Federal Council presents concept for implementing the new article on immigration

Press Release, The Federal Council, 20.06.2014

Bern. On Friday, the Federal Council approved the concept for implementing the new article of the Federal Constitution on immigration. The concept outlines how the Federal Council will set the quantitative limits and quotas for controlling migration to Switzerland from February 2017. The Federal Council will base its decision not only on the needs reported by the cantons, but also on the analyses of an advisory committee. Social partners will also be consulted. Quotas will apply to all types of permit valid for four months or more. To meet the needs of the labour market, it is planned to foster and exploit the potential of the workforce already available in Switzerland. The proposals are set out in the Federal Council's concept for implementing the new provisions of the Constitution on immigration. In the concept, which it approved on Friday, the Federal Council lays down important benchmarks for the draft legislation due to follow at the end of year.

The Federal Department of Justice and Police (FDJP) drafted the concept in consultation with the Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) and the Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research (EAER). On the instructions of the FDJP, the Federal Office for Migration (FOM) set up a panel of experts, which over recent months discussed models and questions of principle relating to implementation. In addition, a wide range of interest groups – including the initiators of the popular vote on immigration – was consulted. The concept now on the table is based on both the experts’ proposals and the results of the consultation process.

Maintain relations with the EU and foster existing potential

The implementation of the new constitutional provision will not be limited to a revision of the regulations on immigration. Accordingly, the concept not only includes a model for the new legislation, but also identifies the other challenges and goals in related domestic and foreign policy.

The Federal Council plans to maintain and develop Switzerland's close and crucial relations with the EU and its member states. It also confirms its intention to foster existing potential in the domestic workforce, so that this potential may be exploited more fully. This can be done, for example by improving the work-life balance or by offering vocational training to those who lack suitable qualifications. A further objective is to meet the mandatory commitments under international law in the field of asylum.

Needs reported by the cantons and advisory committee

The admission model makes the Federal Council responsible for setting the quantitative limits and quotas. When doing this, the Federal Council will take account of various indicators relating to the economy and the job market, for example the number of job vacancies or the level of unemployment. As implementing the new constitutional article is a task shared by the Confederation and the cantons, the Federal Council will base its decision on the numbers that the cantons report as needed. It will also be advised by committee, which will include representatives from federal and cantonal migration and employment authorities. Social partners will also be consulted.

The Federal Council has refrained from setting a fixed, inflexible target for reducing immigration. A target of this type would make it impossible to respond to the changing economic and jobs situation when regulating immigration. This is in keeping with the wording of the new article of the Constitution, which does not specify a maximum number either.

Quotas for stays of over four months

Quotas will be imposed not only for residence permits but also for permits for short stays of from four to twelve months. The aim here is to prevent the quotas for permanent residence being circumvented by issuing short-stay permits. The priority given to persons already resident in Switzerland will be taken into account when any type of permit subject to a quota is issued.

The numbers of cross-border commuters will also be made subject to quotas. The cantons may impose further restrictions to protect the regional labour market. This move takes account of the different situations and needs in the various regions.

Fewer restrictions for EU and EFTA members

Admission for nationals of EU and EFTA states should be less restrictively regulated than for persons from third countries. In contrast to third-country nationals, EU and EFTA nationals may still be admitted even if they lack specialist qualifications. Switzerland will continue to have a dual-track admission system.

The Federal Council shares the view of the panel of experts that no restrictions should be placed on family reunification. It also rejected the reintroduction of seasonal worker status.

Further measures

The FDJP will now prepare a draft act for consultation, based on the key elements of the concept. In doing so and in all work related to this issue, the FDJP will work closely with the EAER and the FDFA. The EAER, in consultation with the FDJP and the FDFA, will consider the need to adapt the accompanying measures. The EAER will prepare a draft for consultation based on the new admission model. Ideally this should be ready by the end of year.

On Friday, the Federal Council also instructed the FDJP, in cooperation with the FDFA, to submit the already intimated request for the amendment of the FMA. By autumn, the FDJP will provide the Federal Council with a draft mandate for negotiations with the EU on the amendment of the FMA. This negotiating mandate will be based both on the key elements of the admission model and on a review of the potential domestic and foreign policy scenarios. The Federal Council is pursuing a strategy of dealing with all the aspects of this task as a coordinated whole, so as to achieve the best possible outcome for Switzerland.

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