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UK Nationals Working in Switzerland Post-Brexit

On 29th March 2019, Britain will leave the European Union (Brexit) and one of the most common questions asked about the departure, is what will happen to UK nationals living and working in Europe.  

With under ten weeks to go, many decisions are still being discussed by both the European union and the UK government on Britain’s exit from the EU, and its effect on UK nationals working and living in Europe. Presently, all EU citizens have free movement rights to live and work across the EU. Although Switzerland is not an EU member state, Swiss nationals have free movement rights in the EU and currently British citizens have similar rights when living and working in Switzerland. After Brexit, these rights will likely change.  

In preparation for Brexit, all European countries have put plans in place for the treatment of UK nationals after Britain leaves the EU. Below we discuss the Brexit scenarios and how they could affect UK nationals working in Switzerland post-Brexit. 

There are two scenarios regarding Brexit. The first scenario is a EU deal Brexit and the second is a no-deal Brexit. If the UK government agree to the current deal, there will be a transition period until the end of 2020 where UK nationals will have free movement in the EU. If there is no deal, UK nationals will lose their free movement rights across the EU immediately. 

Scenario One: Negotiate a deal 

If the UK government agrees to a deal, during the transition period, free movement still applies for UK nationals in Switzerland. It is thought that the work permits granted for UK nationals could become shorter. At present there are many work permits that UK nationals can avail of which include: 

90-day declaration 

L permit:  This is a residency permit which lasts for one year. 

B Permit: This is a longer-term residency which lasts for 5 years. 

G Permit: This is a cross-border work permit for citizens who only work in Switzerland but do not live there. 

It is thought that after Brexit, the B permit which currently lasts 5 years may not be certain during the transition period. 

Scenario Two: No deal  

Based on the current discussions over the last few months, it looks like there could be a no deal Brexit.  

There are over 40,000 UK nationals currently living in Switzerland as well as 2,600 UK frontier workers who commute weekly to work in Switzerland. In the event of a no deal scenario, UK nationals will lose the right to free trade and movement immediately, and a new agreement for UK nationals in Switzerland would be implemented on a provisional basis starting on Exit day. From March 30th, it would be expected that UK nationals would have to apply for skilled permits and would be treated like any other non-EU citizen who has the same agreement with Switzerland. 

The impact on UK national’s rights to work in Switzerland will remain unclear until the Brexit negotiations are finalised. What we do know is that the Swiss government is speaking with the British government about trying to come up with an agreement that would protect the rights of UK nationals – although no further details have been released.  

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