Free Movement of Persons Switzerland – EU/EFTA

Graphic presentation: Schedule for the introduction of the Free Movement of Persons Switzerland – EU/EFTA
enlarge_picture Introduction of the Free Movement of Persons Switzerland – EU/EFTA

On 21 June 1999, the European Union (EU) and Switzerland signed the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons (AFMP). The AFMP lifts restrictions on EU citizens wishing to live or work in Switzerland. The right of free movement is complemented by the mutual recognition of professional qualifications, by the right to buy property, and by the coordination of social insurance systems. The same rules also apply to citizens of EFTA member states.

On 1 June 2002, the AFMP came into force for citizens of the "old" EU member states (EU-15) as well as for citizens of EFTA member states. As a result of EU eastern enlargement on the 1 May 2004, the AFMP was supplemented on 1 April 2006 by an additional protocol containing provisions for the gradual introduction of the free movement of persons for ten new EU member states (EU-8; Cyprus and Malta have enjoyed the same conditions as the "old" 15 EU member states from the very beginning, hence the term EU-17). In a referendum held on 8 February 2009, the Swiss electorate approved the continuation of the AFMP after 2009 and Protocol II on extension of the Agreement to Romania and Bulgaria (EU-2). Protocol II came into force on 1 June 2009. Protocol III on the extension of the AFMP to Croatia became effective on 1 January 2017.

Citizens of the "old" EU member states, including Cyprus and Malta (EU-17), and citizens of EFTA member states have enjoyed free movement rights since 1 June 2007. Citizens of EU-8 member states were granted the same unrestricted free movement rights on 1 May 2011.

Citizens of Bulgaria and Romania (EU-2) have enjoyed the same rights on trial since 1 June 2016. However, the safeguard clause allows Switzerland to reintroduce quotas for a specified period if immigration exceeds a certain threshold. The Federal Council has decided to invoke this clause with regard to Bulgaria and Romania from 1 June 2017. This means that category B EU/EFTA residence permits granted to citizens of the EU-2 will be subject to quotas during a period of one year. The measure applies to citizens from Bulgaria and Romania who possess an employment contract in Switzerland that is valid for more than a year as well as for self-employed persons. On 18 April 2018 the Federal Council decided to extend by a further year until 31 May 2019 the validity of the safeguard clause for EU-2 nationals. As the threshold set in the AFMP was not reached by 31 May 2018, the safeguard clause for short-term permits (L EU/EFTA) has not been activated. The transition period for Romanian and Bulgarian nationals will end from 1 June 2019 and they will enjoy full freedom of movement from this date. More information concerning the safeguard clause for EU-2 nationals can be found in the circular letter of 16 May 2018 (available in German, French and Italian).  

Croatia joined the EU on 1 July 2013. The extension of the AFMP to Croatia was negotiated in Protocol III. On 1 January 2017, the AFMP was extended to Croatia. Since then, special transitory measures apply to  Croatian nationals with regard to quotas and work permits.

Further information

(Most of these documents are not available in English)

Arbeitsmarktintegration von EU/EFTA-Angehörigen in der Schweiz

Massnahmenpaket des Bundes­rates vom 24. Februar 2010

Press Releases

(Most of these documents are not available in English)

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