British expats snub Switzerland as more move away than arrive

British expats snub Switzerland as more move away than arrive

Despite being known as a top destination for British expats, new statistics from the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) have revealed that more Brits are leaving Switzerland than applying for residence permits. International companies and officials at the British Embassy in Bern have blamed Brexit and the skills shortage in the UK.

First decline in British expat population in Switzerland

Between 2001, and 2020, thousands of British expats came to live and work in the alpine nation. According to the Tages-Anzeiger, many came to fill jobs in Switzerland that were highly specialised in fields ranging from banking to private insurance.

However, new data from the SEM has found that for the first time in 19 years, more Brits left the country than arrived in 2021, with authorities recording a net loss of 434 people. Brits are the only expat group in Switzerland that has declined in population over the last year, with immigration from the UK falling significantly from its peak in 2008.

Brexit making it harder to move to Switzerland from the UK

The Tages-Anzeiger cited Brexit as the reason for the fall in numbers, as British arrivals are now subject to strict non-EU quotas for residence permits. According to Elizabeth Conti, head of immigration services at consulting firm BDO, British citizens now need to be highly specialised in order to be employed in Switzerland, and the companies and entrepreneurs that hire them need to prove that there are no suitable candidates within Switzerland and the EU.

Similarly, the British Embassy in Bern has said that the new bureaucratic rules are making UK expats less appealing than their European counterparts, especially for smaller businesses. They announced that they are working with the Swiss government to create a new migration agreement which contains fewer hurdles for British workers.

In a statement, the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) blamed the recent decline on the skills shortage in the UK. While expats traditionally sought jobs in Switzerland because of their salaries and rewarding work contracts, SECO argued that the estimated 1,3 million vacancies in the UK have made a "job at home" more appealing and financially lucrative than a job that requires relocation to Switzerland.

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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