The Embassy of Switzerland in the UK publishes a list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) with regard to the status of Swiss citizens living in the UK post-Brexit. It covers many of the queries received so far from Swiss citizens and will be updated on a regular basis as relevant new information becomes available. We appreciate your understanding that the Embassy of Switzerland cannot give binding information or advice for individual cases. In the light of the ongoing ratification procedure of the UK-EU Withdrawal Agreement and the upcoming negotiations about the UK’s future relationship with the EU and with Switzerland, there are many questions concerning the future legal situation which may not be answered with any certainty at this moment.
In November 2018, the UK and the EU concluded their negotiations on the Withdrawal Agreement and the Political Declaration on the future relationship. The agreement sets out, inter alia, the status of EU citizens in the UK after Brexit, as well as the details regarding the transition period (see Question 2).
The UK Parliament (as well as the European Parliament) now have to implement and ratify that agreement to guarantee an orderly exit of the UK from the EU on 31 October 2019. In votes in January and March 2019, the House of Commons rejected the Withdrawal Agreement and the Political Declaration. Given the current uncertainty in the Brexit process, we cannot exclude the possibility of a disorderly withdrawal of the UK from the EU (no-deal scenario).
Switzerland is not a party to the Withdrawal Agreement, hence the need for a separate agreement with the UK to secure the rights of Swiss and British citizens (see question 4).
In case of an orderly Brexit, based on the EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement, the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union will be followed by a transition period, currently expected to last until 31 December 2020 (the UK and the EU can jointly decide to trigger an extension of the transition period of up to two years).
During the transition period, EU law continues to apply to the UK, even though the UK will have ceased to be an EU member state. Agreements that the EU has concluded with third countries, including the Swiss-EU Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons, will continue to apply to the UK until the end of the transition period.
In summary, regarding daily life during the transition period, things will largely remain as they are now.
Please note however that the transition period is part of the UK-EU Withdrawal Agreement that has not been ratified by the two parties yet.
Currently the relations between Switzerland and the UK are governed by the network of bilateral agreements concluded between Switzerland and the European Union. One of those agreements is the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons (AFMP). Under the AFMP, economically active persons have the right to enter, remain and take up employment in the UK and in Switzerland, both in an employed or self-employed capacity. Economically inactive persons (e.g. retired persons or students) also have the right to enter and stay as long as they have adequate financial means and full health insurance coverage.
Once the UK leaves the EU (and the ensuing transition period lapses), the Swiss-EU bilateral agreements, including the AFMP, will cease to apply to the UK. That is why Swiss and British authorities have been working on replicating those agreements in the bilateral relationship, as far as possible. To safeguard the rights of Swiss citizens who are resident in the UK (and vice versa), the two governments have concluded the Swiss-UK citizens’ rights agreement (see Question 4).
- Right of exit and of entry
- Right of residence for persons pursuing an economic activity
- Right of residence for persons not pursuing an economic activity
- Family reunification
- Frontier workers
- Rights of persons providing services
- Prohibition of discrimination on grounds of nationality
- Purchase of immovable property
- Coordination of social security systems
- Mutual recognition of professional qualifications
The Swiss-UK citizens’ rights agreement secures the rights acquired by Swiss citizens living in the UK (and vice versa). Based on this agreement, Swiss citizens residing in the UK will be able to carry on with their lives just as before. In terms of scope, the main areas covered are the following:
- In the main scenario of an orderly Brexit based on the negotiated UK-EU Withdrawal Agreement, the UK’s departure will be followed by a transition period during which the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons continues to apply. In this case, the Swiss-UK citizens’ rights agreement will only be implemented once this transition lapses, which is currently expected to be from 1 January 2021.
- In the event of a disorderly exit (‘no-deal Brexit’) on 31 October 2019, Switzerland and the UK will apply the agreement as of 1 November 2019, the day following the UK’s withdrawal from the EU..
The Swiss-UK citizens’ rights agreement protects the rights of Swiss nationals residing in the UK (and vice versa) in every Brexit scenario.
Swiss citizens (and their family members) wishing to remain in the UK beyond December 2020 have to apply for a new residence status under the settlement scheme, called ‘settled status’ (see Question 7). Acquiring settled status will allow Swiss citizens to continue to live, study and work in the UK, to have access to public funds and services and to go on to apply for British citizenship if they wish to do so.
The settlement scheme opened fully at the end of March 2019. You can start your application here. You can apply to the settlement scheme immediately, but you do not have to since there will be no change to your current rights until 31 December 2020.
- be a Swiss citizen, or a family member of a Swiss citizen
- have started living in the UK by 31 December 2020 (if the UK leaves the EU based on the EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement); or
- have started living in the UK by 31 October 2019 (if the UK leaves the EU without a deal)
- have lived in the UK for a continuous five-year period (‘continuous residence’)
- one period of up to 12 months for an important reason (for example, childbirth, serious illness, study, vocational training or an overseas work posting)
- compulsory military service of any length
‘Settled status’ is the new UK permanent residence status post-Brexit. Swiss citizens (and their family members) wishing to remain in the UK beyond December 2020 need to apply for this status. Swiss citizens married to a British citizen also need to apply. UK-Swiss dual nationals however do not need to apply.
Acquiring settled status will allow Swiss citizens to continue to live, study and work in the UK, to have access to public funds and services and to go on to apply for British citizenship if they wish to do so. To be eligible for settled status under the Swiss-UK citizens’ rights agreement, you have to:
Continuous residence means that for five years in a row you have been in the UK for at least six months in any 12-month period, except for:
If you do not have five years’ continuous residence when you apply you will generally get ‘pre-settled status’ instead. This means you can stay in the UK for a further five years from the date you get pre-settled status. Once you have five years’ continuous residence you can apply for settled status.
If you would like to find out the latest information on citizens’ rights and settled status, you can sign up to UK Home Office email updates here.
The UK Home Office has confirmed that applications for ‘settled status’ will be free of charge.
Yes, Swiss citizens married to a British citizen will also need to apply. UK-Swiss dual nationals however do not need to apply.
The settlement scheme has been fully open since the end of March 2019. Swiss citizens and their family members can apply now.
In an orderly Brexit scenario, based on the EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement, the deadline for applying for settled status is 30 June 2021; in a no-deal Brexit scenario it is 31 December 2020.
To obtain settled status or pre-settled status, applicants need to fill in an application form online using a computer, tablet or smartphone. The UK Home Office provides support over the phone or in person if you need help during the online application process (see Question 13).
The digital application process takes applicants through three stages: proving their identity, evidencing their residence in the UK, and checking they have no serious criminal convictions. The application system draws on existing UK government data to minimise the burden on applicants to provide evidence of their residence (see Question 12).
You do not have to be physically present in the UK to apply for ‘settled/pre-settled status’. You can also apply from overseas.
There will be no physical document evidencing your status. Instead, successful applicants will get proof of their status through an online service.
You can use your National Insurance Number to confirm your UK residence when applying to the settlement scheme. Your National Insurance Number will be used to carry out an automated check which calculates your period of residence. You can find more information on the automated check here.
If you do not have a National Insurance Number, if you do not want to use your National Insurance Number or if you do not agree with the result of the automated check, you can upload additional documents as evidence of your UK residence. A list of documents accepted by the Home Office as evidence of UK residence can be found here.
Please be aware that you do not need to provide evidence for your entire UK residence. You only need to show that you qualify for settled or pre-settled status.
- Those who are in a relationship with a Swiss national as their spouse, civil partner or unmarried partner (unmarried partners will need a residence card to prove the relationship)
- Those who are related to a Swiss national, their spouse or civil partner as their:
- - child, grandchild or great-grandchild under 21 years old
- - dependent child over the age of 21
- - dependent parent, grandparent or great-grandparent
- - dependent relative with a residence card to prove the relationship
Family members who are living with, or join, Swiss citizens in the UK by 31 December 2020 can also apply for settled or pre-settled status. Family members who are not living in the UK by 31 December 2020 will be able to join a Swiss citizen in the UK at any point in the future, as long as the relationship existed before 31 December 2020 and still exists. Children born or adopted after 31 December 2020 will also have their rights protected. Where a new relationship is formed after 31 December 2020, the future spouse of an eligible Swiss citizen will be able to join the Swiss citizen in the UK within a period of five years following the entry into force of the Swiss-UK citizens’ rights agreement.
Family members do not need to be from Switzerland or the EU to be eligible to apply for settled or pre-settled status; they can come from anywhere in the world.
For the purposes of the settlement scheme, family members are defined as:
Indefinite Leave to Enter or Remain (ILR) status will not be affected by the UK leaving the EU, and ILR holders can continue to live in the UK without applying for settled status.
However, settled status guarantees that your immigration status will be registered with the Home Office and it offers certain more favourable entitlements (for example it will not lapse unless the holder has been absent from the UK for more than four consecutive years, as opposed to the usual two years). If you choose to change your ILR to settled status, the application for settled status should be a simple process and subject only to verification of identity, a criminality check and confirmation of ongoing residence.
Yes, if you already have a ‘document certifying permanent residence’, you still need to apply for settled status. This will be a simple process, subject only to verification of identity, a criminality check and confirmation of ongoing residence.
The situation applying to Swiss citizens moving to the UK after Brexit depends on whether there will be an orderly Brexit, based on the EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement, or a disorderly Brexit (‘no-deal’ scenario). In case of an orderly Brexit the UK’s exit from the EU will be followed by a transition period, currently expected to last until 31 December 2020. During that period, all the bilateral agreements that Switzerland has with the EU will continue to apply to the UK, including the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons (see Question 3). Swiss citizens arriving in the UK during the transition period can move to the UK under the terms of that Agreement. If they wish to stay in the UK beyond 31 December 2020, they will have to apply for pre-settled status (see Question 7).
In case of a disorderly Brexit (‘no-deal scenario’), the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons will cease to apply to the UK on 31 October 2019. In that scenario and for an interim period (until 31 December 2020) Swiss citizens can continue to come to the UK for short term stays under the same terms as today. To stay longer than three months, they will have to apply for European Temporary Leave to Remain status. European Temporary Leave to Remain will allow Swiss citizens to live, work and study in the UK for three more years from the date it is granted. If they wish to stay in the UK after those three years, they will need to apply for an immigration status under the UK’s future immigration system.
Swiss citizens arriving in the UK after 31 December 2020 will be subject to the UK’s future immigration system.
Swiss citizens will continue to enjoy visa-free travel to the UK in any Brexit scenario.
In case of an orderly Brexit, based on the EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement, the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons will continue to apply to the UK until 31 December 2020. Swiss citizens travelling to the UK during that time can enter the UK under the same terms as today, using either a valid national identity card or a passport.
The UK Home Office has confirmed that in case of a disorderly Brexit (‘no-deal scenario’), Swiss citizens will continue to be able to enter the UK as now, using e-gates when travelling on a biometric passport, and without a visa. Up until 31 December 2020, Swiss citizens will be able to enter the UK by showing either a valid national identity card or a passport.
UK citizens will continue to enjoy visa-free travel to Switzerland in any Brexit scenario.
In case of a disorderly Brexit (‘no-deal scenario’), the following rules will apply to British citizens in terms of passport validity as of 31 October 2019:
British nationals wishing to enter Switzerland for a short-term stay not exceeding 90 days per 180-day period must be in possession of a travel document that:
• will remain valid for at least three months after the intended date of departure from Switzerland; and
• has been issued within the previous 10 years.
In case of an orderly Brexit, the UK’s exit from the EU will be followed by a transition period, currently expected to last until 31 December 2020. During that period, all the bilateral agreements that Switzerland has with the EU will continue to apply to the UK, including the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons (see Question 3). UK citizens arriving in Switzerland during the transition period can move to Switzerland under the terms of that Agreement.
In case of a disorderly Brexit (‘no-deal scenario’), the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons will cease to apply to UK citizens on 31 October 2019. Hence, UK citizens moving to Switzerland in order to live, work and study there will in principle have to comply with the relevant Swiss legislation for third country nationals. As a temporary measure, the Swiss government has decided to introduce a separate quota applying from the day the UK leaves the EU to 31 December 2019, allowing 3,500 British citizens to work in Switzerland. In addition, the Federal Council has approved a transitional migration agreement with the United Kingdom. The agreement provides that after a disorderly Brexit and until 31 December 2020, British nationals would not have to meet all the conditions that third country nationals need to fulfil to obtain access to the Swiss labour market (they could be exempted from the criteria relating to professional qualifications, national preference and economic interest).
- FAQ section of the Swiss State Secretariat for Migration
- Information on social security from the Swiss Federal Social Insurance Office
- Switzerland-UK relations post-Brexit on the website of the Swiss Directorate for European Affairs
- UK Home Office website on settled status in English, German, French and Italian
- Information on using your National Insurance Number to confirm your UK residence and list of evidence of UK residence accepted by the Home Office
- Information on application processing times
- EU Settlement Resolution Centre
- DExEU website on Preparing for EU exit: Switzerland
- Sign up to UK Home Office email updates
- Settlement Scheme Employer Toolkit
- Settlement Scheme Community Leaders Toolkit
- FAQ section on the website of the European Commission
- Toolkit on the EU Settlement Scheme in German, French and Italian