Exhaustion of Non-EU work permit quotas in Geneva and of EU assignee work permit quotas in Switzerland

This alert refers to the current situation regarding work permit quotas for Non-EU nationals in the Canton of Geneva. Note that we expect other cantons to be in a similar situation (very) soon. Furthermore, we are including an update with regard to the EU assignees quota situation.

Please note that this alert does not concern EU nationals employed locally in Switzerland as their permits are not subject to quotas.

Background: Switzerland’s work permit quota system
Switzerland applies a quota system for work permits issued to Non-EU nationals and to EU assignees (i.e. EU nationals employed abroad and assigned to Switzerland by their foreign employer) for more than four months.

Non-EU work permit quotas for 2016

  • short-term L-type permits: 4,000
  • long-term B-type permits: 2,500

The Non-EU permit quotas are allocated annually and divided in half between the cantons and the federal authority. Once the cantonal quotas are exhausted, the cantons may reach out to other cantons or to the federal authority to request additional quotas.

Each canton is allocated a set number of permits at the beginning of each calendar year. In 2016, the canton of Geneva has quotas of 133 L permits and 83 B permits; Zurich 403 L and 252 B; Zug 36 L and 23 B; Vaud 158 L and 98 B; Basel-Stadt 84 L and 52 B; and Neuchatel 45 L and 28 B, etc.

EU work permit quotas for 2016

  • short-term L-type permits: 2,000
  • long-term B-type permits: 250

The EU work permit quotas are administered centrally at federal level. Contrary to the non-EU quotas, there is no fixed number per canton. The EU quotas are released on a quarterly basis. Only EU nationals who are assigned to Switzerland as intra-company transferees or project workers by their foreign employer are affected by the quota system. Local hires are not subject to these quotas.

Current situation

Non-EU quotas exhausted in Geneva for the remainder of 2016
The Canton of Geneva has announced that it has used up its current work permit quotas. Unless new quotas will be released by the Federal Council, the Geneva Canton will not be able to release new L or B permits until 31 December 2016.
Therefore, companies will not be able to:

  • obtain new work permits of more than four months/120 days for Non-EU nationals,
  • convert quota-free work permits into quota permits, and/or
    convert L permits into B permits.

EU assignee quotas exhausted until 1 October 2016
This morning, we were informed that work permit quotas for EU assignees have been used up. Until the release of new quotas on 1 October 2016, it will not be possible to:

  • obtain new work permits of more than four months/120 days for EU nationals assigned to Switzerland, and/or
  • convert quota-free work permits into quota permits for EU assignees already working in Switzerland.

What this means for you as an employer?
For employees who start work in Switzerland before 1 October 2016, use the on-line notification or obtain 120 day/4 months quota-free work permits.

For employees who start work in Switzerland as of 1 October 2016, an application for a work permit should be submitted as soon as possible in most cantons.

As work permits for EU local hires are not restricted by quotas, we advise, whenever possible, to switch assignees to a local Swiss employment contract (this implies, however, the registration of the employee in the Swiss social security system).

Please do not hesitate to reach out to your usual PwC Legal contact for further details.

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