There are considerable differences in the labour markets across Europe. While unemployment remains high in many countries – particularly those affected by the Eurozone crisis – some EU nations have very low unemployment figures. 

Bilateral relations between Switzerland and the EU are governed by the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons (AFMP), which was signed on 21 June 1999. The AFMP and its protocols simplify living and working conditions for EU citizens in Switzerland. The same rules apply to citizens of EFTA countries. 

Work permit

Swiss citizens do not require a work permit in EU/EFTA states,

and have the right to geographical and occupational mobility. They can change job, career, place of residence and switch from employed to self-employed status anywhere in the EU/EFTA area. 

You will need to present confirmation of the working relationship from your employer (generally an employment contract or letter of employment) when registering with the migration authority at your place of residence. If your employment contract is for one year or longer, you will receive a permit for at least five years; in other cases the permit will match the length of the contract. The migration authorities will reissue the permit if the contract is extended. 


During a secondment, an employee works for a fixed period (generally no longer than two years) in another country. The seconded employee retains their legal relationship with their original employer. They remain registered in Switzerland, and must pay their taxes and social security there. Secondment does not affect which state is responsible for an employee, which means that a Swiss employee seconded to an EU/EFTA state must continue to pay their social security in Switzerland during their secondment. 

Searching for work

It is recommended you begin searching for work before arriving in the country. 

Generally speaking, Swiss citizens are entitled to remain in the EU for up to six months while they search for a job. Registering at the local employment office in your new place of residence allows you to use public employment services there. As a rule, you will need to register with the local authorities if you stay for more than three months. 

Finding a job

All public employment services in Europe advertise vacancies via EURES. EURES is a network for public labour market authorities in EU/EFTA states that supports employee mobility. Switzerland is an active part of the network. The three key services provided by EURES are mediation, advice and information.


There are trained EURES advisers in every country with specialist knowledge of labour markets at the national and transnational levels. EURES advisers specialise in providing information on individual countries in the EU. 

Recognition of educational and professional qualifications

EU/EFTA states usually recognise Swiss qualifications. Under the AFMP, Switzerland cooperates closely with the EU and is part of the European system for the recognition of academic qualifications. If you want to practise your profession in an EU/EFTA state, find out whether it is regulated. 

As a rule, your professional qualifications must be recognised before you can practise a regulated profession in an EU/EFTA state. To practise a regulated profession in a specific country, you will need a diploma, CoP or other certificate. Before applying to have your qualifications recognised, you should first check the European Commission's Regulated Professions Database, which provides information on the regulated professions and competent authorities in each country. The national assistance centre in a given country will provide information on the legal conditions for taking up and practising a professional activity there.

The competent authorities in the country are entitled to ask applicants for information about the level of education they attained in Switzerland, their professional activity, and their professional experience. It is the applicant's responsibility to acquire the relevant certificates from the competent Swiss authorities. 

Self-employed persons

As a self-employed person, you can apply for a six-month residence permit while you set up your business. If the prospects of success are good, you may be given an additional two months to set up your business. You will receive a residence permit for at least five years if you can provide evidence of self-employed activity before the six-month period ends. 

Employed and self-employed persons are subject to the same conditions as citizens in the host country. This means that EU member states may not discriminate against Swiss or EU citizens in favour of their own citizens. In most states, self-employed tradespersons or those in similar professions must register their activities with the competent chamber of skilled trades and crafts.

You should find out in advance which conditions apply to self-employed persons in the country you are moving to. 

Self-employment and starting your own business

You should consult the local chamber of commerce or a specialist local adviser for information on self-employment in your host country.

If you wish to transfer your current self-employed activity from Switzerland to an EU/EFTA state, you should discuss this with an expert who has comprehensive knowledge of company law in both Switzerland and the country you are moving to. 

You can obtain further information from the websites of the EU, from Swissnex, and from Switzerland Global Enterprise (S-GE), which promotes exports and investments on behalf of the Confederation and cantons. S-GE is also represented abroad via the Swiss Business Hubs, which it uses to assist Swiss companies with market development.


Innovation and Partnerships

Consular Directorate CD
Effingerstrasse 27
3003 Bern


Helpline +41 800 24-7-365 / +41 58 465 33 33

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