The Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons (AFMP) gives Swiss and EU citizens the right to live and work anywhere within the territories of the contracting parties. In addition to the free movement of persons, the agreement provides for the mutual recognition of professional qualifications, the coordination of social security systems and the right to acquire property.
Free movement of persons
The Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons (AFMP) came into force on 1 June 2002 after the Swiss people had voted in favour of the AFMP and the other Bilateral I agreements in 2000.
Better residency and employment conditions
The AFMP and its additional protocols secure better residency and employment conditions for Swiss nationals in EU member states and EU citizens in Switzerland. It permits nationals of either contracting party to access the job market of the other contracting party without discrimination. However, exercising the right of free movement is subject to certain conditions. For example, a valid employment contract is required for salaried employment, while self-employed individuals must provide evidence of self-employment. Individuals who are not gainfully employed, including students or pensioners, must have comprehensive health insurance and sufficient funds so that they do not need to claim social security.
Free movement of persons gradually extended since 2000
Free movement of persons is not extended automatically to new EU member states. The specific terms of free movement must be negotiated each time a country accedes to the EU and set out in an additional protocol. In 2006, free movement of persons was extended to the ten EU member states that joined in 2004, to Romania and Bulgaria in 2009, and to Croatia in 2017.
In each case, a gradual transition towards free movement was agreed. Since 1 June 2007, nationals of the original 15 EU member states, plus Cyprus and Malta (EU-17), have enjoyed full rights of free movement. Nationals of the 8 Eastern European countries that joined the EU in 2004 (EU-8), together with Cyprus and Malta, have also enjoyed full freedom of movement since 1 May 2011. Bulgarian and Romanian nationals have had full rights of free movement since 1 June 2016.
Since 1 January 2017, the AFMP has applied to Croatia, which joined the EU on 1 July 2013. Special transitional provisions restricting access to the job market and set quotas are expected to remain in effect for Croatian nationals until 31 December 2023.
The AFMP has ceased to apply to the UK since 31 December 2020 due to Brexit. However, British citizens living in Switzerland on or before that date will retain their acquired rights under the AFMP.
The AFMP provides for the coordination of national social security schemes without requiring any convergence of systems. It therefore safeguards the social security rights of individuals who choose to exercise their right of free movement between Switzerland and the EU.
Under the AFMP, Switzerland also participates in the European diploma recognition system. The AFMP makes it easier for EU and Swiss citizens and Swiss nationals to have their qualifications recognised in the territory of the other contracting party.
To protect employees from abusive undercutting of Swiss standard wage and working conditions, Switzerland implemented accompanying measures in connection with the introduction of free movement on 1 June 2004. The accompanying measures are also intended to ensure a level playing field for Swiss and foreign companies.
Since 1 June 2002, when the EFTA Convention, as amended, came into force, the free movement of persons rules in effect between Switzerland and the EU have also applied to the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) member countries, i.e. Switzerland, Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein. Special freedom of movement rules also apply between Switzerland and Liechtenstein.
- Free movement of persons with the United Kingdom ends (Brexit, 31 December)
- Swiss voters reject the popular initiative 'For moderate immigration' initiative (Limitation Initiative) (61.7% against, 27 September)
- Entry into force of the legislation implementing Article 121a of the Federal Constitution (1 July)
- Entry into force of Protocol III (extension of the AFMP to Croatia, 1 January)
- Parliamentary decision on implementing Article 121a of the Federal Constitution governing control of immigration (16 December)
- Adoption of the popular initiative 'Stop Mass Immigration' (Art. 121a BV) (50.3% in favour, 9 February)
- Protocol II to the AFMP enters into force (1 June)
- Approval of continuation of the AFMP and of Protocol II (extension of the AFMP to Bulgaria and Romania) by the electorate (59.6% in favour, 8 February)
- Protocol I to the AFMP enters into force (1 April)
- Approval of Protocol I (extension of the AFMP to the ten countries that joined the EU in 2004) by the electorate (59.6% in favour, 25 September)
- AFMP enters into force (1 June)
- Approval of the AFMP in the popular vote on the Bilateral I agreements (67.2% in favour, 21 May)
- AFMP signed (as part of the Bilateral I agreements package, 25 June)
European Union (EU)
Useful addresses and websites
European Nationals in Switzerland