How Switzerland plans to ease rules for workers from non-EU countries

Helena Bachmann
Helena Bachmann - [email protected]
How Switzerland plans to ease rules for workers from non-EU countries
More workers from third nations will be able to come to Switzerland. Photo by Briana Tozour on Unsplash

The Swiss government wants to simplify authorisation procedures for workers coming from outside the EU / EFTA area to boost the country’s shortage-stricken labour market. Here's what we know so far.


While people from the European Union, as well from as from Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein have an almost unlimited access to Switzerland’s employment market (and vice-versa), citizens of third nations — those outside the EU / EFTA, including the UK, United States, Australia, Canada, and India, among others — face far more restrictions.

For instance, they are subject to the quota system.

For the past several years, the government has issued a total of 8,500 work permits for third-country nationals: 4,500 B and 4,000 L permits.

In addition, 3,500 additional permits are set aside for workers from the UK, as British citizens benefit from separate quotas: 2,100 under a B permit and 1,400 under an L permit.

That’s because the Federal Council decided that Swiss companies could continue to recruit specialised employees from the United Kingdom after Brexit, setting a separate quota for British workers.

The federal government distributes these permits among cantons, based on their needs.

READ MORE: Switzerland's planned work quotas for third-country nationals


The criteria for being granted a permit under the quota system is very strict: you will be considered for a job only if you are a highly qualified specialist in your field or another skilled professional. This means you should have a degree from a university or an institution of higher education, as well as a number of years of professional work experience.

In addition, the job you are seeking can’t be filled by a Swiss national or people from EU / EFTA states, which the employer has to prove before offering you a job.

But these conditions will get loosened a bit, the Swiss government has revealed. 

Given that certain sectors are experiencing a shortage of skilled workers, the Swiss government has decided to make some changes in its strict policy, the government announced on Wednesday. 

In order to simplify the authorisation process, the Swiss government has implemented a series of measures removing administrative obstacles for companies seeking to recruit outside of EU / EFTA states — “if this meets a need and serves the economic interests of the country.”

Which conditions will be eased?

The quota system currently in place for third-country nationals will remain, as it "fulfils its objective of managing immigration well".

The government will, however, implement some ad hoc improvements, including setting the annual quotas based on labour market needs; also, the allocation of quotas  to the cantons will be simplified.

For instance, “cantons can be more flexible” towards foreigners “in professions particularly affected by the shortage of skilled labour", the government said.

"The cantonal authorities responsible for the labour market and migration can consider the situation of companies seeking to recruit in occupations particularly affected by the shortage of skilled labour,” it added.  


Concretely, this means that for these trades, cantons can be more flexible in regards to candidates’ professional qualifications and the proof that recruitment for these jobs was not possible in Switzerland or from EU / EFTA states.

For foreigners who already have a residence permit in Switzerland, the cantons can also simplify “the passage from a salaried activity to a self-employed activity.”

READ MORE: Freelancing in Switzerland: What foreign nationals need to know

Additionally, the cantons together with the Federal Department of Justice and Police, which is responsible for managing immigration, will look into ways of shortening processing times of applications from third-country candidates.

The exact date when these changes will actually be implemented has not been released.


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