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.
The network of bilateral agreements concluded between Switzerland and the European Union governs the relationship with the UK as long as the UK remains an EU member state. One of those treaties between Switzerland and the EU 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 network of 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 with a view to maintaining the existing set of rights and obligations and even building on it where possible.
- 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
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 discussions between Switzerland and the UK on an agreement to secure the rights of Swiss citizens in the UK (and vice versa) have now been finalised and the legal text of the agreement has been published.
The agreement safeguards the rights acquired by Swiss and British citizens under the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons (see Question 1). In terms of scope, the main areas covered are the following:
The Swiss government approved the bilateral citizens’ rights agreement on 19 December 2018. In the next step, the relevant commission of the Swiss Parliament will be consulted on the text of the agreement. On the UK side, the agreement will be scrutinised as part of the standard Parliamentary processes and will be implemented through appropriate legislation.
With this agreement, our common objective is to secure the acquired rights of Swiss and UK citizens in all scenarios, including the unlikely event of a disorderly exit (no-deal Brexit, see Question 6). In this eventuality, the Swiss and British governments will apply the agreement as of 30 March 2019, the day following the UK’s withdrawal.
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 (see Question 5). 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.
The shared guiding principle underpinning this bilateral citizens’ rights agreement is to protect life broadly ‘as is’ for Swiss nationals residing in the UK and vice versa.
Swiss citizens (and their family members) looking to remain in the UK beyond December 2020 will have to apply for the new residence status under the settlement scheme, the so-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.
Please note that you do not need to do anything immediately: there will be no change to your current rights (based on the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons) until the end of the transition period on 31 December 2020.
The settlement scheme itself will open fully by 30 March 2019.
The UK is expected to withdraw from the European Union at the end of March 2019, followed by a status-quo transition period that will last until the end of 2020.
In November 2018, the UK and the EU concluded their negotiations on the Withdrawal Agreement and the Political Declaration on the future relationship. This agreement sets out, inter alia, the details regarding the transition period as well as the status of EU citizens in the UK during this period and beyond. Switzerland is not a party to the Withdrawal Agreement, hence the need for a separate agreement with the UK on securing the rights of citizens.
In the coming weeks, the UK Parliament (as well as the European Parliament) will have to implement and ratify that 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 European Union on 29 March 2019. As of this day, the UK will cease to be an EU member state, but will enter a transition period that is currently expected to last until 31 December 2020. The UK and the EU might jointly decide to trigger an extension of the transition period of up to two years.
During this period, EU law 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 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 remains to be ratified by the two parties.
The UK-EU Withdrawal Agreement is currently undergoing ratification procedures in both the UK and the EU. The Swiss government is carefully monitoring developments and is preparing for all eventualities in close co-operation with the UK. This includes the possibility that the British (or European) Parliament rejects the UK-EU Withdrawal Agreement. The aim is for existing Swiss-UK rights and obligations to be maintained as far as possible in all scenarios, including a no-deal Brexit. In this unlikely event, the UK-Swiss agreement on citizens’ rights will become applicable from 30 March 2019, the day following the UK’s withdrawal.
be a Swiss citizen, or a family member of a Swiss citizen
have started living in the UK by the end of the transition period (currently expected to be 31 December 2020)
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) looking to remain in the UK beyond December 2020 will need to apply for this status. The Settlement Scheme is implemented by the UK Home Office.
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 UK-Swiss citizens’ rights agreement, you will need to:
You will need to apply even if you are a Swiss citizen married to a British citizen. (UK-Swiss dual nationals however do not need to apply.)
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 is currently testing the settlement scheme application process. The settlement scheme will gradually open more widely until it is fully open by the end of March 2019. Swiss citizens will be able to apply as of that date.
The deadline for applying will be 30 June 2021.
To obtain settled status or pre-settled status, applicants will need to fill in an application form online using a computer, tablet or smartphone. The UK Home Office will provide support over the phone or in person if you need help during the online application process.
The digital application process will take applicants through three stages: proving their identity, evidencing their residence in the UK, and checking they have no serious criminal convictions. The application system will draw on existing UK government data to minimise the burden on applicants to provide evidence of their residence.
There will be no physical document evidencing the status. Instead, successful applicants will get proof of their status through an online service.
For further information, please visit the UK Home Office website.
£65 if you are 16 or over
£32.50 if you are under 16
you have indefinite leave to remain in or enter the UK and want to change this for settled status
you have a valid permanent residence document
- you are applying to move from pre-settled status to settled status from April 2019
The fee to apply will be:
It will be free to apply if:
- 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:
Family members who are living with, or join, Swiss citizens in the UK by the end of the transition period (currently expected to be 31 December 2020) will also be able to 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.
Future spouses, including third country nationals, of eligible Swiss citizens will also be able to apply to join a Swiss citizen in the UK within a period of five years following the entry into force of the Swiss-UK citizens’ rights agreement.
For the purposes of the settlement scheme, family members are defined as:
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
Indefinite Leave to 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, you can choose to change your ILR to settled status free of charge, once the settlement scheme is fully open. This will be a simple process subject only to verification of identity, a criminality check and confirmation of ongoing residence.
Settled status 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.
Yes, if you already have a ‘document certifying permanent residence’, you will still need to apply for settled status. 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.
FAQ section on the website of the Swiss State Secretariat for Migration
Switzerland-UK relations post-Brexit on the website of the Swiss Directorate for European Affairs
UK Home Office website on settled status
List of evidence of UK residence accepted by the Home Office
Sign up to UK Home Office email updates
FAQ section on the website of the European Commission