• Work and Residence Permit Quota Introduced for Bulgarian and Romanian Nationals
  • July 4, 2017
  • The Federal Council has invoked the safeguard clause of the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons between Switzerland and the European Union, applying it to the EU-2 Member States (Bulgaria and Romania). Effective June 1, 2017, Bulgarian and Romanian nationals applying for Category B EU/EFTA Work and Residence Permits (B-Permits) will be subject to a yearly quota of 996, to be released on a quarterly basis and issued in the order of request.

    This measure will remain in force for one year initially, and the Federal Council will decide whether to extend it for another year in May 2018. This change does not affect pending applications by Bulgarian and Romanian nationals.

    Work and Residence Permit Quota

    The quota applies to Bulgarian and Romanian nationals applying for B-Permits as employed persons, as follows:

    • With a Swiss employment contract of unlimited duration or validity of more than one year; or
    • As self-employed persons intending to settle in Switzerland.

    Background

    Prior to June 1, 2016, nationals of Bulgaria and Romania under a local Swiss employment contract were subject to Swiss labor market rules such as a labor market test, salary and working condition checks and the foreign national quota system.

    On June 1, 2016, Swiss authorities lifted the limitations on immigration for Bulgarian and Romanian nationals, removing the quota system. Since then, Bulgarian and Romanian nationals were generally granted B-Permits if they provided a copy of a Swiss employment contract of unlimited duration or validity of more than one year.

    However, through the safeguard clause in the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons with the EU, Switzerland reserved the right to reintroduce a work permit quota system until May 31, 2019 if immigration from Bulgaria and Romania exceeds the average of the previous three years by 10%. At the end of 2016, there was a net increase of 3,300 workers from Bulgaria and Romania, about twice the total for calendar year 2015, leading to the invocation of the safeguard clause this week.

    What This Means for Employers and Foreign Nationals

    Depending on Cantonal practice, applications may have to be filed twice before the foreign national receives work authorization, first as B-Permits under the quota system and, if the quota has been reached, as L Work and Residence Permits (L-Permits), the short-term work authorization option valid for 12 months.

    Where possible, employers should initiate applications for Bulgarian and Romanian nationals prior to June 1, 2017 to benefit from the current practice. Employers seeking to employ Bulgarian and Romanian nationals after June 1, 2017 should expect processing delays and quota restrictions.

    Bulgarian and Romanian nationals should initiate their applications for B-Permits as early as possible to increase their chances of having an available position within the quota restrictions. They will be allowed to start working upon registration with the local commune.

    However, if the quota has been reached, the immigration officials may reject the application and indicate that the foreign national must stop working and leave the country. In these situations, Bulgarian and Romanian nationals can either leave the country or apply for an L-Permit instead. Some Cantons may decide to automatically issue L-Permits once the quota has been reached.