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Skilled immigrants Swiss president wants to raise non-EU worker quotas

Certain Swiss cantons have already exhausted their quota of work permits for 2016


Economics Minister Johann Schneider-Ammann, who holds the rotating presidency, wants to allow 2,000 more highly skilled workers from outside the European Union to work in Switzerland. 

In an interview on Swiss public radio SRF on Thursday, Schneider-Ammann stated that he wanted to increase the number of work permits for such workers from 6,500 to 8,500 a year. This would be a return to 2014 numbers when 8,500 work permits were available. In February 2014, Swiss people voted to limit the entry of EU workers, which resulted in the non-EU worker quotas being reduced to 6,500. 

According to Schneider-Ammann, the increase in quotas will target highly skilled professionals whose jobs are associated with the creation of four to six new jobs in Switzerland. 

For the year 2016, Swiss companies were allowed to recruit up to 6,500 workers from outside the EU zone. Of this, 2,500 are B permits (temporary residence permits) and 4,000 are L permits (short-term permits for up to 12 months). In 2014, the breakdown was 3,500 B permits and 5,000 L permits. 

High demand

The Swiss government confirmed that the federal quota for the B permit, which grants temporary residency to non-EU workers, was reached on September 13. This means that Swiss cantons that are heavily dependent on foreign workers, such as Geneva, Zurich, Vaud and Basel City – that have already used up their annual quotas of B permits for non-EU workers - cannot ask the federal government for any more. 

Between the other cantons, there are still 493 B permits left to distribute this year. As far as L permits are concerned, the cantonal quota stands at 761 and the federal quota 272, as of Monday. 

Over the past two years, Switzerland has been grappling with how to implement a 2014 referendum to control immigration levels and to ease pressure on the job market from foreign workers, while maintaining economic treaties with the EU and growth.

In an interview in the Tages-Anzeiger newspaper on Friday, chief negotiator Jacques de Watteville said Switzerland’s plan to tackle immigration by giving locals precedence on the job market may be palatable to the EU.

The Swiss House of Representatives has approved a plan that would require job vacancies to be first advertised with local unemployment centers. Lawmakers hope this so-called “light” proposal is compatible with the EU free movement of persons' accord that Switzerland adheres to. The Senate is scheduled to debate the “light” immigration proposal in its winter session that runs from November 28 to December 16.

For more information on work permits, visit our work permits page. and agencies

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