Switzerland’s National Council, or parliament, voted in favour of strict new rules on Swiss residency permits last week. The project, which was started at the beginning 2014, looked like it might come to nothing after it was sent back for review after the successful 9 February 2014 vote to restrict mass immigration. Only a few weeks ago a government commission rejected the proposed laws requiring foreigners to make a greater effort to integrate.
The new rules are focused on making it harder for those who show no intention of integrating, to stay. Obtaining and retaining residency permits, including B and C permits, will be determined by the degree of integration.
To be integrated, immigrants will need to show they can make themselves understood in a national language, respect the law, public order, and Switzerland’s constitutional values, such as gender equality, as well as participate in the economic life of the nation.
Well integrated foreigners will be able to get C permits after 10 years. Parliament rejected the possibility of this being automatic. Justice minister Simonetta Sommaruga said that this is consistent with the new rules on obtaining Swiss citizenship.
Anyone not respecting the criteria set out in the text, could risk losing their B permit, or having their C permit downgraded to a B permit, if they show no intention of integrating.
Parliament decided, that long term dependance on state benefits could lead to the loss of a C permit, even after 15 years of residence in Switzerland.
In addition, the National Council accepted, without opposition, a clause requiring foreign preachers, or those teaching foreign culture or languages, to demonstrate an ability to communicate in the national language spoken at their place of work.
Family reunification rules were also tightened. A foreigner with a C permit, will need to have satisfactory accommodation, not be on state benefits, and be able to communicate in the national language of his or her canton of residence, before obtaining permission to bring their family to Switzerland.
One piece of good news for asylum seekers, was the removal of a special 10% tax lasting 10 years, designed to recoup the costs of providing asylum. Some considered this a disincentive to work. Requisition of assets was kept however.