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, followed by a 21-month so-called ‘implementation period’.
The withdrawal negotiations between the UK and the EU started on 19 June 2017. On 19 March 2018, the UK and the EU released the “draft withdrawal agreement”. This agreement sets out, inter alia, the details regarding the implementation period as well as the status of EU citizens in the UK during this period and beyond. The UK and the EU will seek to finalise negotiations on this agreement by autumn 2018. After that, the European and British parliaments will have to ratify the agreement in view of the UK’s exit from the EU at the end of March 2019.
The UK is expected to withdraw from the EU on 29 March 2019. As of this day, the UK will cease to be an EU member state, but will enter an implementation period that is expected to last until 31 December 2020.
The UK and the EU agreed on the principle of an implementation period in the framework of the draft withdrawal agreement. During this period, EU law (including free movement of persons) continues to apply to the UK, even though the UK will have left the EU. Agreements that the EU has concluded with third countries, including the Switzerland-EU bilateral arrangements, will continue to apply to the UK until the end of the implementation period (31 December 2020).
In summary, regarding daily life during the implementation period, things will largely remain as they are now. Please note however that the implementation period is part of the EU-UK draft withdrawal agreement that remains to be finalised and ratified by the two parties.
- People who, by 31 December 2020, have been continuously and lawfully living in the UK for 5 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 go on to apply for British citizenship.
- People who arrive by 31 December 2020, but won’t have been living in the UK lawfully for 5 years at the end of the implementation period, will be able to apply to stay until they have reached the 5-year threshold. They can then also apply for settled status.
- Family members who are living with, or join, EU citizens in the UK by 31 December 2020 will also be able to apply for settled status, usually after 5 years in the UK.
- Close family members (spouses, civil partners and unmarried partners, dependent children and grandchildren, and dependent parents and grandparents) will be able to join EU citizens after the end of the implementation period under these rules, where the relationship existed on 31 December 2020.
- EU citizens and their family members who arrive in the UK during the implementation phase will be able to live, work and study here as they do now, but they will need to register with the Home Office if they intend to stay longer than 3 months.
- EU citizens arriving after the end of the implementation period will be subject to the UK’s future immigration regime, which has not yet been drawn up.
The current draft withdrawal agreement foresees the following for EU citizens and their family members:
The British and Swiss authorities are discussing similar bilateral arrangements in order to secure the status of Swiss citizens resident in the UK and vice versa.
The UK government has a website that provides an overview of the status of EU citizens in the UK.
Useful information can also be found in the FAQ section on the website of the European Commission.
If you would like to find out the latest information on citizens’ rights and the settled status, you can sign up to UK Home Office email updates here.
For the time being, all the bilateral agreements that Switzerland has with the EU will continue to apply to the UK. The UK and the EU (and Switzerland respectively) are currently working on finalising the details of an implementation period (see question 2). Only once the implementation period comes to an end could this situation change.
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. This means, amongst others, that 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.
On 19 March 2018, the UK government and the EU reached an agreement on EU citizens’ rights after Brexit (see question 3). The British and Swiss authorities are discussing similar arrangements between the UK and Switzerland. Our shared guiding principle is to protect life broadly ‘as is’ for UK nationals in Switzerland and Swiss nationals in the UK before the end of the implementation period.
The different legal basis for movement between the EU and Switzerland – which is based on the EU-Swiss Free Movement of Persons Agreement (FMOPA) – means that there is a lot of technical detail to work through in order to take into account the differences in substance between the two legal frameworks (intra-EU and Swiss-EU related). Working through the implications of these for a UK-Swiss citizens' rights agreement has been a key focus of the talks.
In terms of scope, we are working towards an agreement which, like the UK-EU agreement, will cover rights including residence, frontier working, family reunification, social security coordination including aggregation of contributions, export of benefits, healthcare reimbursement and mutual recognition of qualifications. We plan to finalise the details of a political agreement over the coming months and move on to the legal drafting phase as soon as possible.
Furthermore, the UK government intends to set up a new process to enable EU citizens to apply for settled status. Subject to the ongoing discussions between Switzerland and the UK, it is expected that Swiss citizens looking to remain in the UK will also be asked to apply for this new ‘settled status’. If you would like to find out the latest information on citizens’ rights and the settled status, you can sign up to UK Home Office email updates here.
A checklist in preparation for the future settled status process can be found here.
According to the UK Home Office, the ‘settled status’ application process for EU citizens will be separate from the current process for documents confirming EU residence status. If you already have a ‘document certifying permanent residence’, you will still need to apply for the new settled status document. In this case however, the application will be free of charge, subject only to verification of identity, a criminality check and confirmation of ongoing residence.
Indefinite leave to remain status will not be affected by the UK leaving the EU.
Once the application scheme for settled status opens there will be a simple process to exchange the old indefinite leave to remain document for a settled status document free of charge, should you wish to prove you benefit from a future bilateral arrangement between Switzerland and the UK (see question 4). This will be subject only to verification of identity, a criminality check and confirmation of ongoing residence.
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.
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 implementation period comes to an end 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.