Switzerland to increase non-EU visa quota

Switzerland has increased its visa quota for the number of non-EU workers allowed to work in the country in 2017.

The move comes despite an ongoing debate to reduce the number of visas available to EU migrants annually.

The Swiss government announced yesterday that an extra 1,000 visas for non-European Union workers will be available next year, raising the total from 6,500 to 7,500.

Swiss-based companies and some cantons (regions) – including Geneva, Zurich, Vaud and Basel City – had been complaining that their visas quotas have already been used up this year.

For the year 2016, Switzerland allowed companies to recruit up to 6,500 workers from outside the EU. Of this, 2,500 are B permits (temporary residence permits) and 4,000 are L permits (short-term permits for up to 12 months).

In September, Swiss Economics Minister Johann Schneider-Ammann said he would push his cabinet colleagues for a return to 8,500 permits, as had been the case in 2015.

Instead, next year, 3,000 B permits and 4,500 L permits will be made available and distributed among Swiss cantons.

Following a referendum in 2014, Switzerland voted to significantly lower the number of immigrants, particularly those based in the EU, from entering the country. However, the Swiss government has struggled to implement the initiative in a way that does not directly violate its bilateral agreement with the EU on the free movement of people. This has led to cuts in non-EU immigration as a compromise.

At the time, the government said that the reduction was intended to create an incentive for Swiss companies to make more effective use of the Swiss workforce.

However, the decision has proved unpopular with larger Swiss companies who complain of a lack of qualified workers in the Swiss market.

 Article published 13th October 2016