Author: Lawyer Enrico Germano

After the war started on February 24, 2022 by the Russian Federation in Ukraine, many Ukrainian citizens left their homeland and moved mainly to European countries, seeking refuge. According to the UNHCR1, since the beginning of the war to date, more than 5 million people have fled Ukraine, in addition to approx. 7 million Ukrainian internally displaced persons who have moved from the eastern to the western part of Ukraine, which is a vast nation of approx. 44 million people, with an area of 603,548 km2, about 15 times the territory of Switzerland to be exact. As of June 29, 20222 , 58,193 Ukrainians have arrived in Switzerland, and according to the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) 56,223 have been granted S-protection status, about 97%3 .

Ukrainian nationals on the benefit of S-protection status are allowed to engage in gainful employment, but prior to taking up employment the prospective employer must solicit a corresponding permit from the canton of the place of work in order to verify, among other things, wage and working conditions4. Persons on the S permit are also authorized to work outside their canton of residence and may also engage in self-employment, but in the latter case a permit at the canton of the place of work must be applied for and the relevant offices – in the canton of Ticino the Population Section – will have to verify whether the financial and business requirements for the intended activity are met.

Incidentally, people with S status also have access to the offers of employment offices and can benefit from their support in finding employment. However, recognition of the diploma of the S-status beneficiary will be required only for so-called regulated professions (doctor, lawyer, etc. ) and in that case each situation will have to be examined in detail.

Persons with S-protection status are also allowed to carry out a traineeship, i.e., gainful employment of a fixed duration with a training element, but even in that case, it will be necessary to apply for prior work authorization from the canton of the place of work, where it will be necessary to verify the relevant “training program as well as a fixed-term employment contract providing a level of pay customary for the location, industry and role and that corresponds to the person’s qualifications and experience” .5

People with S-protection status can also fulfill basic vocational education and training. In this case, the SEM specifies that “the training company must apply to the canton for the appropriate work permit. Basic vocational training requires B1 language proficiency in German, French or Italian, depending on where the vocational school or training company is located. The cantons offer bridge-year trainings that help fill gaps in schooling and prepare for the choice of profession”.6

But in fact, the Swiss online website reminded on June 27, 2022 how it is not easy for Ukrainian S-status beneficiaries to find work in Switzerland, pointing out as well that “despite the demand for highly skilled labor, employers and employers are not rushing to hire incoming people from Ukraine, as many of them would have expected” .7

Paradoxically, in the first quarter of 2022, there are more than 100,000 registered vacancies in Switzerland for labor, a figure that has reached new unexpected highs8, at a time of war on Europe’s borders, inflation, and energy and climate uncertainties (with even water shortages just around the corner). But Switzerland is one of the most competitive markets in the world, and no doubt this is one of the preeminent reasons.

1Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Geneva