After Brexit – Access to the Swiss Labour Market

Because of the United Kingdom (UK) leaving the European Union (EU), the Agreement on Free Movement of Persons (AFMP) no longer applies to the UK. In its lieu, the agreements on the acquired rights of citizens and the temporary Services Mobility Agreement (SMA) between Switzerland and the UK take effect, along with Switzerland’s Foreign National and Immigration Act (FNIA).

What does this mean for UK nationals with a valid work and residence permit (issued before 31 December 2020)?
UK nationals continue to be entitled to their legal claims (e.g. their right to residence), if they have been legally residing in Switzerland, or held a work or residence permit, before 1 January 2021; that was approved by 31 December 2020 based on the Agreement on Free Movement of Persons. Their rights are supported by the Agreement on the acquired rights of citizens.

How does Brexit affect service providers from the UK?
The temporary Services Mobility Agreement for two years follows the Agreement on Free Movement of Persons, and allows individuals providing professional services eased access for cross-border provisions of professional services. This means that employed and self-employed service providers from the UK can continue to use the existing registration/reporting procedure for short-term deployments of up to 90 business days during the calendar year; a notification has to be reported eight days before the commencement of service provisions. The reporting procedure also benefits foreign employees regardless of their nationality, provided they are employed in the UK and have been officially admitted to the regular UK labour market for at least 12 months.

Important information, please note: The registration procedure applies to self-employed service providers, who are EU/EFTA nationals residing and having their place of business in the UK, only if cross-border provision of services has officially started by 31 December 2020 and if a written contract for services provided has been signed before this date.   

After the options of the reporting/registration procedure have been exhausted, all additional cross-border service provisions and their self-employed or employed personnel, require a regular application for a work permit with the Office of Economy and Labour (AWA). There is, however, no guaranteed right to access to the Swiss labour market. Any application will be examined according to the conditions and requirements for admission as outlined in Switzerland’s Foreign National and Immigration Act.

What are the requirements for UK nationals who plan to emigrate to Switzerland to start a new job?
Following Brexit, the UK is in principle considered to have the status of a third country. Effective since 1 January 2021, UK nationals planning to emigrate to Switzerland in order to start employment or working here, are subject to the Foreign Nationals and Integration Act (FNIA). The Swiss employer is obliged to apply for a work permit on behalf of a prospective foreign employee at the Office of Economy and Labour AWA prior to starting a new job in the Canton of Basel-Stadt.
Application approval or rejection is the independent responsibility of AWA, i.e. there will be no additional approval needed from the Federal Government. Furthermore, UK nationals do not have to obtain a visa.
In general, a work permit will only be issued for executives and managers, expert professionals and otherwise highly skilled personnel, provided that their employment is in the larger national economic interest, and that all individual requirements constitute priority and are met according to all local, occupation and industry specific regulations regarding working conditions and compensation. In addition, work permits are subject to quarterly quota issued by the Federal Government.

Please further note that the reporting procedure is no longer required for UK nationals who are starting a position with a Swiss company/employer.

Legal basis

Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons (AFMP)
Bilateral agreement between the Swiss Confederation and the European Union and its member states regarding free movement of persons, effective since 21 June 1999 (AFMP).

Foreign National and Integration Act (FNIA)
Federal law effective since 16 December 2005 concerning foreign nationals and integration (FNIA)

Agreement on acquired rights
Agreement from 25 February 2019 between the Swiss Confederation and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland on citizens’ rights following the United Kingdom leaving the European Union and the discontinuation of the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons.

Temporary Services Mobility Agreement (SMA)
Temporary agreement from 14 December 2020 between the Swiss Confederation and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland on the mobility of services and their providers (Services Mobility Agreement (SMA)).

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