Visa quotas for non-EU workers will rise next year. The increased quotas will include 3,000 B-permits and 4,500 L-permits, 1,000 more than this year. These limits are still lower than in 2014, when Swiss politics turned against the free movement of workers from the EU.
2014 quotas of 3,500 B-permits and 5,000 short-term L-permits, were reduced to 2,500 (B) and 4,000 (L), after a referendum to limit immigration was accepted by 50.3% of Swiss voters in February 2014. These lower limits were applied in 2015 and 2016.
Visa quotas are allocated to the cantons, with some reserved in a federal pot. By 13 September, the federal quota of B-permits had been exhausted, and only 272 L-permits remained. At a cantonal level there were still 406 B-permits and 661 L-permits available by 6 October, according to the newspaper 20 minutes.
Johann Schneider-Ammann, currently Swiss president and economy minister, argued for a return to 2014 levels. He thinks it would show that politicians are trying to help the economy. In addition, he pointed out the benefits that come from employing people for highly qualified positions, which typically lead to the creation of between 4 to 6 other jobs in Switzerland. The cantons have expressed a similar view, citing shortages of specialists in pharmaceutical research and computing.
The total quota increase of 1,000 will be finalised between now and the end of November. The federal council said that hiring rules, which give preference to local candidates already resident in Switzerland, will be unaffected.
According to government figures, total net immigration in 2015 was 71,495 people, 9.4% lower than in 2014. The decline was driven mainly by an increase in the number of people leaving Switzerland. While immigration increased 1.1%, emigration was up 6.1%.