With the ratification of the Withdrawal Agreement the EU parliament ensures that arrangements will be in place for the UK’s scheduled withdrawal from the EU and leaves the rights of UK citizens in Switzerland untouched.
The ratification of the agreement triggers a transitional period until 31 December 2020 during which the UK will be treated as an EU member state in EU law. This period is intended to give administrations the opportunity to adapt to the Brexit and allows them to determine the future relations between Great Britain and the EU.
Under these circumstances all current arrangements between the EU and the UK will continue to apply until 31 December 2020. This also includes the Agreement on the Free Movement of People (AFMP) concluded between Switzerland and the EU. As all other EU citizens, UK citizens continue to be entitled to acquire the following AFMP rights:
- Residence with gainful employment (employed and self-employed)
- Residence without gainful activity
- Right to family reunification
- Employment in Switzerland as a cross-border commuter
- Continuation of service provisions (up to 90 days per calendar year) in the other party by companies and self-employed persons domiciled in Switzerland or the United Kingdom
- Principle of non-discrimination
- Right to purchase immovable property
- coordination of social insurance systems
- recognition of professional qualifications
In principle there will be no change to the practice which has been in place before 31 January 2020.
As the withdrawal agreement only regulates relations regarding immigration between the EU and the UK, Switzerland and the UK have signed a bilateral agreement on their acquired citizens’ rights on 29 February 2019. It currently awaits ratification by the Swiss parliament. This agreement will protect the residence rights (and other rights) of Swiss and UK citizens acquired under the AFMP (i.e. before 31 January 2020).
However, UK nationals wanting to immigrate to Switzerland after the end of the transition period are not covered by the present agreement. Unless an additional bilateral agreement between Switzerland and the UK is concluded, UK nationals wanting to relocate to Switzerland after 31 December 2020 must meet the terms of the Foreign Nationals and Integration Act (FNIA). They will be treated as third-country nationals and be subject to quota. For any job application from UK nationals in Switzerland the priority of Swiss and EU nationals needs to be considered first.
Switzerland and the UK have already been conducting talks on a possible future immigration scheme for some time now and the implementation of the transition period gives them more time to draw up an agreement on a possible future immigration scheme.