Brexit: Update and impact on Swiss permit applications for UK citizens

The enforcement of Brexit impacts heavily UK citizens planning to move and work in Switzerland from January 2021.

UK citizens’ immigration rights are no longer regulated by the agreement on the Freedom of Movement of People (AFMP), applying to all EU-27/AELE citizens under Swiss law, but by the federal law on Foreigners and Integration (LEI), applying to non-EU citizens in terms of work and residency permits.

However, it is important to keep in mind that residency rights acquired in Switzerland by British and Northern Ireland citizens and their family members before January 1st 2021 remain preserved.

Therefore, UK citizens who applied for a Swiss permit during the transitory period applying from December 31st 2020 to January 1st 2021 and who have not received their permit yet, remain assessed by the AFMP (EU conditions), even if the permit is delivered in 2021.

The same rule applies to students, independents, retirees, service providers and cross-border workers, as long as the application was lodged properly with the relevant documents to cantonal authorities before the deadline.

CDL holders are not concerned by the AFMP, however dependants of CDL holders who could previously request a B permit instead of the CDL do no longer benefit from this exception.

UK citizens who are applying for a Swiss permit from January 1st 2021 are now considered as non-EU citizens, which means that stricter conditions apply.

For instance, a work permit application must be lodged by the employer by proving that the position was advertised according to legal dispositions stated in art. 18 and 21 LEI and the worker holds specific skills that no other Swiss or European worker can demonstrate on the job market (art. 23 LEI).

A yearly quota is now applying per canton from January 2021, which implies that a work permit application lodged for a UK citizen has higher chances to be rejected by authorities.

Concerning family reunification, if the family tie with the UK citizen living in Switzerland has been legally recognised before December 31st 2020, the reunification procedure remains regulated by the AMFP (EU conditions). Therefore, direct family members or spouses living overseas can be reunited in Switzerland with the main applicant even after January 1st 2021 and until December 31st 2025 (Circulaire SEM, Brexit, 14.12.2020).

For British and Northern Ireland citizens who are renewing their B permits from 2021, a language certificate will not be required, as it is the AFMP conditions that still apply. However, a criminal record can be now requested by authorities and the nature of the infraction is examined under the LEI regulations if it was committed after December 31st 2020 (Circulaire SEM, Brexit, 14.12.2020).

The transition between a B EU permit and a C permit after 5 years of residence in Switzerland remains regulated by the LEI, as it has always been, where the integration level is assessed following art. 58a LEI conditions (knowledge of language at B1 level spoken, stable employment situation, no debts or criminal record and proof that assistance from the state was not requested within the past 5 years).

UK citizens will now be granted a biometric permit in a credit card format once their B permit expires, following Schengen regulations (Circulaire SEM, Brexit, 14.12.2020).

A visa is not required for UK citizens to enter Switzerland for tourism purposes.

11/01/2021 – Alexa Mossaz, immigration specialist at Legal Expat



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    This website aims to provide general information regarding Swiss law and should not be regarded as a legal opinion. For more specific advice, do not hesitate to contact us.