Safeguard clause for EU: How to Get a Work Permit in Switzerland With Limited Quotas

It has been talked about for a while and you can read it in every major newspaper. The safeguard clause has initiated discussions and fear about what is going to happen with the immigration to Switzerland in the future from the EU.

I also received many requests on my opinion on this topic from my coaching clients and readers in the past weeks as the issue is discussed more and more. Therefore I want to give you some insights in this article how I see the situation and what you can do to becoming the exception to find a job in Switzerland even if there are limited quotas available.



It’s a fact that the limitation is in progress and that the quotas have already been reduced in 2012 by a significant amount for EU-8 nationals.

It is also a fact that there is a much stricter limitation for non-EU nationals in place than for EU-citizens. However, there are plenty of cases that I know of, from close friends to reader stories and coaching client feedbacks, where non-EU nationals did not have the slightest issue in getting a work permit for Switzerland through their new employers for the exact reasons I outline below.

I believe you have to follow the path of these success stories from non-EU nationals, even if you are an EU-national, to becoming the exception in the coming years if you intend to work in Switzerland.

To understand the work permit situation in Switzerland a bit better, check out the presentation below:


Becoming the Exception

If you want to work in Switzerland in the near future, you have to be perceived as very valuable for the company you want to work for. Simply being able to do a job is not enough anymore and certainly won’t get you a job in the future.

There are 4 main areas that I believe can promote you as an exception so companies will want to hire you, regardless of any limitation in work permits for your nationality.


1. Your Very Rare Skills

If you can do something that only a handful of people can do in the world, you are certainly on the winning team. 

If you are a Scientist who won the Nobel Prize, you probably won’t have an issue of getting a job in Switzerland no matter where you come from.

However, if you think that achieving 280% more in sales than your target was at company X or that reducing costs by 72% in a manufacturing process will make you an exception, think again. 

There are probably hundreds or even thousands of people out there with similar achievements, skills and so-called talents. In many cases you are facing competition with more experience, a higher education or more prestige company names on the CV. 

If you have 25 years experience in a non-unique skill XY, that does not necessarily make you unique. It may make you fantastic at what you do but I bet there are people out there with 28 years experience in non-unique skill XY.

Lately I came across many people who told me about their issues of finding a job in Switzerland. Many times, they mentioned that they were surprised to be out of work since 3 months because they thought companies would be waiting to hire them.

I met with a high caliber CFO a few weeks ago and he told me that he was very surprised about the difference in value of his skills 10 years ago and today. He thought that everybody would be waiting in line to hire him. Unfortunately, nobody was.

If you truly possess a skill that is so rare that a company in Switzerland can’t find somebody else with this skill in Switzerland or the entire European Union, congratulations, you are truly an exception and you should definitely not be worried about the safeguard clause.

For everybody else, please continue reading.


2. Your Strong Relationships

By strong relationships I mean people you can call and who will do anything for you because you have built trust in the past.

If you have relationships with people who support you in anything you ask them for, you are in a very safe place. This has nothing to do with how many LinkedIn connections you have or the count of business cards in your drawer. 

Having a contact in an address book and having a mutually beneficial relationship that is based on trust are two completely different things.

To succeed in your career transition in Switzerland or for that fact anywhere in the world, you need to have that network. If you don’t have it, you need to start building it today. Not tomorrow, when you need it but today when you feel like you don’t need it.

One of the biggest mistakes people make in their careers is to neglect building mutually beneficial relationships. 

Sure. people have tons of LinkedIn connections they call their network but having people you can call at any given time who will help you with anything are extremely important. 

Ask yourself these questions:

Who can I call to help me out if I have to move tomorrow?

Who would be willing to lend me a larger amount of money without interest?

Who can I call if I don’t feel good?


The amount of people you can call for things like that may be very small and that is fine but there have to be some of them.

These people will do anything to help you getting introduced to others and will share their entire network with you if it helps you to succeed.

If you can get a personal recommendation from somebody in an organization for a job opening, your chances drastically increase to be perceived as very valuable.

We (humans) tend to hire people we trust and like.


3. Your Weaker Network

These people tend to be the majority of your LinkedIn connections, at least that’s how it is in my case. Some may be closer and some you may not even remember.

These connections are also very important for your career transition in Switzerland but they will only help you if you have built trust first.

If you simply have somebody in your LinkedIn connections but have never done anything for them in the past, they will likely ignore you if you ask for something. Before you can ask for a favor, you need to do something for them.

Now comes the hook: If you simply do something for them to get a favor back, you also won’t succeed if you don’t do it in a genuine way.


4. Your Personal Brand

This is one crucial thing many people don’t understand.

Look at the most influential and what we perceive as successful people in the world and at how they got there in their career. Most of them have a strong network of people who trust and support them because the relationship is built on mutual trust.

However, the network alone is no guarantee for success. If people have no idea about your intentions and who you are, how should they introduce you or recommend you to others?

If you have a strong personal brand, it means people know who you are and about your intentions. This way they know when and how to introduce you and then we come to the same conclusion as in point 2. If you get introduced to a hiring manager, your chance of being hired, even if there is a safeguard clause in place or no quotas, increase.

If you develop a strong personal brand that shows you in a uniquely valuable way to potential employers, you can also get the job without introductions. 

If you meet a potential employer at an event and follow up over time, you develop a personal brand.

If you write for a major industry magazine that potential employers read and then contact them later on regarding career opportunities, they already know who you are.

If you regularly publish blog posts on your blog about how you see the future of your industry and your opinion on issues in your profession and give constructive advice, you will be perceived as an authority in your niche over time.

In all those situations, your chances increase to being hired in Switzerland as an exception.

I have built my entire business at jordico through personal branding and strong, genuine relationships.


3 Things to do Today to Becoming an Exception

1. Start doing things for others in your network because you genuinely want to

2. Start writing every day to become better at it as it is a fundamental transferable skill

3. Start developing a personal brand by publishing one article or blog post every week