Effective January 1, 2022, Switzerland will grant complete freedom of movement to Croatian nationals. The government’s announcement means that Croatians will soon be able to live and work in Switzerland subject to the same immigration and work authorization rules as other EU nationals.

Freedom of Movement for Croatian Nationals

According to a longstanding international agreement, nationals of Switzerland and European Union member states enjoy freedom of movement within the national territories of the contracting parties. Croatia joined the European Union in July 2013, but its nationals were not immediately granted freedom of movement in Switzerland. Instead, Croatian nationals were subject to a transition period allowing for a phased introduction of freedom of movement.

Under the terms of the Swiss government’s announcement, Croatian nationals now will be exempt from visa requirements and may live and work in Switzerland for up to three months at a time. Stays longer than three months may require a residence permit, which must be obtained from Swiss authorities.

Safeguard Clause

The agreement between Switzerland and the EU includes a safeguard clause enabling the Swiss government to limit the number of Croatian workers in the country for a temporary period. The clause may be invoked only if the number of Croatian workers entering Switzerland exceeds a certain threshold. The clause would allow the government to limit the entry of Croatian workers through December 31, 2026.

The Swiss government has not yet released the specific quotas that will trigger the safeguard clause, but is expected to do so soon. At present, the available quota is 3,500 for nationals from EU and European Free Trade Association (EFTA) countries, including Croatia as of January 1, 2022. This quota is split between:

  • B permits: 500 units; and
  • L permits: 3,000 units.

As in the past, new quotas will be released quarterly. As of December 2020, more than 28,000 Croatian nationals were living in Switzerland, representing nearly 2% of the workforce of EU or EFTA nationals living in the country.

Visa-Exempt Status for Australians

In a separate move, the Swiss government also announced that Australian nationals will be considered visa-exempt as of January 1, 2022. The new policy will allow Australian nationals to enter Switzerland without a visa. However, Australian nationals will still be required to obtain a residence permit if they plan to stay in Switzerland for more than three months or if they intend to work in the country.