Brexit: Consequences for British Citizens under Swiss Immigration Law

Immigration Law, Brexit, Consequences, Work Permit, Visa, UK Nationals

The withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union will enter into force abruptly on 31 October 2019, unless a withdrawal agreement between the EU and the UK with transitional solutions can be found beforehand. With the withdrawal of British citizens, the freedom of movement within the EU area will also lapse if the United Kingdom and the EU fail to negotiate an agreement. The fact that British citizens will no longer be EU nationals from the beginning of November 2019 also has an impact on the residence and immigration regime in Switzerland for them and for British citizens who wish to work in Switzerland.

On 25 February 2019, Switzerland and the UK signed an agreement on citizens' rights in the event of the United Kingdom's disorderly withdrawal from the EU. The agreement protects the rights acquired under the Agreement on Free Movement of Persons (AFMP), such as residence rights, social benefits and the recognition of professional qualifications. The agreement shall apply to Swiss citizens residing in the United Kingdom and to British citizens residing in Switzerland. However, it does not apply to persons who immigrate to Switzerland or the United Kingdom after the Brexit or discontinuation of the AFMP.

For them, it is crucial whether there is a "hard" Brexit, or whether there is an orderly withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the EU. If the United Kingdom withdraws from the EU with an agreement, the AFMP would continue to apply between Switzerland and the United Kingdom during a transitional phase (probably until the end of 2020). In case of a "hard" or disorderly Brexit, British citizens would in principle be treated in the same way as other third-country nationals and would thus have to comply with the provisions of the Foreigner Nationals and Integration Act (FNIA). However, in order to maintain its close bilateral relations with the United Kingdom, Switzerland has drawn up new agreements with the United Kingdom.

For persons who immigrate from Switzerland to the UK or from the UK to Switzerland only after the abolition of the FMPA, Switzerland and the UK signed an agreement on 10 July 2019 on admission to the labour market of the other country, which expires on 31 December 2020. It is only applicable in the case of a hard Brexit. The Federal Council opened the consultation procedure for this agreement at its meeting on 14 August 2019. The consultation process will last until 21 November 2019.

It provides for the creation of separate quotas for employed British citizens, to be determined annually by the Federal Council. In addition, for a limited transitional period, simplified admission conditions for British nationals to the Swiss labour market are to apply in such a way that the examination of vocational qualifications, priority for Swiss nationals and general economic interests is temporarily waived in individual cases.

In contrast, the British grant Swiss citizens a stay of up to three months without a residence permit. In the event of a stay exceeding this period, registration would be necessary and Swiss citizens would receive a three-year residence permit.

The Federal Council's press release of February 13, 2019, can be found here: Press release

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February 2019 | Authors: Michèle Stutz, Stefanie Fuchs

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