Switzerland: 2016 quotas on highly skilled foreign workers

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Switzerland will issue the same number of permits for highly skilled foreign workers and for highly skilled EU/EFTA assignees in 2016 as it did in 2015.

What does the change mean? Companies should plan for the same levels of recruitment of foreign workers and EU/EFTA assignees as in 2015.

  • Implementation time frame: 2016.
  • Visas/permits affected: B and L permits.
  • Who is affected: Non-EU/EFTA highly skilled employees and EU/EFTA nationals on assignment in Switzerland for more than 120 days.
  • Business impact: Swiss cantons and business interests had hoped for higher quota figures in 2016, but will be limited to the same quotas Switzerland had in place in 2015.

Background: B permits are work and residence permits based on an employment contract lasting longer than one year. L permits are issued to foreigners planning to stay in Switzerland for more than four months but less than a year.

Highly skilled workers from non-EU/EFTA countries will be capped at 2,500 B permits and 4,000 L permits, the same as in 2015. The cap for assignees from EU/EFTA countries will also remain the same: 250 B permits and 2,000 L permits will become available in 2016.

The 2015 and 2016 quotas are down compared to 2013 and 2014.

  Non-EU/EFTA B permits Non-EU/EFTA L permits EU/EFTA
B permits
EU/EFTA
L permits
2013 3,500 5,000 500 3,000
2014 3,500 5,000 500 3,000
2015 2,500 4,000 250 2,000
2016 2,500 4,000 250 2,000

BAL Analysis: A majority of cantons and business interests had hoped for a boost in the number of positions available, but the Swiss government decided that increasing the quotas would run counter to the country’s goal of favoring local workers when possible. Thus, quotas will remain unchanged in 2016. L permit quotas for EU/EFTA nationals were reached in the first, second and third quarters of this year. Employers should prepare for similar challenges in 2016 and contact their BAL attorney with questions about individual applications.