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Immigration update: Switzerland negotiate terms with the U.K. to safeguard citizens’ rights

07 January 2019

On December 19, 2018, the Federal Council of Switzerland approved an agreement with the U.K. on the rights of citizens after Brexit. This contract benefits Swiss and British nationals who have acquired rights in Switzerland or the U.K., based on the Free Movement of Persons Agreement (e.g. residence rights).

Following the withdrawal of the U.K. from the EU, the bilateral agreements between Switzerland and the EU with the U.K will cease to apply. Therefore, the Federal Council wants to ensure the existing mutual rights and obligations between Switzerland and the U.K. after leaving the EU (Mind the Gap strategy). Until the formal withdrawal of the U.K., the existing rules and agreements apply.

Agreement and enactment

The Swiss-EU Freedom of Movement Agreement (FZA) is also affected. With the agreement now approved, Swiss and British nationals retain their rights acquired on the basis of FZA. Services already started between Switzerland and the U.K. can be finalized as a result. In addition to the residence rights, the agreement also regulates the rights to social security and the recognition of professional qualifications. The agreement does not apply to British and Swiss nationals who immigrate after the abolition of FZA when the U.K. leaves the EU.

There are two scenarios for the terms of entry for the Swiss-U.K. agreement:

  1. EU exit with withdrawal agreement: If the EU-U.K. exit agreement is approved and entered into force on March 29, 2019, the existing provisions of FZA for relations between Switzerland and the U.K. will apply during a transitional period (presumably until the end of 2020). The agreement adopted today would only come into force at the end of said transitional period.

  2. EU exit without exit agreement: If the EU-U.K. exit agreement is not approved on March 29, 2019, the present Swiss-U.K. agreement would be applied in the short term. Before signing, the Federal Council shall consult the responsible commissions of the Federal Councils regarding the provisional application of the agreement.

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