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Skilled workers Switzerland increases employment permits for non-EU workers

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Companies argue that the Swiss workforce alone cannot fill every highly skilled job vacancy.


The Swiss authorities have responded to demands from companies and cantons for access to highly-skilled employees by granting 1,000 extra permits for workers that come from outside the European Union from next year.

From 2019, firms will be able to recruit 8,500 foreign workers from countries such as the United States, China and India. The extra 1,000 permits will give firms access to the same number of non-EU workers as in 2014.

This was the year that Swiss voters passed an initiative calling on the government to restrict migration. In response, the authorities slashed the number of ‘third country’ work permits to 6,500. Swiss firms are now also obliged to prove that there are no Swiss workers available to fill positions before employing a foreign candidate.

Last year Zurich, Geneva and Basel, three cantons that traditionally have a large foreign workforce, joined forces to urge the government to raise permit levels back to 2014 levels. Cantonal leaders argued that Switzerland’s economic welfare and reputation as a global centre for business and research was being damaged by the restrictions.

Their protests appear to have been heard as an announcement came on Friday that the cantons’ wishes would be granted. Next year, 4,500 resident permits will be issued plus 4,000 B permits with a five-year duration. The number of short stay L permits, with a three to 12-month duration, will be cut by 500.

The government will keep the extra 1,000 B permits in reserve and will hand them out to cantons on demand.

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