15 July 2016

Amendments to the Legislation on Foreign Nationals

In light of the Mass Immigration Initiative

Among politicians, from left to right, desperation and fatigue are spreading: the implementation of the mass immigration initiative in the Swiss Foreign Nationals Act (FNA) is simply just not going well. The other innovations, which are dealt with in the revision of the legislation on foreign nationals, such as the rules on unemployment of foreigners and social security law as well as the proposed law giving recognized refugees the right to work in Switzerland, are forgotten.

Federal Council Draft of March 2016
Exactly what the revision of the law encompasses was disclosed in the Federal Council’s preliminary draft and Statement of March 2016: Starting point for the revision is the adoption of the mass immigration initiative by the Swiss electorate in February 2014. This must be put into practice by February 2017 (for further details, see our previous blogpost of July 5, 2016). Since the negotiations with the EU are only progressing sluggishly, the Federal Council has been forced to act and has proposed a unilateral, statutory safeguard clause.

Combating Abuse in the Labour Market
In addition to the new safeguard clause it is also intended to enact new rules for dealing with unemployment of foreign nationals and the integration of refugees in the labour market: Under the title 'Combating abuse in the labour market' social security claims by foreign job seekers should be prevented . Next, a new set of criteria sets out the circumstances in which foreign job seekers would lose their Swiss residency permits. To enable the competent authorities to react promptly in such cases, the data exchange between the various authorities is to be improved. To this end, a new formal, legal basis will be created in the Social Security Law, which meets the data protection requirements.

Pilot project 'employment of recognized refugees'
Another focal point of the revision is the pilot project of the Federal Council, under which recognized refugees and those temporarily admitted can, newly, be gainfully employed and participate in employment programs. The intention is to launch a multi-year apprenticeship under which the refugees learn a new profession or advance in their current one. According to the Federal Council this should lead to earlier and more effective integration into the Swiss labour market. Since this group of foreigners has, anyway, the right to be temporarily permitted to reside under international commitments, it would seem sensible to use their potential for the Swiss labour market. Although criticized, mainly from the right wing, this is certainly a creative way to strengthen the Swiss labour market 'from inside'.

Strengthening the Swiss Market
In the shadow of the struggle to implement the mass immigration initiative, the following two interesting innovations in the legislation on foreign nationals can be found: The rules to combat welfare abuse should plug certain loopholes and allow enhanced exchanges between the authorities involved. Simultaneously, a pilot project of the Federal Council would, for the first time, allow the employment of refugees with the goal of supporting a more efficient integration and strengthening the Swiss labour market from the inside.

Author: Urs Haegi

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