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30 November 2022

Access restriction for Croatian workers from January on - Activating the safeguard clause

As of January 1, 2023, access for Croatian workers to the Swiss labor market will be restricted, affecting both self-employed and employed workers. The Additional Protocol to the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons with the European Union ("AFMP") on Croatia contains a safeguard clause ("valve clause") that allows Switzerland to unilaterally reintroduce permit quotas for a limited period of time if immigration from Croatia exceeds a certain threshold. The threshold is reached when the number of permits issued is more than 10 percent above the average of the previous three years.

The Federal Council is making use of this safeguard clause by amending the Ordinance on the Free Movement of Persons of November 16, 2022 ("VFP") (press release, explanatory notes). As a result, the following quotas have been fixed for 2023:

  • B permits (stays of five years): 1'150 new permits
  • L permits (short-term residents usually < 1 year): 1'007 new permits


Since January 1, 2017, the additional protocol to the AFMP has been in force, which extends the AFMP to cover Croatia. This provides for the gradual opening of the Swiss labor market for Croatian nationals with full free movement of persons applying to Croatians from January 1, 2022 (press release). In this context, the AFMP provides for a valve clause that allows the introduction of the permit quotas if the number of permits issued is more than 10 percent above the average of the previous three years.

In 2022, the requirements of this valve clause were met: 2'413 B permits were issued in the first ten months of 2022, although the 2022 threshold was 178 permits (annual average for 2019-2021: 162 B permits).

According to the Federal Council, the strong immigration of Croatian nationals results, among other things, from Switzerland's rapid economic recovery after the Covid 19 crisis. In the secondary sector, Croatian workers were mostly in demand in the manufacturing and construction industries. In the tertiary sector, demand was particularly strong in the hospitality industry, trade and employment services. An increase in Croatian labor was also recorded in areas such as planning, consulting and IT services.

Exceptions to the quota

The following Croatian nationals are exempt from the quota (amended Art. 12 VFP):

  • Those for whom the admission requirements according to Art. 30 Federal Act on Foreign Nationals and Integration ("FNIA") have been waived (e.g. to regulate gainful employment in the context of family reunification, or transfer of members of senior management and indispensable specialists);
  • Those who are granted an EU/EFTA residence permit based on Annex I, Art. 27, para. 3, subpara. a AFMP (persons who previously held a temporary employment relationship for at least 30 months are automatically entitled to enter into a permanent employment relationship);
  • Those who perform a special international function as defined in Art. 43(1)(e-h) of the Ordinance on Admission, Residence and Employment ("VZAE") (e.g. employees of companies who have their place of employment or work in Switzerland as part of the performance of a public contract or qualified persons employed by foreign official bodies who perform tasks specified in bilateral agreements for the benefit of foreign workers);
  • Those who are gainfully employed as doctoral or post-doctoral students at a Swiss university;
  • Those with dual Croatian Liechtenstein nationality

Are you interested in a work and residence permit in Switzerland? If you have any questions about work and residence in Switzerland, our immigration team will be happy to help.

By the way, have you read our blogs about work and residence permits for EU and EFTA citizens and about non-EU and EFTA citizens?

Categories: Immigration, Blog


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