Background

New legislation and referendum

New priority for local workers regarding EU/EFTA nationals

Anticipated entry into force

Background

On February 9 2014 the Swiss people adopted a popular initiative aimed at stopping mass immigration, thereby expressing support for a change to Switzerland's immigration policy. The new constitutional text requires the Federal Council and Parliament to introduce a new admission system for all foreign nationals within three years that restricts immigration by means of quantitative limits and quotas (and gives priority to local workers). Further changes are required mainly to restrict access to welfare institutions and promote the integration of asylum seekers.

New legislation and referendum

After almost three years in the legislative process, Parliament voted on the law's final draft on December 16 2016. In January 2017 a number of citizens began collecting the required 50,000 signatures. The referendum deadline is April 7 2017.

Regarding the new restrictive mass immigration regulations to be introduced, the discussion focuses mainly on the conditions of admission of EU and European Free Trade Association (EFTA) nationals and the compliance with free movement of EU and EFTA nationals according to the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons between Switzerland and the European Union.

With regard to third state nationals (ie, non-EU and non-EFTA nationals), the conditions of admission will not be affected by the new legislation, because a quota system and the priority of local workers are already in force for these nationals.

New priority for local workers regarding EU/EFTA nationals

With regard to the engagement of EU and EFTA nationals by Swiss employers, the new law states that in certain cases a 'priority for local workers light' will be applicable.

If the unemployment rate exceeds an average value in pre-defined professional categories, activity ranges or economic regions, the government can introduce measures for a limited period to help the unemployed regain access to work. If the measures are implemented, Swiss employers must announce every open position to the regional employment agency. These open positions would be visible for a certain time only to job applicants registered with the regional employment agency.

At the same time, the regional employment agency must send suitable applications for the open positions to the employer. The employer must invite all suitable applicants to a job interview. The interview's outcome must then be communicated, but without any justification, to the regional employment agency.

Anticipated entry into force

Parliament has voted on the final draft of the new law, but it is not yet enforceable – the outcome of the referendum is to be awaited and the government must issue a decree regarding implementation of the new law. It is expected that the new law, including the corresponding decree, will enter into force on January 1 2018 at the earliest.

No major changes to Swiss immigration will occur in 2017.

For further information on this topic please contact Katrin Henzi or Adrian Howald at Suter Howald Attorneys at Law by telephone (+41 44 630 4811) or email (katrin.henzi@suterhowald.ch or adrian.howald@suterhowald.ch). The Suter Howald Attorneys at Law website can be accessed at www.suterhowald.ch.

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