Failed EU-Framework Agreement with the EU – Consequences on Permits for EU Nationals?

The EU concluded two packages of bilateral agreements with Switzerland from 1999 onwards, including in the agreement on the free movement of persons (so-called “FMPA”). The FMPA regulates the free movement of persons between Switzerland and the EU/EFTA countries. It grants nationals of Switzerland and an EU/EFTA state in principle the right to choose their place of work and residence within the territories of the contracting freely within the territories of the contracting parties.

Following the declaration by the Swiss government not to sign the so-called “framework agreement” covering the EU-Swiss relationship, it is unclear if the existing bilateral agreements will be updated / upheld in the future. It cannot be entirely excluded that the EU, at some point, will terminate the FMPA with Switzerland.

In this context, a number of questions arise regarding the possible consequences on work permits with respect to the failed EU-Framework Agreement and/or the termination of the FMPA.


1. What happens to my EU residence permit that has already been issued?

Based on the failed EU-Framework Agreement, there are no consequences for your permit:

A residence permit is issued to nationals of EU/EFTA states depending on the duration of employment: a short-term residence permit (type L permit) for employment of up to 364 days or a residence permit (type B permit) for employment of at least one year or for an unlimited period of time. The period of validity of these residence permits depends on the duration of the employment relationship. If you already hold a residence permit, it remains valid.

EU/EFTA nationals who entered Switzerland for the purpose of self-employment and received a first-time B residence permit with a validity period of five years, remain in possession of it.


2. What happens if I already work in Switzerland for a short time without a permit (notification proceeding)?

EU/EFTA nationals (except Croatian nationals) taking up a job in Switzerland may still work in Switzerland without a residence permit for a maximum of three months in a calendar year. However, they are subject to notification with the appropriate authorities.


3. I would like to work in Switzerland. What are the conditions for getting a work permit?

The conditions according to the FMPA currently remain unchanged. With an employment contract it is easy to obtain a residence permit which allows you to work in Switzerland.

Until further notice, Croatian citizens may only take up salaried employment in Switzerland under the following conditions:

  • Priority given to Swiss nationals and resident foreign nationals already on the Swiss labour market;
  • Verification of salary and working conditions;
  • Separate, annually increasing quotas for short-stay permits and residence permits.

4. What are the consequences of a possible termination of the FMPA by the EU? 

Most Swiss authorities we have spoken to do not expect a termination of the FMPA by the EU as a consequence of the failed EU-Framework agreement. However, it cannot entirely be excluded. It has to be expected that the EU/EFTA nationals already living in Switzerland as well as the Swiss living in the EU would keep their permits. For new applicants it has to be expected that EU/EFTA nationals would - after a termination of the FMPA - be treated like third country nationals again, similar to the UK nationals after Brexit. The threshold for obtaining work permits would again be much higher (particularly: only highly qualified employees, priority of nationals).

July 2021 | Authors: Michèle Stutz, Corina Noventa, Dschamila Jäggin

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