The Swiss government will curb immigration and free movement from all EU countries from next month for at least one year, the BBC reports.
Swiss immigration caps on 8 central and eastern EU member states are to be extended to 17 other EU states. Bulgarian and Romanian immigration is blocked under separate rules.
Though not an EU member itself, Switzerland signed up to the Schengen visa area rules on freedom of movement and Swiss citizens enjoy preferential immigration treatment in the UK.
Unlike the UK, the Swiss enjoy many of the benefits of the European Union without being a member and signing up to its laws.
The EU has naturally criticised the decision to impose the new immigration quotas, but unlike most European countries Switzerland is in charge of its own borders and immigration laws.
There are widespread fears in Switzerland about a growing influx of workers from poorer EU members, especially with Bulgaria Romania being granted full freedom of labour movement from 2014.
A new poll this week found that around 350,000 Romanians and Bulgarians could be looking for work in the UK, and the Home Office is powerless to prevent mass immigration from the two countries when restrictions are lifted next year.
Thousands of Romanians and Bulgarians are arriving early to beat the rush, despite the need to apply for a ‘yellow card’ permit to study and work in the UK on an ‘earn while you learn’ programme.
When Croatia joins the European Union (EU) on 1 July 2013, transitional arrangements will be introduced to restrict Croatian nationals’ from full access to the UK job market.
When Switzerland signed up to the freedom of movement rules in 1999, the country retained the right enact a “safeguard clause” if the annual influx of workers from countries exceeded a certain number.
From mid-2014 the clause becomes invalid, so the quotas can in theory only last for 12 months, but Switzerland is due to hold two referendums aimed at limiting immigration.
The limits on the ‘A8’ newer EU member states (Estonia, Hungary, Lithuania, Latvia, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia and the Czech Republic) were first introduced last year.
From 1 May, the number of long-term residence permits granted to immigrants from those countries will be capped at 2,180 for 12 months. The states concerned are From the same date, long-term residence permits for the 17 older EU states will be capped at 53,700 for 12 months.
Immigration to Switzerland from the two newest ‘A2’ EU states, Bulgaria and Romania, is blocked, and will remain so for years to come.
In a statement from her office, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said the new quotas disregarded “the great benefits that the free movement of persons brings to the citizens of both Switzerland and the EU”.
The vast majority of immigrants to Switzerland come from traditional EU members like Germany, Spain, Portugal and Italy, the BBC’s Imogen Foulkes reports from Berne.
Portuguese citizens seeking work will be hardest hit, she adds.
The Swiss government has, like the UK coalition government, come under pressure to curb immigration, which some say has reached unsustainable levels.
Famed for its tax haven status and financial secrecy laws, Switzerland enjoys low unemployment, high salaries, and a safe currency. A government spokesman said the number of people arriving in Switzerland had exceeded the number leaving by up to 80,000 in recent years.
Limiting work permits “can help to make immigration more acceptable to society”, the statement concluded. Source: BBC
Switzerland is a small country with massive wealth, which means it can pick and choose who it wants to allow in.
Other cash-strapped EU countries on the other hand still need to attract highly skilled, entrepreneurs and investor visa migrants to boost their economies.
Non-EU citizens with money to invest can start a business in the EU zone and enjoy free movement around most member states in the Schengen visa area.
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Majestic College offer special packages for EU students. They also have a number of employers looking for care workers and are willing to employ Bulgarians and Romanians.
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