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Work permits For Members

How UK citizens can obtain a Swiss work permit set aside for Brits

Helena Bachmann
Helena Bachmann - [email protected]
How UK citizens can obtain a Swiss work permit set aside for Brits
You must meet entry requirements before being allowed to enter Switzerland for work. Photo: Pixabay

British nationals who want to work in Switzerland can access permits intended specifically for them — provided they meet the strict eligibility requirements.

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After the United Kingdom ‘Brexited’ from the EU in January 2020, UK nationals have no longer had the same free access to Switzerland’s labour market as before.

The new restrictions don’t, however, apply to British nationals who had moved to Switzerland before the end of the Brexit transition period (December 31st, 2020) — they still  retain all their existing rights for residence and employment.

But those wishing to work in Switzerland currently face the same strict entry rules as other non-EU/EFTA (third-country) nationals.

What exactly does this mean?

Rather than being able to get a Swiss work permit fairly easy, as EU/EFTA (Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein) citizens do, people from the UK must now meet much stricter criteria.

You may have a chance if you are a highly qualified specialist or skilled professional in your field. This means that 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.

Additionally, you can be hired only if no suitable Swiss or EU/EFTA candidate can be found to fill the vacant position.

As a hiring priority is given to those already in the country, your British countrymen and women who came to Switzerland before Brexit and who already have residency rights, will be given first dibs at any available position.

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A matter of quotas

In a sense, though, people from the UK still have an edge over other third-country nationals - at least for now. 

That’s because as part of a transitional post-Brexit arrangement, Swiss government has set aside separate quotas (work permits) for British citizens.

In addition to 8,500 permits earmarked for 2024 for non-EU/EFTA workers, Brits benefit from separate quotas: 2,100 under a B permit and 1,400 under an L permit.

However, the government "intends to incorporate the separate quota for UK nationals into the regular quota for third-country nationals in the medium term,” according to the Federal Council.

READ ALSO: Who do Switzerland's 12,000 work permits for non-EU citizens go to?

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How can you apply for a job in Switzerland under this quota?

First, you must have an employer in Switzerland willing to hire you — that is, a company that needs specifically someone with your experience, education, and qualifications, but can’t find a suitable candidate among those already living in Switzerland, or are unable to recruit someone from the EU/EFTA.

In such a case, the company will apply to immigration authorities in their canton for the permit under the UK contingent — either L or B, depending on the duration of your work contract.

You can’t undertake this procedure yourself; your employer must do so, as they have to provide proof that you are qualified, that your employment is in the interest of the country’s economy, and that no one else with the same skills could be found among Swiss or EU/EFTA candidates.

Once the requested authorisations have been delivered, the application must be sent for approval to the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM), the ultimate authority on all matters relating to immigration and work permits.

If the requested authorisations have been delivered, the next step is for you to apply for the entry visa at the Swiss Embassy or a consulate in the UK.

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Note that while you don’t need a visa for tourism purposes, you do need one if are coming in to work in Switzerland. By the same token, you can’t come to Switzerland as a tourist and look for a job.

If you do so and happen to find one, you will still have to leave Switzerland and undertake the process from your Great Britain.

Besides other documents you must supply — such as a photocopy of your passport as well as the employment contract — you will also attach the work authorisation issued by the cantonal authority.

Once the entry visa arrives (typically after several weeks, though the process could take less time) you are free to enter Switzerland.

Before you take up your employment, however, you will need to report to the cantonal immigration office that issued your work permit,  no later than 14 days after your arrival.

READ ALSO: How can non-EU nationals apply for a Swiss work visa?

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