The EasyGov online counter to enable digital work permits

The quotas for work permits for workers from third countries are by no means exhausted in all cantons – not least because the process is too complex for many start-ups and SMEs and the result too uncertain. The digital processes on the EasyGov portal, on which SECO is currently working together with the State Secretariat for Migration and six pilot cantons, are intended to remedy this.

(deutsche Version unten)

The team is a key factor in the success of start-ups and, accordingly, a lot of effort is put into recruitment. The international networking abilities of Swiss founders and the attractiveness of Switzerland as a work location ensure that people from abroad often apply for advertised positions, including talent from outside the EU and EFTA, who are referred to as third-country nationals .

This brings two challenges for many start-ups and internationally oriented SMEs. First, the number of permits for third-country nationals is limited. Second, a demanding bureaucratic process must be followed – applications from third-country nationals are often complex and time-consuming to process and it is difficult to gauge the chances of success.

The complexity means that many start-ups do not even try to obtain work permits for third-country nationals, and as a result in most cantons the quotas are not fully used. Support of the application process by means of digitalisation is thus of particular importance.

This has not escaped the attention of the government, cantons and municipalities, and for facilitation and simplicity they rely on eGovernment. The eGovernment priority plan 2018-2019 formulated the following goal: “The official services for residence and employment permits are able to be processed electronically throughout Switzerland without media disruption.”

The focus of digitalisation is the EasyGov online counter. The platform, which was launched in 2017 and is oriented towards companies, enables various authorisation, application and reporting procedures in Switzerland to be processed electronically, including entries and changes in the commercial register and debt enforcement requests. The EasyGov services are constantly being expanded, and since April 2021 applications for permits for shift and night work can also be submitted via the virtual counter. One of the ongoing projects is the submission of applications for different categories of work permits for foreigners. “The focus is on permits that are particularly relevant to companies,” explains Martin Godel, head of the SME policy department at the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) and client of EasyGov.

A project group consisting of representatives from the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM), the association of cantonal migration authorities (Vereinigung der Kantonalen Migrationsbehörden, VKM), the association of Swiss labour market authorities (Verbands Schweizerischer Arbeitsmarktbehörden, VSAA) and SECO has been active since the end of 2017. The project is now in the implementation phase. Six pilot cantons are participating in the trials (Aargau, Basel-Stadt, St. Gallen, Thurgau and Zurich; Valais contributed to the concept) and working together with SEM and SECO on technical implementation of services relating to work permits.

“The first services will go live on EasyGov in 2021,” explains Godel. The registration procedure for the employment of temporarily admitted and recognised refugees will be activated for all cantons in the third quarter. The processing of cross-border commuter permits for EU citizens in the pilot cantons will also be made available on the portal this year. The pilot for permits for employed persons from third countries is expected to follow in mid-2022, after which further work permits, such as deployments in the pilot cantons, are planned for 2023 at the latest. The end goal is to make the entire approval process much easier, including application, response and document transmission. The complexity of the processes calls for an iterative approach and findings from the pilot tests, in particular from user reviews, will be collected and taken into account in subsequent releases.

The road from the situation today to a fully digital procedure is long. So far, no uniform data records have been obtained for almost all the permits concerned, and the required documentation varies from canton to canton. “Against this background, it is a remarkable achievement that effectively the pilot tests are able to start in 2021,” explains Godel. Ultimately, however, the project will be judged a success only if the remaining cantons are motivated to participate.