Swiss canton accused of being ‘too strict’ with residence permits for foreigners

By requiring foreigners to show their criminal records before being allowed to live in Ticino, cantonal authorities are violating a bilateral treaty that Switzerland signed with the EU, critics say.

Swiss canton accused of being 'too strict' with residence permits for foreigners
Ticino shares a border with Italy through which over 67,000 people come to work in the Swiss canton. Photo by AFP

Ticino’s practice of checking criminal records of immigrants wanting to live in the canton “helps us to identify people who have committed serious crimes”, Norman Gobbi, the president of the local government, said in an interview with SRF broadcaster. 

“This is also a protective measure against the influence of organized crime, which is gaining a foothold throughout Switzerland,” he added.

However, many left-of-centre groups argue that Ticino’s measures are not only “too strict”, but that they also violate the terms of the Free Movement of Persons Agreement (AFMP), which gives EU and EFTA nationals the right to live and work in Switzerland.

Ticino enacted this requirement in 2015 — the only canton to do so, and has refused to nullify it since then.

READ MORE: EU immigration: Switzerland’s foreign workers in numbers 

“We informed the Ticino authorities that this measure contradicts the AFMP and to refrain from this practice ”, Lukas Rieder, spokesman for the State Secretariat for Migration said.

However, after analysing the situation, the Federal Council determined that there could be a possible solution for this impasse.

“In the EU, there is a program that allows the exchange of such criminal records”, Rieder said.

“Switzerland is trying to check whether participating in this program would respond to Ticino's concerns without violating the AFMP rules”.

If that is the case, other cantons would be able to enforce the same requirement as well.

Nearly 28 percent of Ticino’s residents are foreign nationals. 

Additionally, about 67,000 cross-border workers from Italy commute to their jobs in Ticino each day. 


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Jobs: Why Zurich has rebounded better than other Swiss cities from Covid

The Covid pandemic hit Switzerland hard, although the country's largest city has rebounded strongly.

Jobs: Why Zurich has rebounded better than other Swiss cities from Covid

Measures imposed due to the Covid pandemic, which began in earnest in February 2020, shuttered businesses across the country and pushed many people out of work. 

When most notable Covid rules were relaxed in Switzerland in mid-February 2022, the economic recovery – highlighted by a strong job market – began in earnest in 2021. 

READ MORE: How the Swiss job market rebounded from the Covid pandemic

Nowhere was this more evident than Zurich, Switzerland’s largest and most economically powerful city. 

How did Zurich rebound from the Covid pandemic in comparison to the rest of the country?

Even though Zurich, along with other large Swiss cities like Geneva, Basel, Bern and Lausanne, have been hit hard by the pandemic from the employment perspective, Zurich’s labour market is now growing faster than in other urban centres.

One of the reasons for this upward trend is that young, well-educated foreigners are coming back.

In the first nine months of 2021, the city’s population grew significantly.

In September alone, it recorded 2,200 additional residents.

This is mainly due to people with a B residence permit, according to Klemens Rosin, methodologist at Zurich’s Statistics Office.

During the crisis, far fewer of them left the city. “This group is made up of well-educated, younger and mobile foreigners who have made a significant contribution to Zurich’s growth”, Rosin said.

Zurich’s employment market is expect to grow even further.

READ MORE: How hard is finding work in Zurich without speaking German?

That’s because in the coming years, many Zurich workers will retire — an estimated  210,000 by year 2050 — creating more job opportunities for younger employees.

In fact, according to a study commissioned by the canton in 2021, if Zurich’s economy is to continue to flourish, it will need around 1.37 million workers by mid-century.

If these vacancies will not be filled, then income, tax revenue and the financing of social security programs will be impacted.

READ MORE: Have your say: What’s the best way to find a job in Zurich

While it is difficult to predict what jobs will be most in demand in 2050 — what new technologies will emerge in the meantime — right now and in medium term, IT workers will be especially needed, experts say, because businesses will continue to to digitalise and automate.

Lower skilled jobs will also be in higher demand, including hospitality, retail and transport. 

With hundreds of thousands of vacancies to fill, people with the permission to work in Switzerland are likely to be flush with offers – particularly skilled workers with recognised qualifications. 

READ MORE: Why finding a job in Switzerland is set to become easier