Consequences of Brexit for British and Swiss citizens in Switzerland and the UK

Immigration law, Brexit, Consequences, Work permits, Swiss citizen, British citizen

The United Kingdom left the European Union on 31 January 2020. Three years after the decision of the British people to leave the union of states, the orderly EU withdrawal is now final. In a transition period, which for the time being will last until 31 December 2020, negotiations between the EU and the United Kingdom on future contractual agreements are now taking place. This period can be extended for a maximum of two years. Until then, the United Kingdom is treated as an EU member state, and the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons (AFMP) between Switzerland and the EU will remain in force for the duration of this transition period. Therefore, with respect to the previous residence and immigration regime, the question will arise as to whether and how nationals of both countries can acquire or maintain their rights according to the AFMP.

The UK is of particular importance for the Swiss economy. Around 34,500 Swiss nationals live in the UK and 43,000 British nationals in Switzerland ( ). The relationship between the two countries has been largely based on bilateral EU agreements alongside the AFMP. In order to maintain, as far as possible, the mutual rights and obligations after the UK's withdrawal from the EU, Switzerland and the UK concluded the citizens' rights agreement back in February 2019. This agreement will continue to guarantee the rights of Swiss and UK citizens acquired under the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons for the period after the transition period (January 2021 at the earliest), independently of an EU membership. Acquired rights are therefore (i) rights in the area of free movement, (ii) the coordination of social security systems and (iii) the mutual recognition of professional qualifications. Hence, this includes residency with and without employment, family reunion rights and crossborder activities. With regard to the personal scope of the agreement, it should be pointed out that only those who held AFMP rights before expiry of the transition period ("specified date") are covered by the agreement. In this case, UK nationals wishing to immigrate to Switzerland after December 31, 2020, would be subject to the provisions of the Foreign Nationals and Integration Act (FNIA) and would thus also be subject to the existing contingents and high requirements in terms of professional qualifications. A new immigration regime is therefore to be introduced in the near future. The exact arrangement of a respective agreement has not yet been clarified.

If you have any questions regarding the residence and immigration regime relating to Brexit, please do not hesitate to contact MME's Employment and Immigration Law Team.

February 2020 | Authors: Michèle Stutz, Romina Lauper

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