Switzerland and UK to sign Memorandum of Understanding strengthening bilateral cooperation on migration
Bern, 18.12.2020 - At its meeting on 18 December, the Federal Council approved a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the United Kingdom (UK) on mobility and extending cooperation on migration. Although not legally binding, the MoU underlines the close cooperation between the two countries in the field of migration and serves as a basis for future mutual support. It forms part of the Swiss government’s Mind the Gap strategy, which is designed to preserve continuity in Swiss-UK relations beyond Brexit.
Following the United Kingdom's departure from the EU on 31 January 2020 and after the transition period set to end on 31 December 2020, the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons (AFMP) between Switzerland and the EU will no longer apply to the UK. As there will continue to be a significant volume of trade between Switzerland and the UK, it is important to maintain and indeed strengthen bilateral relations with the UK.
The UK will introduce a new points-based immigration system on 1 January 2021. Also from this date, UK nationals arriving in Switzerland will be subject to the Foreign Nationals and Integration Act (FNIA). Switzerland and the UK held exploratory discussions back in February of this year on their cooperation in migration between their two countries after the transition period, as part of the Mind the Gap strategy.
The MoU is the result of these talks and provides a foundation for future cooperation on migration. This will focus on shared priorities such as access to each other's labour market, mobility and coordination on asylum matters. Expert groups, information exchange and capacity building will bolster the two countries' joint efforts in these areas.
Approval and implementation
The MoU was approved by the Federal Council at its meeting on 18 December. Serving as a declaration of intent, it is not legally binding or time-limited. The MoU will come into effect when signed; this is due to take place before the end of the year.
Agreement on acquired rights
Independent of the MoU, the Agreement on Acquired Citizen's Rights signed by Switzerland and the UK on 25 February 2019 will come into effect from 1 January 2021. Under this agreement, UK and Swiss nationals retain residence (and other) rights obtained in the other country under the AFMP before 31 December 2020.
Quotas for UK nationals working in Switzerland
At its meeting on 25 November 2020, as part of the revision of the Ordinance on Admission, Period of Stay and Employment (ASEO), the Federal Council also decided on the maximum numbers of UK nationals who may be recruited to work in Switzerland in the coming year. This quota has been set at 3,500 for 2021: 2,100 with temporary residence permits (B) and 1,400 with short-stay permits (L). This will ensure the necessary flexibility for the Swiss economy. The Federal Council decided on these maximum numbers unilaterally; they are valid for one year for the time being and the quotas will be released to the cantons on a quarterly basis.
Ordinance on introduction of free movement amended
The Federal Council also adopted an amendment to the Freedom of Movement Introduction Ordinance at its meeting on 18 December 2020. This amendment was necessary in connection with the implementation of the agreement on mobility of service providers. The preamble, subject matter and scope of the ordinance will be amended so that the notification requirement also applies to self-employed service providers covered by the agreement. The revised legislation will come into force on 1 January 2021 and from that date will be known as the Ordinance on the Free Movement of Persons.
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