Switzerland: Foreign Nationals And Integration Act (FNIA)

Last Updated: 17 April 2019
Article by Vera Lavvas and Eléonore Gallopin

The revised and renamed Foreign Nationals and Integration Act entered into force on 1 January 2019 and entails several changes. This Newsletter aims to present the new integration requirements as well as changes in the status of permanent residence (C permit).


The revised Act on Foreign nationals, newly called "Foreign Nationals and Integration Act (FNIA)"1 and the corresponding Ordinance on Admission, Residence and Employment (AREO)2 entered into force 1 January 2019. At the beginning of this year, the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) updated its Directives3 (hereafter: SEM Directives) accordingly.

In summary, the revision aims to improve the professional and social integration of foreign nationals living in Switzerland, through clear integration requirements and positive incentives.

The new regulations concerning integration are in principle applicable to all foreign nationals residing in Switzerland. However, EU/EFTA nationals benefit from the free movement of persons and are in principle governed by the corresponding international agreements4 regarding entry, regulation of stay and family reunification in Switzerland. The FNIA however applies to EU/EFTA nationals for certain aspects, e.g. the issuance, extension and revocation of permanence residence permits (C permits), or in case the FNIA foresees a better legal status.

This Newsletter aims to present the new integration requirements as well as changes in the status of permanent residence (C permit). For information about other aspects of the new law such as the so-called "integration agreements" or the access to the Swiss labour market for temporarily admitted foreigners and recognized refugees, please refer to our former publication on the change of law5.


Where required by law, the authorities need to evaluate the level of a foreign national's integration before granting or extending certain types of work/residence permits.

According to the new Article 58a para 1 FNIA, the criteria applied in the integration evaluation of foreign nationals are the following:


Compliance with public security is defined as not violating legally protected rights (e.g. life, health, freedom, property, etc.) of other people and of state institutions.

Compliance with public order means, on the one hand, the absence of criminal acts of a person (proven for example by a police clearance certificate), and, on the other hand, the observance of the general social and political order (e.g. no debts, no unpaid taxes, cooperation with the authorities, etc.).


Values of the Swiss Federal Constitution are the fundamental principles of the State, the fundamental rights and the obligations towards the State.

Infringements of constitutional values are for example:

  • Breach of fundamental rights or individual freedom, e.g. by encouraging forced marriage;
  • Non-compliance with gender equality;
  • Non-observance of the duty of children to at-tend mandatory school.


Language skills as integration criterion are basically defined as the ability to communicate in daily life in the language spoken at the place of residence in Switzerland.

Language skills are verified according to the "Com-mon European Framework of Reference for Languages" (CEFRL).

The language skills may be proven by submitting a language passport6 or a language certificate from an acknowledged language school7. There will however be a transition period: until the end of 2019, language certificates from any language school (and not only from the acknowledged ones) may be used.


1 Swiss Systematic Register (SR) 142.20. The English translation of the new law is now available under https://www.admin.ch/opc/en/classified-compilation/20020232/201903010000/142.20.pdf

2 SR 142.201.

3 https://www.sem.admin.ch/sem/fr/home/publiservice/weisungen-kreisschreiben/auslaenderbereich.html

4 SR and 0.632.31

5 https://www.suterhowald.ch/upload/publications/news_alert___switzerland___new_foreign_nationals_and_integration_act__november2018__e.pdf

6 https://www.fide-info.ch/en/sprachnachweise

7 The list of acknowledged language schools is available under the following link and will be updated on a regular basis: https://www.fide-in-fo.ch/doc/08_Sprachenpass/fideDE08_ListeAnerkannteSprachzertifikate.pdf

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