Work permits For Members

What happens to Brits in Switzerland when their work permits expire?

Helena Bachmann
Helena Bachmann - [email protected]
What happens to Brits in Switzerland when their work permits expire?
UK citizens' access to Switzerland is restricted. Photo: Pixabay

Ever since the UK ‘Brexited’ from the EU, its citizens have faced various restrictions in Switzerland (as elsewhere in Europe). But what happens to those already living here?


Since January 1st, 2021, Brits fall under the category of "third-country" nationals, a term used to describe people who are not citizens of either the EU or EFTA (Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein).

This means that they have lost their pre-Brexit right to an almost limitless access to Swiss jobs and residency granted to EU / EFTA nationals.

So what hurdles can UK nationals already in the country expect when time comes to renew their permits?

Much depends on when they arrived in Switzerland.

If they moved here before January 1st, 2021, they are in luck.

That’s because according to the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM), they benefit from "acquired rights" – the ones they obtained pre-Brexit.

In other words, if you are a longtime resident, and have either a residence permit B or – even better – C, then you are in the clear.

For all intents and purposes, these Switzerland-based Brits are still free to enjoy the same perks as their EU / EFTA counterparts, including being able to work in Switzerland for the duration of the validity of their permit, as well as freedom to change jobs and move from one canton to another. 

Also, in case of a job loss, a pre-Brexit UK citizen doesn’t have to leave Switzerland immediately.

Instead, they may stay in the country for at least six months to seek new employment. 

However, they will have to apply for a permit as a job-seeker with the cantonal migration authorities while looking for a new position. 

Another perk is that if you are living in Switzerland as an EU / EFTA citizen, you can purchase property – indeed, you have the same rights in this regard as Swiss citizens do.


What happens to Brits who came to Switzerland after their country left the EU?

They are now considered to be third-country nationals, and must comply with all the restrictions imposed by this status.

They will likely "feel" these limits when time comes to renew their permit.

If their permits are "tied" to their jobs – as is often the case with non-EU nationals – and their employer no longer needs them, then in all probability they will have to leave the country.


One exception would be if the person in question has some specialised skills that Switzerland’s labour market badly needs but can’t find in a Swiss or EU / EFTA candidate.

In such a case, the permit might be extended, provided that there is a sufficient number of third-county permit quotas left at a given time.

Out of the total of 12,000 permits set aside each year for citizens of third countries, Brits benefit from 3,500: 2,100 B and 1,400 L permits are set aside just for them.

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

And there is another exemption as well…

If you arrived in Switzerland post-Brexit but are a dual citizen of the UK and an EU / EFTA country, then the latter passport will take precedence for the purpose of employment.


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