Knowledge about the Swiss quota system is helpful in order to understand how work permits in Switzerland are distributed among different groups of nationalities. For companies this knowledge is indispensable when it comes to recruitment plans and helping to shape these more efficiently.

The arrangement is that whoever wants to live and work in Switzerland for more than 4 months must apply for permits which are subject to a quota. Exceptions to this rule are citizens of the EU27 and EEA (European Economic Area) countries who are engaged under local work contracts. There are two types of permits subject to a quota: L Short-term Permits and B Residence Permits. These are further divided between citizens of the EU27/EEA countries, Croatian nationals, and nationals of third countries.

Quotas for third-country nationals

The Federal Council announced the new quotas on January 1st 2019. For third-country nationals the number of B Residence Permits made available was increased by 1,000 in comparison to the previous year, while the number of available L Short-term Permits was reduced by 500, so the total availability for third-country nationals for the 2019 year will be 4,500 B Residence Permits and 4,000 L Short-term Permits. These will be distributed between the federal level and the individual cantons.

According to statistics published by the State Secretariat for migration, by the end of July 2019, 2,631 of the 4,500 B-quota permits and 3,124 of the 4,000 L-quota permits (including the reserve left from the previous year) were still available.

How do quotas work for EU nationals?

EU27/EEA nationals can benefit from agreements on the free movement of persons, but these are only valid when a local work contract is involved. Authorisations for employment for EU/EEA nationals are still subject to quotas during assignments to Switzerland.

For EU27/EEA nationals on assignments, the Federal Council – as in the previous year – authorised 500 B Residence Permits and 3,000 L Short-term Permits. These quotas are released quarterly and are available as a pool between all the cantons of Switzerland.

At the end of June 2019, 351 of the 500 B-quota and 2,024 of the 3,000 L-quota permits were still available to nationals from the EU27/EEA member states.

Quota restrictions: What Romanian, Bulgarian and Croatian nationals should know

Romanian, Bulgarian and Croatian nationals should pay attention to some important pieces of information regarding further quota restrictions.

From the 1st June 2019, Romanian and Bulgarian nationals benefit from full freedom of movement of persons, so they are now the same as the EU27/EEA citizens in terms of local employment and relocation to Switzerland. Since the two countries joined the EU in 2009, the Federal Council made use of the so-called "safeguard clause", which permitted the introduction of quotas for permanent Romanian and Bulgarian immigrants for a maximum of ten years. This term expired at the end of May 2019.

Of the EU member states, limitations on the free movement of persons now only apply to Croatian nationals. For the year 2019 103 B-Permits and 953 L-Permits are available to Croatian nationals. The quotas are issued quarterly and apply to local employment. For Croatian nationals, the 50 B-quota permits released by the end of June as well as the 476 L-quota permits released to this point have been completely used up. In the next quarter, 50 new B-quota permits and 238 new L-quota permits will be available to Croatian nationals again.


The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.