In August 2018, the Federal Counsel approved the modifications brought to the Swiss Federal Law on Foreigners (LEtr), which consequently will become from the 1st January 2019 the Federal Law on Foreigners and Integration (“la loi fédérale sur les étrangers et l’intégration” LEI).
The introduction of the LEI in 2019 aims to ameliorate foreigners’ integration in Switzerland by enforcing adapted measures. The new law aims to facilitate asylum seekers and temporary residents (F permit) ability to access the Swiss job market by reducing the pressure built on social authorities. Overall, it mainly aims to favour the coexistence of foreign nationals with Swiss nationals and allow foreigners to participate to Switzerland’s economic, social and cultural life (art. 4 LEtr).
When applying for a residency permit, the main criteria used to evaluate a foreigner’s contribution to integration are outlined in art. 4 OIE and will be defined in the future art. 58a LEI:
-Respect of legal order and Constitutional values (demonstrated by a blank criminal excerpt)
-Knowledge of the national language spoken in the applicant’s commune of residency (minimum level A2 oral and A1 written)
-Knowledge of Swiss values and lifestyle
-Willingness to participate to the local economy and to be adequately trained
Measures applied to applicants who do not demonstrate any willingness to integrate have also been specified, which translates into the establishment of an integration agreement (“convention d’intégration”) between cantonal authorities and the applicant. For example, if the applicant does still not meet the language requirements after one year, a sanction can be applied taking the form of permit downgrading, for example going from a C permit to a B permit (art. 62 LEtr).
Each year, there are between 30’000 to 40’000 C permit applications lodged in Switzerland. For financial and practical reasons, it is not possible for authorities to verify the level of integration of each applicant. Therefore, pieces of evidence are used to determine the integration of the applicant such as the proof of a work contract or study plan, the French A1 (written) and A2 (oral) certificate, a blank criminal excerpt, non-pursuit attestation, CV and copy of diplomas (art. 58a LEI). When applying for a fast-tracked C permit (“permis C anticipé”), the level B1 (oral) and A1 (written) will now be requested (art. 62 al.1bis LEI in 2019).
In the case of a negative decision received from cantonal authorities, an appeal can be filed and the Federal Court will rule in the last instance (art. 34 al.2 et 4 LEtr).
Art 42 al.3 LEtr stipulates that the spouse of a Swiss citizen has the right to obtain a C permit after 5 years of consecutive residency in Switzerland. From 2019, the level of integration of the spouse will also be assessed by applying the criteria outlined in art. 58a LEI. This regulation aims to avoid the situation where spouses migrate to Switzerland to live with their partner and five years later are still not able to speak the local language, find a job and be financially independent.
The integration of foreign nationals in Switzerland will now be better regulated and the conditions to obtain a C permit will become stricter. Authorities will still have a discretionary power in reviewing each permit application and the personal situation of the applicant will be assessed using a case by case approach (art. 96 LEI from 2019).