The Swiss government decided Wednesday to limit work permits issued to Romanian and Bulgarian citizens following a spike in immigration from those countries, invoking a clause in its agreement with the EU.
The clause is part of a bilateral agreement with the European Union on the freedom of movement and allows Switzerland, which is not a member of the bloc, to impose temporary quotas on work and residency permits.
According to the agreement, Switzerland has the right until 2019 to impose quotas on Romanian and Bulgarian citizens if it registers a hike of 10 percent or more in the number of permits issued compared to the previous three-year average.
In 2016, net immigration from the two countries stood at 3,300 people in 2016 — double the number registered in 2015.
The Swiss government therefore said it had decided to "activate the safeguard clause."
Only 996 long-term residency and work permits would be made available to citizens of the two countries over the next year, it said, adding that the quota system would take effect on June 1.
Short-term residency permits for stays shorter than one year will not be subject to quotas, it said.