Non-EU graduates of Swiss universities to be given right to stay and work

Non-EU graduates of Swiss universities to be given right to stay and work

The Council of States has approved a plan that would allow non-EU graduates of Swiss universities to live in the country after their study visa expires. Supporters have argued that the policy will help plug the shortage of workers in Switzerland, although many have questioned the legality of the plan.

Non-EU graduates to be given fast track to Swiss residence

By 24 votes to 20, the Council of States - the upper house of parliament in Switzerland - approved a motion which will allow third-country graduates of Swiss higher education to continue to live in Switzerland without having to fulfil the strict requirements needed to get a residence permit. The plan now has the full approval of parliament and will be sent to the Federal Council soon.

Under the new rules, third-country nationals - people who aren’t Swiss citizens or nationals of an EU / EEA or EFTA member state - who have attended and graduated from any tertiary education institution in Switzerland will now be able to stay in the country after their visa expires.

If they graduate in a field which is suffering from a shortage of workers - which is most fields at the moment - they will be allowed to stay and apply for residence permits without the restrictions usually placed on third-country nationals like quotas and language requirements.

New plan designed to plug Swiss skills shortage

Speaking to 20 Minuten, Green Party State Councillor Lisa Mazzone said that the country faces "an acute shortage of skilled labour, and there is quite fierce European competition to attract people.” She made the point that the country needs to be “able to have easier access [to third-country graduates] to make their skills available to companies and our economy”.

The idea has also been warmly received by some members of the Federal Council, with Minister of Justice and Police Elisabeth Baume-Schneider arguing that the policy would make filling highly-qualified jobs easier. National Councillor Andre Silberschmidt told 20 Minuten that it does not make sense to invest Swiss taxes in graduates that do not end up contributing to the economy and that by studying in Switzerland, most third-country nationals are “often already well integrated.”

Opponents argue graduate residency plan is against the law

However, the vote has not gone down well with some in parliament, who argued that the policy is technically not allowed under current Swiss regulations. Article 121a of the Swiss constitution states that there has to be “maximum numbers and [a] quota for all categories of foreigners”, meaning that this “quota-free” avenue to residence would be breaking Swiss law.

State Councillor Andrea Caroni from FDP. The Liberals added that along with being illegal, he believed the idea is unnecessary as graduates are already able to apply for residence through the traditional channels, although the criteria are far more rigorous. If opponents' arguments are upheld, the idea will require a change in the constitution, which will mean the matter will face a referendum.

Thumb image credit: EQRoy /

Jan de Boer


Jan de Boer

Jan studied in York and Sheffield in the UK, obtaining a master's in broadcast journalism and a bachelor's in history. He has worked as a radio DJ, TV presenter, and...

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