The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Boris Johnson, has now officially signed the EU withdrawal agreement, meaning that the UK left the EU at midnight on 31st January 2020.
This decision has direct consequences for Switzerland. The relations between Switzerland and the UK were essentially governed by bilateral agreements where Switzerland and the EU signed the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons, lifting restrictions on EU citizens to live or work in Switzerland.
UK citizens benefited from the free movements of persons within the EU and Switzerland until the 31st January 2020, where Swiss residency and work permits were regulated by the ALCP (“Accord sur la libre circulation des personnes”).
The Swiss and UK governments have carefully planned this scenario by making sure that the rights of UK citizens already living in Switzerland and Swiss citizens living in the UK remain preserved, with the enforcement of the Mind the Gap strategy.
The situation concerns 43'000 UK citizens living in Switzerland.
Until December 2020, a transition period applies meaning that the agreements between Switzerland and the UK remain in place, providing a temporary waiver of the priority process and professional qualification criteria to obtain a work permit in Switzerland as a non-EU citizen.
After the transition period, the Federal Council will set a quota of permits delivered yearly to UK citizens coming to Switzerland for longer than 90 days. The number of permits available remains to be confirmed.
From January 2021, cantonal authorities could request that UK citizens present a criminal excerpt to apply for a Swiss permit and family reunification conditions could be restricted as the procedure will be regulated by the law on Foreigner and Integration (LEI) and not the ALCP anymore.
Cdl (carte de legitimation) and Ci (family dependants of a Cdl) holders will no longer benefit from the ALCP flexibility and dependents will not be able to choose if they prefer to receive a B permit rather than a Cdl.
Consequently, from 1st January 2021, UK citizens planning to live and work in Switzerland will be assessed as non-EU citizens under the regulations of the LEI.