The Swiss government has decided to issue an extra 1,000 visas for non-European Union workers next year, raising the total from 6,500 to 7,500. The increase follows complaints from companies and some cantons that their quotas have already been used up this year.
The cabinet decision is a compromise as the number of L and B work permits issued in 2017 will still be 1,000 fewer than before the 2014 people’s initiative that called for a curb on foreign immigration.
Switzerland is struggling to implement the initiative vote in a way that does not directly violate its bilateral agreement with the EU on the free movement of people. The decision in 2014 to cut the number of non-EU work visas from 8,500 to 6,500 was taken to respect the will of Swiss voters.
The cabinet also said that the reduction was intended to create an incentive for Swiss companies to make more effective use of the Swiss workforce.
But the decision was greeted with protests from larger Swiss companies who complain of a lack of qualified workers in the Swiss market.
Swiss cantons such as Geneva, Zurich, Vaud and Basel City have already used up their quotas. In September, Swiss Economics Minister Johann Schneider-Ammann said he would push his cabinet colleagues for a return to 8,500 permits.
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).
Next year, 3,000 B permits and 4,500 L permits will be made available and distributed among Swiss cantons. In 2014, the breakdown was 3,500 B permits and 5,000 L permits.