The Foreign Nationals and Integration Act (FNIA)

Updated: Jul 8, 2021

On January 1, 2019, the Federal Act on Foreigners and Integration (FNIA) came into force by succeeding the Foreign Nationals Act (FNA). On this basis, important changes have been made that included the following:

1. Revocation and downgrading of the permanent residence permit (Permit C)

The revocation of the C permit is now possible in case of a long-term dependence and to a large extent on social assistance. The C permit can be revoked and replaced by a B permit when the integration criteria are not met, including the respect for security and public order, the values of the Constitution, language skills and the participation in working life or efforts to acquire an education.

Nevertheless, how do we define a long-term dependence and to a large extent on social assistance? Is a 6-month dependency considered long-term? Should the total amount be analyzed?

To answer these questions, a thorough analysis of each individual case is necessary.

2. Impossibility of family reunification in case of receiving supplementary benefits

Family reunification is no longer possible if the holder of the original or reunification right (holder of permit L, B, C or F) receives annual supplementary benefits in the sense of the Supplementary Benefits Act (SBA) or would be entitled to claim such benefits due to family reunification.

In the canton of Vaud, this modification raises two specific questions: what about supplementary benefits for families and the bridge pension “rente-pont”? It would seem that the former does not prevent an application for family reunification. However, the “rente-pont”, which has a completely different purpose, would make family reunification impossible.

3. Disclosure of personal data

It is important to emphasize that administrative assistance and disclosure of personal data already existed under the FNA.

However, the FNIA authorizes the Federal Council to disclose data in case of :

  • A claim for unemployment benefits,

  • A claim for social assistance,

  • A claim for supplementary benefits in accordance with the SBA,

  • Disciplinary measures by school authorities,

  • Measures taken by child and adult protection authorities,

  • Other decisions indicating special need for integration in accordance with the criteria set out in Article 58a.

If an authority receives data pursuant to Article 26a SBA about a claim for supplementary benefits, it shall automatically notify the body responsible for determining and paying out the supplementary benefits of the possibility that the residence permit will not be extended or will be revoked.

4. Temporary admission (Livret F): right to work anywhere in Switzerland and elimination of the special income tax

A rather positive change is the elimination of the special tax on gainful employment incomes for people admitted, on a provisional basis, as refugees or not (Livret F). However, the special tax on asset values remains valid.

The FNIA has also improved the situation of holders of provisional admissions (Livret F), as they are now authorized to work anywhere in Switzerland, provided that the usual conditions of remuneration and work in the place, profession and sector are respected.

The employer must report to the competent service (SDE in the canton of Vaud, OCIRT in Geneva) the start or end of the employment activity. The report must contain the identity and salary of the employed person, the activity carried out and the place of work. The employer must include a declaration in the report, confirming that he is aware of the salary and employment conditions customary for the location, profession, and sector, and that he is committed to observing them.

But will this "simple administrative step" be perceived as such in practice by a potential employer?

5. Learning the language spoken in the place of residence

The new law is based on the integration of foreigners. One point that has been mentioned several times is the learning of the language spoken in the place of residence as a condition for obtaining an extension of the B/C permit for family reunification. For the first granting of a B/C permit for family reunification, registration in a language training program is required.

Please note that registration for a language course is sufficient for the granting of a temporary admission (permit F) for family reunification.

6. The integration agreement

The FNIA sets out specific requirements for integration, in particular through the signing of integration agreements. These agreements establish the goals, measures and time frames agreed upon with the person concerned and also regulate the financing arrangements. Integration agreements may contain objectives concerning the acquisition of language skills and educational or professional and economic integration, as well as the acquisition of knowledge about living conditions, the economic system, and the Swiss legal system.

The competent authority may require the termination of an integration agreement. If this is the case, the residence permit will only be granted or extended after the agreement has been concluded.

It should be noted that integration agreements were already terminated in some cantons under the FNA.

The residence permit can be revoked (L or B permit) if the foreigner does not respect the integration agreement.

An integration agreement may be concluded with a provisionally admitted foreigner (Livret F) if the cantonal authorities consider that there are particular integration needs in accordance with the criteria defined in Art. 58a FNIA.