Swiss population Net immigration declines for third straight year

The number of foreigners in Switzerland keeps climbing, but the pace of the growth is slowing

The number of foreigners in Switzerland keeps climbing, but the pace of the growth is slowing


One of every four Swiss residents is a foreigner. The single-biggest identity among those foreigners? Italians? Germans? Portuguese? Think again: It’s "others”.

Swiss officials released the latest immigration figures on Thursday, showing that for the third consecutive year net foreign immigration to Switzerland declined. The lure of good jobs and reunited families – or the difficulty of attaining those – is the main factor behind the trends, officials said.

Last year, net migration was 60,262, or 15% less than in 2015. By the end of 2016, Switzerland had 2,029,527 foreigners, the federal agency State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) said in a statement.

These non-Swiss, often the subject of political debate over whether to tighten controls, accounted for nearly a quarter of the nation's 8.3 million population.

In 2016, 143,100 foreigners immigrated to Switzerland, a decrease of almost 5% from the previous year, SEM reported. At the same time, the number of emigrants (77,590 persons) increased by 5.6%. As a result, the migration balance in 2016 is lower than in 2015.

Italians (318,653) formed the largest group of foreigners in Switzerland last year, or 15.7%. They were followed by Germans (304,706), with 15%, and then Portuguese (269,521), with 13.3%.

Nevertheless, the single-biggest population was “other” nations (574,882), or 28.3%, which refers to foreigners who hail from some of the other EU nations or elsewhere.

More than two-thirds of the foreigners who have permanent residency in Switzerland come from the 28-member European Union or the three other non-member nations – Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway – that along with Switzerland form their own regional free trade area.

Nearly one in two people (47%) came to Switzerland to work as of 2015. The second biggest reason for immigration was family reunification (31%). and agencies/jmh