enough to maintain the status).

READ ALSO: IN NUMBERS: How many non-EU citizens live in European Union countries?

Long-term residence status grants equal treatment to EU nationals in areas such as employment and self-employment or education. In addition, EU long-term residence grants the possibility to move to other EU countries under certain conditions. 

What does the European Commission want to change?

The European Commission has proposed to make it easier to acquire EU long-term residence status and to strengthen the rights associated with it. 

Under new measures, non-EU citizens should be able to cumulate residence periods in different EU countries to reach the 5-year requirement, instead of resetting the clock at each move. 

This, however, will not apply to individuals who used a ‘residence by investment’ scheme to gain rights in the EU, as the Commission wants to “limit the attractiveness” of these routes and not all EU states offer such schemes. 

All periods of legal residence should be fully counted towards the 5 years, including those spent as students, beneficiaries of temporary protection or on temporary grounds. Stays under a short-term visa do not count.

Children who are born or adopted in the EU country having issued the EU long-term residence permit to their parents should acquire EU long-term resident status in that country automatically, without residence requirement, the Commission added.

READ ALSO: Why it may get easier for non-EU citizens to move to another European Union country

EU countries should also avoid imposing a minimum income level for the resources condition but consider the applicant’s individual circumstances, the Commission suggests.

Integration tests should not be too burdensome or expensive, nor should they be requested for long-term residents’ family reunifications. 

The Commission also proposed to extend from 12 to 24 months the possibility to leave the EU without losing status, with facilitated procedures (no integration test) for the re-acquisition of status after longer absences.

A person who has already acquired EU long-term residence status in one EU country should only need three years to acquire the same status in another EU member state. But the second country could decide whether to wait the completion of the five years before granting social benefits. 

The proposal also clarifies that EU long-term residents should have the same right as EU nationals with regard to the acquisition of private housing and the export of pensions, when moving to a third country. 

Why make these changes?

Although EU long-term residence exists since 2006, few people have benefited. “The long-term residents directive is under-used by the member states and does not provide for an effective right to mobility within the EU,” the Commission says. 

Around 3.1 million third-country nationals held long-term residence permits for the EU in 2017, compared to 7.1 million holding a national one. “we would like to make the EU long-term residence permit more attractive,” said European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson.

The problems are the conditions to acquire the status, too difficult to meet, the barriers faced when moving in the EU, the lack of consistency in the rights of long-term residents and their family members and the lack of information about the scheme.

Most EU member states continue to issue “almost exclusively” national permits unless the applicant explicitly asks for the EU one, an evaluation of the directive has shown.

READ ALSO: Pensions in the EU: What you need to know if you’re moving country

This proposal is part of a package to “improve the EU’s overall attractiveness to foreign talent”, address skill shortages and facilitate integration in the EU labour market of people fleeing Ukraine. 

On 1 January 2021, 23.7 million non-EU nationals were residing in the EU, representing 5.3% of the total population. Between 2.25 to 3 million non-EU citizens move to the EU every year. More than 5 million people have left Ukraine for neighbouring states since the beginning of the war in February. 

Will these measures also apply to British citizens?

These measures also apply to British citizens, whether they moved to an EU country before or after Brexit. 

The European Commission has recently clarified that Britons living in the EU under the Withdrawal Agreement can apply for a long-term residence too.

As Britons covered by the Withdrawal Agreement have their residence rights secured only in the country where they lived before Brexit, the British in Europe coalition recommended those who need mobility rights to seek EU long-term residence status. 

These provisions do not apply in Denmark and Ireland, which opted out of the directive.

What happens next?

The Commission proposals will have to be discussed and agreed upon by the European Parliament and Council. This is made of national ministers, who decide by qualified majority. During the process, the proposals can be amended or even scrapped. 

In 2021, the European Parliament voted through a resolution saying that third-country nationals who are long-term residents in the EU should have the right to reside permanently in other EU countries, like EU citizens. The Parliament also called for the reduction of the residency requirement to acquire EU long-term residence from five to three years.

READ ALSO: COMPARE: Which EU countries grant citizenship to the most people?

EU governments will be harder to convince. However, presenting the package, Commission Vice-President for Promoting our European Way of Life, Margaritis Schinas, said proposals are likely to be supported because “they fit in a broader framework”, which represents the “construction” of the “EU migration policy”. 

National governments are also likely to agree because large and small employers face skill shortages, “especially in areas that are key to our competitiveness, like agri-food, digital, tourism, healthcare… we need people,” Schinas said.

The article is published in cooperation with Europe Street News, a news outlet about citizens’ rights in the EU and the UK.

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