23 September 2020

Brexit! Will UK citizens still be allowed to stay in Switzerland

With the United Kingdom's withdrawal from the EU, the Agreement on the free Movement of Persons (AFMP) between the EU and Switzerland will no longer apply to UK citizens after the end of the transitional period on 31.12.2020. What does this mean for UK citizens who already have a residence permit in Switzerland? And for those who wish to apply for one?

Agreement on the acquired rights of citizens

There are currently around 43,000 UK citizens living in Switzerland, while around 34,500 Swiss citizens live in the United Kingdom. In order to protect the rights they have acquired under the AFMP, the two countries signed an Agreement on the acquired rights of citizens on 25.02.2019. The agreement is part of Switzerland's "mind the gap" strategy.

Entry into force

The Agreement on Acquired Rights of Citizens will enter into force at the end of the transitional period on 01.01.2021. Should the transitional period be extended, the Agreement will enter into force immediately afterwards. During the transitional period, the AFMP will continue to apply.


The Agreement on the Acquired Rights of Citizens is subject to parliamentary approval. It was approved by the National Council in June 2020 and will now move on to the Council of States. Should the parliamentary approval process not be completed by the end of the transition period, the agreement would apply on a provisional basis.


In principle, the acquired rights are not lost. However, there are four main changes to the AFMP:

  • The authorities may require an extract from the criminal record before renewing a residence or cross-border commuter permit that has already been issued.
  • Crimes committed after the abolition of the AFMP will be judged in accordance with the Foreign Nationals and Integration Act (FNIA) as in the case of third-country nationals. Thus, in heavy cases a country expulsion can be ordered.
  • Family reunification will be regulated five years after the abolition of the AFMP, i.e. presumably from 01.01.2026, in accordance with the stricter conditions of the FNIA (maximum age of children 18 instead of 21, period for reunification five years, proof of sufficient financial means, etc.).
  • Personal service provision up to 90 days per calendar year will no longer enjoy preferential market access; it will now fall under the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS). Services started before 31.12.2020 may be completed under the conditions of the AFMP.


The EU has adapted the visa regulation so that UK citizens can continue to enter the Schengen area without a visa for a short stay of max. 90 days (within 180 days).

Entry of UK citizens after expiry of the transitional period

UK citizens who immigrate to Switzerland after 31.12.2020 will be treated as third country nationals due to the lack of corresponding bilateral agreements. The agreement on the acquired rights of citizens is not applicable. However, within the framework of the "mind the gap plus" strategy, talks between the two states concerning a future immigration regime are being held and will hopefully be concluded soon. However, the exact form this will take has not yet been clarified.

Our immigration team will be happy to answer any questions you may have.

Co-author: Andrea Elvedi


Categories: Immigration

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