Free movement of persons

A laboratory technician at work.
The Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons makes it easier for Swiss and EU nationals to live and work in each other's territories. © Pixabay

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. 

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 and nationals of Croatia since 1 January 2022.

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.