Geneva, Zurich and Basel-City are calling for an increase in the annual work visa quotas granted by the federal government in Bern.
These cantons have already exhausted the number of permits they were granted for the year. The cantons argue that they need foreign workers and the visa cap is limiting economic growth. The visa quotas apply to non-european workers and are for B and short-term L permits.
A joint press release by the three cantons says that the economy must have access to specialists from outside Switzerland, even with new rules around better using local qualified workers that recently came into force. The lack of permits is creating uncertainty for the authorities and companies and threatens the economy. It also points out that Geneva, Zurich and Basel are important economic hubs and risks there put the Swiss economy at risk.
On 1 January 2015, Switzerland’s federal government reduced annual visa numbers from 8,500 to 6,500. In autumn last year Bern raised the annual number to 7,500. The three cantons of Geneva, Zurich and Basel-City ran out of visas in the first quarter of this year. They say that the risk of projects leaving Switzerland and companies deciding not to come here is rising.
The press release says that sectors such as research, finance, life sciences, pharma, trading and cleantech need to be able to quickly hire people.
Together the cantons are calling for a return to at least the annual level of 8,500 visas granted in 2014.
Regarding the politics surrounding the issue of immigration, they point out that workers from outside Europe represent a small proportion of Switzerland’s immigrants and local-worker preference is already integrated into the visa approval process.