On 29 March 2017 the United Kingdom (UK) announced its intention to leave the European Union (EU) under Article 50 of the Treaty on the European Union. As a result, the Agreement on the Free Movement of persons (AFMP) will cease to apply with the UK from 30 March 2019. SERI has therefore negotiated an agreement between Switzerland and the United Kingdom to ensure acquired rights and rights currently in the process of being acquired with regard to the mutual recognition of professional qualifications once the AFMP ceases to apply. This agreement between the UK and Switzerland was approved by the Federal Council on 19 December 2018.
At present, the AFMP still applies between Switzerland and the UK and will continue to do so during a transition period due to last until 31 December 2020. However, this transition period will only come into effect if and when the EU and the UK ratify a withdrawal agreement. This process has not yet been concluded.
The main tenets of the UK-CH agreement regarding recognition of professional qualifications guarantee the following rights:
- A decision regarding recognition taken before the AFMP ceases to apply retains its validity (in accordance with the European directives listed in Annex III of the AFMP);
- A recognition procedure in progress at the time the AFMP ceases to apply may continue;
- Persons who have not yet applied for recognition of their qualifications or who are still in the process of obtaining them can apply for recognition under the terms of the AFMP within four years. Usually a person does not require a residence permit in order to have their qualifications recognised. In other words, a Swiss citizen wishing to have their Swiss qualifications recognised in the UK in order to work there at some later date does not already have to be resident in the UK before applying, within the four-year period, for their qualifications to be recognised under the terms of the AFMP. After this four-year period, qualifications will be recognised according to national law or some future agreement yet to be concluded.
What will change when the AFMP ceases to apply?
Persons whose qualifications have been recognised before the AFMP ceases to apply will not be affected. In other cases, in particular for those in training or education at the time, there is a four-year period during which people can apply for their qualifications to be recognised in accordance with Annex III of the AFMP. After these four years, if no further agreement has been concluded then national law will apply.
In the case of services provision, where the profession is regulated, the declaration procedure (Title II of Directive 2005/36/EC) remains valid only if:
- there is a written service contract;
- services were already being provided before the AFMP ceased to apply.
There may well be a further agreement in future; however, it is currently impossible to predict what will happen. Professionals who do not yet have acquired rights are encouraged to pay attention to how the situation develops.
For more information on this UK-CH agreement, please consult the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) provided by the State Secretariat for Migration.