3.1 When UK citizens become third-country nationals will they need permission to work?
Yes. It has to be specified that permission to work is needed not only for third-country nationals but also for EU nationals. The difference between EU and third-country nationals relates to the conditions to obtain permission to work (see below).
3.2 If permission to work is needed do any quotas apply for employing third-country nationals?
Yes, quotas apply for employing third-country nationals. As mentioned above, as a temporary measure, the Federal Council has decided to introduce a separate quota of 3,500 permits for workers from the UK in the event of a no-deal Brexit in 2019; this quota might be renewed for 2020 in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
3.3 If permission to work is needed, as of when will it be needed?
Any working activity performed in Switzerland requires, in principle, permission to work, subject to a few exceptions (e.g. business meetings). The difference between EU nationals and third-country nationals is that the former have a right to obtain permission to work based on the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons (AFMP) concluded with the EU, while the latter do not have such a right, permission to work being subject to restrictive conditions.
Therefore, in the hypothesis of an absence of any specific contingency rules or specific agreements, the status would be as follows:
- As long as the AFMP is still applicable between Switzerland and UK (i.e. until the date of a nodeal Brexit or until the end of the transition period if such a transition period is put in place between EU and UK): permission to work is needed and must be requested, but UK nationals have a right to obtain it.
- When the AFMP is no longer applicable between Switzerland and UK (i.e. as of the date of a nodeal Brexit or as of the end of the transition period if such a transition period is put in place between EU and UK): permission to work is needed and must be requested, but UK nationals do not have a right to obtain it; they are subject to restrictive conditions in the same way as third-country nationals.
- As stated above, in the event of a no-deal Brexit (and only in this event), Switzerland and the UK have signed an Agreement on Admission to the Labour Market for a Temporary Transitional Period following the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union and the Free Movement of Persons Agreement, which regulates easier access to the labour market for British and Swiss citizens for a limited period of time until 31 December 2020 (with the option of an extension).
3.4 If permission to work is needed, what are the most common categories?
Some categories for third-country nationals permits include (all subject to conditions):
- highly skilled employees, leading personnel, employees with special profiles;
- transfer of senior executives and highly qualified employees within a transnational group;
- ancillary activities for individuals undergoing education at a Swiss university.
3.5 If permission to work or stay is needed, how long does the procedure take?
The duration of the procedure may vary from one canton to another and according to the purpose of the stay, but it is generally counted in months (one to several months).
Furthermore, pre-application steps might need to be factored in. Subject to exceptions, one of the (restrictive) conditions to be met for a permit application in favour of a third-country national is respect of precedence: third-country nationals may only be permitted to work if, among other conditions, it is proven that no suitable domestic employees or citizens of states with which the AFMP has been concluded can be found for the position. So, before applying for a permit for a third-country national, employers must have carried out serious research and be able to demonstrate that they have not found any Swiss or AFMP state candidate matching the profile.
3.6 If permission to work or stay is needed, what Government fees would be due for this permission?
Government fees vary from one canton to another. They are in the region of a few hundred Swiss francs.