Safeguarding relations between Switzerland and the UK in the field of migration post Brexit

Press Release, The Federal Council, 22.03.2019

At its meeting on 22 March the Federal Council took three decisions to safeguard good relations between Switzerland and the United Kingdom (UK) in the field of migration in the event of the UK’s disorderly withdrawal from the European Union (EU). Firstly the Federal Council opened consultation proceedings on the agreement on acquired rights, which has already been signed. It also adopted a revision of the Ordinance on Admission, Period of Stay and Employment (ASEO) with a separate quota for UK nationals. Lastly the Federal Council decided that UK nationals would be exempt from the requirement to obtain a visa to enter Switzerland after the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.

Key points:

As part of its contingency planning the Federal Council approved the following amendments in order to be able to respond flexibly to further developments in relations between the UK and the EU.

  • Safeguarding of acquired rights: Swiss and UK nationals will retain their acquired rights (e.g. residency rights), obtained under the AFMP, even after the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. The agreement approved by the Federal Council on 19.12.18 was signed on 25.02.19 and submitted for consultation on 22.03.19.
  • Quotas: The Federal Council has put in place a separate quota of 3,500 permits for workers from the UK for the period between the UK’s withdrawal from the EU and 31 December 2019. The amendment will only apply in the event of a disorderly withdrawal.
  • Visa exemption: After the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, UK nationals will not be required to obtain a visa to enter the Schengen area.

The Federal Council has taken a number of measures to safeguard good bilateral relations between Switzerland and the United Kingdom after the UK’s departure from the EU.

On 19 December last year an agreement was signed with the UK on the rights of citizens after Brexit. Both UK and Swiss nationals who have acquired rights in Switzerland or in the UK under the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons will benefit. The Federal Council has now opened consultation proceedings, which run until 29 May. The agreement will apply provisionally after the UK leaves the EU.

Separate quotas for UK nationals

As part of its contingency planning, the Federal Council, at its meeting on 13 February, also decided that Swiss businesses should still be able to recruit staff from the UK even in the event of a disorderly Brexit. As a result UK nationals will benefit from a special quota of 3,500 permits for 2019 allowing them to enter Switzerland for work after the UK leaves the EU. The Federal Council approved the relevant revision of the Ordinance on Admission, Period of Stay and Employment (ASEO) at its meeting on 22 March. As the UK’s withdrawal has been postponed, the quotas will not apply for the time being as the provisions of the AFMP continue to apply. The quotas will apply if there is a disorderly Brexit at the end of the postponement.

The federal Council also made further technical amendments to the ASEO and three further ordinances. These concern the need, for example, to create a biometric foreign national identity card for UK nationals once the UK leaves the EU.

Exemption from visa requirement

The EU is expected to exempt UK nationals from the requirement to obtain a visa to enter the Schengen area after the UK leaves the EU. These future developments regarding Schengen mean that amendments have to be made to the Ordinance on Entry and the Granting of Visas (VGO), which will enter into force from the day on which the AFMP no longer applies to the UK. The Federal Council has approved this future Schengen development in advance so as to be able to respond flexibly to developments in relations between the EU and the UK.

The Federal Council has also decided to exempt UK nationals from the requirement to obtain a visa to enter Switzerland for a lengthy stay. The VGO has been amended accordingly. These amendment will apply from the day on which the AFMP ceases to apply to the UK.

In return the UK has confirmed that Swiss nationals will also be exempt from the requirement to obtain a visa once the UK leaves the EU, both for short and longer stays in the UK.

Important partner for Switzerland

These decisions are intended to cover the scenario under which the UK leaves the EU without a withdrawal agreement (disorderly withdrawal) and form part of the Federal Council’s ‘Mind the gap’ strategy, which aims to ensure that the existing mutual rights and obligations in its relationship with the UK will continue to apply as far as possible after the UK leaves the EU, and to expand them where necessary. As part of this strategy Switzerland and the UK have signed a total of five agreements covering trade, air and overland transport, insurance and migration.

The UK is an important partner for Switzerland. At the end of 2018 there were around 43,000 UK nationals living in Switzerland and around 34,500 Swiss nationals living in the UK. In 2017 the UK was the fifth largest market worldwide for Swiss exports (CHF 11.4 billion).

Further information can be found on the SEM and FDFA websites:

www.sem.admin.ch/brexit 
State Secretariat for Migration SEM

www.fdfa.admin.ch/europa/brexit 
FDFA, Directorate for European Affairs DEA

Further information

Documentation

Consultation about the agreement

Exemption from visa requirement

Dossier

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