In 2018, Switzerland received 122 000 new immigrants on a long-term or permanent basis (including changes of status), 3.2% more than in 2017. This figure comprises 73% immigrants benefitting from free mobility, 1.7% labour migrants, 17% family members (including accompanying family) and 5.5% humanitarian migrants. Around 11 000 permits were issued to tertiary-level international students and 75 000 to temporary and seasonal labour migrants.

Germany, Italy and France were the top three nationalities of newcomers in 2018. Among the top 15 countries of origin, Italy registered the strongest increase (1 000) and Portugal the largest decrease (-500) in flows to Switzerland compared to the previous year.

In 2019, the number of first asylum applicants decreased by -6.9%, to reach around 13 000. The majority of applicants came from Eritrea (2 500), Afghanistan (1 400) and Turkey (1 200). The largest increase since 2018 concerned nationals of Turkey (+300) and the largest decrease nationals of Georgia (-300). Of the 12 000 decisions taken in 2019, 87.5% were positive.

The revised asylum law entered into force in March 2019. Its main goal is to speed up asylum procedures. Asylum applications for which no further clarification is required should be processed in a fast-track procedure, which provides free legal protection for asylum seekers. These applicants are accommodated in centres for the duration of the procedure, until the execution of the removal (maximum 100 days, or 140 days for a Dublin procedure).

Since January 2019, refugees and persons admitted on a provisional basis may work in Switzerland without having to obtain an authorisation. This was replaced by a simple declaration made to the authorities.

The safeguard clause towards Bulgarian and Romanian workers was lifted on 31 May 2019. They now benefit from the same entry, stay and work conditions as other EU foreign citizens.

Starting 1 January 2020, language certificates from an accredited institution will be required for all applicants who need to demonstrate language skills to apply for a residence permit. Exceptions include foreign nationals whose native language is German, French or Italian, as well those who have attended compulsory school for at least three years or who completed a upper secondary school or a university programme in German, French and Italian, even if the school was based outside Switzerland. Foreign nationals who do not provide the specified language certificate and are not exempt may have their residence permit refused or downgraded from a C permit (permanent residence) to a B permit (long-term permit for stays exceeding 24 months). The new requirements harmonise the language rules across all cantons, whereas previously they varied by canton.

From January 2020, employers will be required to advertise jobs for occupations where unemployment reaches 5% to people seeking work through Switzerland’s Public Employment Service for five days, before others can access the job notifications. This measure builds on Switzerland’s existing efforts to promote the local workforce. Previously, only occupations where unemployment was 8% or higher were required to meet the job notification rules.

In January 2018, the Swiss Citizenship Act was fully revised. This revision aimed to bring the integration criteria and the linguistic requirements in line with those of the federal law on foreigners, to optimise the decision-making bases, to harmonise the lengths of cantonal and communal stay required, to standardise the processes and to clarify the respective roles of the cantons and the Confederation in the naturalisation procedure.

The government has implemented several measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. A communication campaign has been developed for the migrant population. To maintain the health of all stakeholders and support the foreign population, the cantons and integration services providers have adapted or postponed certain integration measures. An entry ban has been put in place, except for Swiss nationals, foreigners with a residence permit or a cross-border permit and some health professionals. The issue of new permits to foreigners outside the country has been mostly stopped, except for specific categories, such as health professionals or researchers working on the coronavirus, and for EU/EEA nationals working in essential sectors such as food, energy and IT sectors.

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