Switzerland – Increased Quotas for non-EU/EFTA Work Permits in 2017

The Swiss government has decided the quotas for highly qualified workers from non-European Union (EU)/European Free Trade Agreement (EFTA) countries, as well as for assignees from EU/EFTA countries.  The quotas for non EU/EFTA nationals have been increased by 500 per category compared to the previous two years, whereas those for assignees from EU/EFTA countries remain at the same level.

The quotas are imposed on a national, rather than per-company, basis, on B permits, which are long term residence permits, valid for up to five years, and renewable.  Once the B permit quotas are reached, applicants are issued with L permits instead – valid for up to 12 months and convertible into a B permit after two years.

In 2017, companies in Switzerland can recruit foreign national specialists from non-EU/EFTA countries up to the following national quotas:

  • 4500 L permits;
  • 3000 B permits.

The increase in permits for non-EU/EFTA nationals follows complaints from some cantons that their quota has already been used up this year.  However, the number of L and B work permits issued for non-EU/EFTA nationals in 2017 will still be 1000 fewer than before the 2014 vote that called for a curb on foreign immigration.

The quotas for assignees from EU/EFTA countries to Switzerland for more than 90 and for more than 120 days have remained the same as for 2015 and 2016:

  • 2000 L permits;
  • 250 B permits.

Employers should note the new quotas for 2017 and expect a continuation of the strict qualifying criteria seen in 2015 and 2016, as well as planning to submit work permit applications in good time to avoid issues.