What to know about Switzerland and the UK's agreement on recognising qualifications

Helena Bachmann
Helena Bachmann - [email protected]
What to know about Switzerland and the UK's agreement on recognising qualifications
UK nationals will have their professional credentials recognised in Switzerland. Image by Stefan Schweihofer from Pixabay

The UK is no longer part of the EU after Brexit, which means British citizens lost many of the privileges they used to enjoy in Switzerland — and vice-versa. But a new treaty is set to eliminate some of the hassles on the job front.


On Wednesday, Swiss Economy Minister Guy Parmelin and the British Secretary of State for Business and Trade, Kemi Badenoch, signed an agreement on the mutual recognition of professional qualifications.

This pact officially validates UK-obtained credentials in Switzerland, and vice-versa.

Up until the United Kingdom left the European Union, its citizens benefited from the EU’s system of mutual recognition of professional qualifications, which is applied in Switzerland as well.

As a non-EU/EFTA nation, however, recognition of professional credentials requires a stricter administrative process

The agreement reached between Bern and London on Wednesday "enables citizens of both countries to take up employment in regulated professional activities", the Federal Council said in a statement.

The UK hopes the move will "allow British companies to compete for more contracts in Switzerland in the long run, boosting UK services exports, growing the UK economy and encouraging Swiss investment into the UK", according to Great Britain’s Department for Business and Trade. 

The Swiss Federal Council also pointed out that “mutual recognition agreements are needed to cover qualifications awarded in countries whose education system is comparable to Switzerland's".

The Council added: "The UK is an ideal partner for Switzerland as both countries have an outstanding education system."

What happens now?

Unfortunately, the deal doesn't come into force immediately. 

The Swiss Parliament still needs to ratify the agreement, which is expected to occur sometime in 2024, so no changes will be implemented until then.


What will it mean for Brits coming to Switzerland?

Thanks to high wages and a good quality of life, Switzerland is a popular destination country for work for people in many industries, whether its IT, banking and finance or pharmaceuticals. 

Foreigners coming from a non-EU/EFTA nation who didn't study at a Swiss university or complete an apprenticeship in Switzerland often have to get their foreign qualifications recognised in order to work in Switzerland. 

For that they need a copy of the qualifications (possibly translated), while in some cases there's a fee to pay. 

READ ALSO: How can I have my foreign qualifications recognised in Switzerland?

However, in future under the new deal Brits won't need to do this. 


Do UK citizens benefit from other rights in Switzerland?

After Brexit, Brits are no longer part of the Free Movement of Persons Agreement that allowed them the same almost unlimited access to the Swiss labour market granted to EU/ EFTA nationals.

Their employment is now regulated by the quota system — the limited number of work permits accorded to non-EU citizens.

However, within that group, the British benefit from a separate quota that is not a part of the general pool: 3,500 permits are set aside for workers from the UK — 2,100 under a B permit and 1,400 under an L permit. 

Also, neither the qualifications recognition rule nor the permit quota system applies to British nationals who had moved to Switzerland before the end of the Brexit transition period (December 31st, 2020) — they will retain all their existing rights for residence and employment as EU / EFTA citizens.


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