Quotas for UK citizens in the event of a disorderly withdrawal from the EU

Press release, 13.02.2019

The Federal Council aims to safeguard its close bilateral relations with the United Kingdom after Brexit. At its meeting on 13 February, it decided on arrangements for the admission of British citizens in the event of the United Kingdom’s disorderly withdrawal from the European Union. A separate quota of permits will be made available for British citizens who wish to come to Switzerland to work after 30 March 2019. The Federal Department of Justice and Police (FDJP) will draft amendments to the Ordinance on Admission, Period of Stay and Employment (ASEO) by the end of March.

In the event of the UK's disorderly withdrawal from the European Union, the Agreement on Free Movement of Persons (AFMP) will no longer apply between Switzerland and the UK from 30 March. UK citizens entering Switzerland for the first time will basically be accorded the same rights as other third country citizens. For admission to take up employment, the requirements set out in the Foreign Nationals and Integration Act (FNIA) apply. However, if the UK leaves the EU on the basis of a withdrawal agreement, the current provisions of the AFMP will continue to apply in relations between Switzerland and the UK during a transitional period (expected to last until the end of 2020).

As part of its ‘Mind the Gap' strategy, the Federal Council decided at its meeting on 13 February to introduce a separate quota as a temporary measure, allowing 3,500 British citizens to work in Switzerland. This is intended to mitigate the consequences for the economy and the cantons of an abrupt change in the status of British citizens from persons benefiting from freedom of movement to third country nationals; it will also prevent undesirable competition for jobs between British citizens and other third country nationals. In addition, talks are under way on a possible bilateral agreement between Switzerland and the UK that would permit derogations from the admission requirements contained in the FNIA for a temporary period.

Quota of 3,500 places

The maximum numbers for British citizens should apply from 30 March until 31 December. In reaching its decision, the Federal Council took account of the views of the cantons, the needs of the economy and the requirements of Article 121a of the Federal Constitution, which deals with immigration and which came into force on 9 February 2014.

This year, it should be possible to recruit a total of 3,500 workers from the UK: 2,100 residence permits (B) and 1,400 short-stay permits (L). This will guarantee the flexibility that the Swiss economy needs.

The cantons will be notified on a quarterly basis of the maximum numbers they are allowed to admit. The permits for British citizens will not be subject to the consent procedure for the time being and will be issued by the cantons. This measure takes account of the exceptional circumstances in relations with the UK and is a transitional solution that will apply until future migration arrangements have been clarified.

The FDJP will carry out the work required to amend the ASEO by the end of March, when it will submit its draft to the Federal Council for a final decision.

Last December, the Federal Council approved an agreement with the UK on the rights of their respective citizens following Brexit. The agreement will benefit Swiss and British citizens who have already acquired rights (e.g. of residence) in Switzerland or the UK under the AFMP. The Federal Council thereby aims to safeguard existing rights and obligations after the UK leaves the EU.


Further information:

Press Release of the Federal Council dated 20 December 2018
FAQ Brexit


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Federal Department of Justice and Police
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