Yvonne Riaño, Annique Lombard, Etienne Piguet

The Global Race for Talent in Switzerland. How to Explain Migration Policy Liberalisation to Allow International Students Staying after Graduation?

Since the 1990s, Swiss immigration policies have placed more restrictions on non-EU nationals living and working in Switzerland. However, in 2011, based on the initiative of university professor and parliamentarian Jacques Neirynck, the Swiss Parliament approved a new law facilitating the admission and integration of non-EU nationals with a Swiss university degree. How can this policy openness in times of closure be explained? To address this question we examined the narratives crafted by Swiss parliamentarians during the parliamentarian debate – both in favour of and against the draft bill. The main methods used were qualitative analysis of the minutes of parliamentarian debates and in-depth interviews with key political actors. In light of our results, we propose a three-dimensional approach to explain why immigration policy liberalisation occurs: (a) the effectiveness of the narratives crafted by policy elites to convince parliamentarians, (b) the appropriate conditions created by the temporal and geographical context, and (c) the biographical capacity of the policy initiators to effect policy change. Emerging from this multi-dimensional approach is a unique perspective of analysis which can be used to understand policy change in migration studies.