The Embassy of Switzerland in the UK publishes a list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) which covers many of the queries received so far from Swiss citizens regarding Brexit developments. We update this list on a regular basis as relevant new information becomes available. For this reason, it is advised that Swiss citizens first consult this webpage, should any questions arise which may not have been answered before. We appreciate your understanding that the Embassy of Switzerland cannot give binding information or advice for individual cases. In the light of the ongoing negotiations about the UK’s exit from the EU, there are many questions concerning the future legal situation which may not be answered with any certainty at this moment.
On 29 March 2017 the British government gave formal notice of the UK's intention to leave the European Union in a letter to the European Council. The UK is thus expected to withdraw from the EU at the end of March 2019, following the two-year period of negotiation provided under Art. 50 of the Treaty on European Union. However, this may be extended with the consent of the UK and all EU member states. The withdrawal negotiations between the UK and the EU started on 19 June 2017.
Only once the UK's withdrawal from the EU comes into effect will the treaties governing the UK's relations with the EU cease to apply. The same goes for the agreements that the EU has negotiated with third countries, including the Switzerland–EU bilateral agreements.
The British government set out its negotiation objectives in the White Paper published at the start of February 2017.
On 26 June 2017, the UK government set out its initial offer with regard to the rights of EU citizens living in the UK in a policy paper (see below for more information).
On 22 September 2017, Theresa May set out the UK’s vision of the UK/EU relationship after the exit date. A full transcript of her speech in Florence can be found here.
She asked EU countries to agree a two-year transition period after March 2019. The framework for this time-limited period would be the existing structure of EU rules and regulations.
The Federal Council has been closely following the events in the UK for several months and is evaluating the ramifications for Switzerland. At present, many questions remain unanswered. The Federal Council, the Federal Administration and the Embassy of Switzerland in London are in regular contact with the British government to discuss the next steps.
In the context of the Federal Council’s ‘mind the gap’ strategy, Switzerland will endeavour to safeguard the existing mutual rights and obligations between Switzerland and the UK after the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, and if possible to build on them.
For the time being, all the bilateral agreements that Switzerland has with the EU will continue to apply to the UK. Only once the withdrawal agreement (which is yet to be negotiated) between the EU and the UK comes into force could the situation change. The Federal Council will follow the negotiations between the EU and the UK closely so that the best possible successor regime can be negotiated.
Until that time, Swiss citizens can continue to live and work in the UK in accordance with the terms of the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons between Switzerland and the EU.
On 26 June 2017, the UK government set out its initial offer with regard to the rights of EU citizens living in the UK in a policy paper. The details contained in this offer will have to be agreed during the withdrawal negotiations between the UK and the EU.
The UK government intends to discuss similar arrangements with Switzerland and the other EFTA states on a reciprocal basis. The Federal Council will endeavour to ensure continuity and the protection of acquired rights under the bilateral Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons.
Swiss nationals do not need a work permit or any other document to work in the UK. Your passport or ID card is sufficient to prove that you are a Swiss citizen.
- People who have been continuously living in the UK for five years will be able to apply to stay indefinitely by getting ‘settled status’. That means these citizens will be free to live in the UK, have access to public funds and services and apply for British citizenship.
- People who arrive before the cut-off date*, but won’t have been in the UK for five years when the UK leaves the EU, will be able to apply to stay until they have reached the five-year threshold. They can then also apply for settled status.
- People who arrive after the cut-off date will be able to apply for permission to remain after the UK leaves the EU, under the future immigration arrangements for EU citizens.
- Family dependants who are living with or join EU citizens before the UK’s exit will also be able to apply for settled status after five years in the UK.
The UK government’s offer for EU citizens is as follows:
* The cut-off date is to be agreed during the withdrawal negotiations between the UK and the EU. The UK government however stated that it should not be earlier than 29 March 2017 (the date the UK government gave formal notice of the UK's intention to leave the EU) or later than the date the UK leaves the EU.
It is important to note that the details contained in this offer published in June 2017 will have to be agreed during the withdrawal negotiations between the UK and the EU. As such at this stage it is impossible to predict what the final arrangement may look like.
The UK government intends to discuss similar arrangements with Switzerland and the other EFTA states on a reciprocal basis.
Theresa May’s open letter to EU citizens living in the UK, published on 19 October 2017, can be found here.
On 7 November 2017, the UK government published a technical note giving further details of how the ‘settled status’ scheme will operate, including a two-year grace period for applications; contact with caseworkers to resolve minor issues; minimising costs (especially for those who already have permanent residence documentation); no requirement for comprehensive sickness insurance; and a digital, user-friendly application system.
If you would like to find out the latest information on the UK offer on EU citizens’ rights, you can sign up to UK Home Office email updates here.
According to the UK Home Office, the ‘settled status’ application process for EU citizens outlined in the UK government offer will be separate from the current process for documents confirming EU residence status. If you already have a registration certificate / document certifying permanent residence, you will still need to apply for the new settled status document. However, it is expected that applications for settled status will be more streamlined for those already in possession of a document under the current system. The UK Home Office has stated that comprehensive sickness insurance will not be a requirement for any applicants.
Here again, it is important to note that the details contained in the UK offer on EU citizens’ rights will have to be agreed during the withdrawal negotiations between the UK and the EU. As such at this stage it is impossible to predict what the final arrangement may look like.
The ‘settled status’ application process for EU citizens outlined in the UK government offer published in June 2017 is not in place yet. The details of the new status are subject to the withdrawal negotiations between the UK and the EU. At this stage it is impossible to predict what the final arrangement may look like and when it will be in place.
However, the UK Home Office expects the new application system to be up and running in 2018 and has stated that comprehensive sickness insurance will not be a requirement for any applicants.
In the meantime, should you wish to apply for a document to prove your right to live and work in the UK, there are two possibilities, depending on how long you have already been living in the UK.
Swiss nationals who have lived continuously and lawfully in the UK for at least five years can apply for a ‘document certifying permanent residence’. Details of the online application process can be found here.
Please note that in order to obtain a ‘registration certificate’ or a ‘document certifying permanent residence’ students and ‘self- sufficient persons’ in the UK must have comprehensive sickness insurance.
Furthermore, there are some exceptional cases in which you still need to apply for a document confirming your residence status under current EU law. For example, you will need such a document if you intend to apply for British citizenship.
In any case, it is important to note that when applying for permission to stay in the UK, you will need to supply evidence of the length of your residence/work in the UK. It is therefore advisable to organise documents that may act as proof of residence, such as utility bills, bank statements, council tax bills, etc.
If you would like to apply for British citizenship, check the UK government’s website for more information.
As the UK and Switzerland both allow for dual citizenship, applying for British citizenship will have no effect on your status as a Swiss national.
No, for the time being all the bilateral treaties that Switzerland has concluded with the EU will continue to apply to the UK. As a student, you will still have a right to reside in the UK based on the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons. Only once the withdrawal agreement (which is yet to be negotiated) between the EU and the UK comes into force could the situation change. Furthermore, the agreements between Switzerland and the EU have no influence on the level of tuition fees.
The Federal Council will take the interests of insured persons into consideration when negotiating the future relationship between Switzerland and the UK. Prospective entitlements are not under threat. The Freedom of Movement Agreement explicitly states that rights already acquired by individuals will be unaffected by termination or non-extension of that Agreement. The 1969 Bilateral Agreement on Social Security between Switzerland and the UK, which was suspended by the entry into force of the Freedom of Movement Agreement, remains valid. This agreement will apply, if – contrary to expectations – no new regulations are agreed upon and the existing provisions are no longer applicable.