Located in the center of Europe and sharing borders with five countries, Switzerland has established business-friendly immigration policies and is one of the leading nations for immigration due, in part, to its agreement on free movement with the European Union (EU).
For those in America who argue increased immigration means a higher unemployment rate, Switzerland helps disprove that economic fallacy (which ignores the reality that new workers consume goods and services, creating an increased demand for labor). Switzerland’s unemployment rate fell from about 3.8 percent in January 2005 to 3.1 percent in December 2012, while at the same time the annual inflow of immigrants to the country increased by more than 40 percent.91
The percentage of foreign born in the country is 28 percent (approximately twice the U.S. level), and with a population of about 8 million, its annual flow of new immigrants is approximately five times the level of the United States.92
Work permits for intracompany transferees and other high-skilled foreign professionals coming from outside the EU generally are approved, despite the labor market test requirement on certain temporary visas.93 Non-EU international students are provided six months to find employment. EU citizens can receive permanent residence after five years; individuals from outside the EU can receive it in 10 years.
Although not an EU member, Switzerland and the EU allow free movement across their borders, giving Swiss citizens the right to work in EU countries and EU citizens the right to work in Switzerland. A February 2014 referendum in Switzerland requires the government to place quotas on the entry of EU citizens, although a number was not specified. The Swiss government has not decided on a quota and has until 2017 to implement the referendum to limit the immigration of EU citizens into Switzerland.
“The free movement of people is an important principle for the European Union,” said attorney Sara Rousselle-Ruffieux. “If you place a quota, then you limit the principle, and it’s unclear how the EU would react to that.”94 That is the dilemma facing the Swiss government. In November 2014, Swiss voters rejected by a wide margin even tighter immigration restrictions.
Given its location and low unemployment rates, Switzerland will continue to attract immigrants. Government officials must balance the need to maintain pro-growth policies with the wishes of voters.
91. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Trading Economics.
92. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
93. Interview with Nina Perch. There is no labor market test for intracompany transferees.
94. Interview with Sara Rousselle-Ruffieux.