Integration Checks Have Begun Under the Swiss Foreign Nationals and Integration Act

February 20, 2019 | Switzerland

Under the new Swiss Foreign Nationals and Integration Act (formerly the Swiss Foreign Nationals Act), effective January 1, 2019, Swiss officials have begun checking a foreign national’s “integration” level before issuing certain permits for family reunion or changing a B permit to a C permit (some exceptions apply; see below for details). Some checks actually began in 2018, as aspects of the new integration requirement were implemented on January 1, 2018.

“Integration” broadly refers to the foreign national’s ability to speak the language of his or her place of residence in Switzerland (French, German or Italian); the foreign national’s willingness to participate in the economy of Switzerland by working, studying, training, etc.; and the foreign national’s respect for Switzerland’s laws and principles (by having no criminal record, no financial complications, etc.).

The standard integration check applies to the following applicants:

  • Non-EU national applicants for family reunion under a B, C or F permit (initial permit applications. The check applies to extension applications only if the applicant did not have an A1 language level at the time of initial permit issuance). The language requirement is an A1 proficiency level (according to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFRL)) or confirmation of enrollment in language classes.
    • Exception: The integration check does not apply to those applying for a B permit for family reunion based on the Free Movement of Persons Agreement.
  • Applicants for a C permanent residence permit (after five or 10 years in Switzerland, depending on nationality). The language requirement is an A2 speaking level and an A1 writing level.
    • Exception: The integration check does not apply to nationals of Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France Germany, Greece, Italy, Liechtenstein, Netherlands, Portugal, and Spain.
  • Integration checks also apply in some relatively uncommon cases, such as to those working in the education sector, those applying for C permit re-issuance after status retrograding, or those returning to Switzerland after a prolonged absence.

Additional Details

  • Although the checks officially apply only to certain categories of applicants and do not currently impact work permit applicants, the authorities have the discretion to require an integration check of any non-EU national who plans to reside permanently in Switzerland, and the checks may eventually be extended to other residence permit extension applications.
  • Integration requirements may be reduced for executives and highly-qualified specialists of multinational companies that have a strong command of English.
  • The actual processes for carrying out the checks may vary by Swiss canton, have not been fully established, and may be implemented gradually.