Free movement of persons and provision of services

Every year, more than 3,000 service providers from the European Union (EU) and European Free Trade Association (EFTA) countries apply to SERI to temporarily carry out a regulated professional activity in Switzerland. A simplified application procedure was introduced ten years ago on 1 September 2013 as part of the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons.

Author: Sandra Schindler

The service sector comprises numerous industries in which professionals also work across national borders, such as mountain guides offering mountain tours in several countries or building contractors carrying out contracts in nearby foreign countries. Mobility is therefore important. If a professional activity is regulated, i.e. if being able to carry it out in Switzerland depends on having certain professional qualifications, then these qualifications must be recognised in Switzerland in a procedure that takes between three and six months. However, there is an accelerated procedure for individuals from EU/EFTA states who only want to work in this country in a regulated profession for a maximum of 90 days per calendar year. Conversely, Swiss nationals who want to work in EU/EFTA states can also benefit from such an accelerated procedure.

The accelerated declaration procedure also provides a faster and more efficient way of carrying out checks for the authorities. Since service providers only work for a short period of time and without supervision in the host state, it is important to clarify that they are entitled to practise their profession in the member state in which they are established and that they are not prohibited from practising their professional activity. This is done in the form of an attestation issued by the relevant authority or body of the respective country.

The Swiss declaration procedure in practice

EU/EFTA nationals submit the legally required documents, including the above-mentioned attestation, to SERI, the authority responsible for the declaration procedure, via SERI’s online portal. The Declaration Centre then conducts a formal review of the documents. If a regulated professional activity has an impact on public safety or health, the competent authority verifies the foreign professional qualifications; this is done by the Commission for Medical Professions (MEBEKO) for medical professions, for example, or the Federal Inspectorate for Heavy Current Installations (ESTI) for the electrical installation sector.

SERI is primarily responsible for professions subject to declaration such as mountain guides, hiking guides, architects, civil engineers, snow sports instructors and beauticians. The verification of professional qualifications is based on the requirements of the Directive 2005/36/EC on the recognition of professional qualifications, which also apply to Switzerland on the basis of the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons (AFMP). If the verified professional qualifications do not correspond to the requirements applicable in Switzerland for the said regulated professional activity, then the competent authority will order that an aptitude test be taken. This shortened procedure is usually completed within 30 days. The declaration must be renewed for each calendar year with a current attestation.

Cooperation between the authorities functions well

Service providers from EU/EFTA member states are only allowed to work in Switzerland if they can prove that they meet all of the requirements for carrying out their professional activity in their country of origin. It is therefore important that cooperation between the relevant authorities works well. The SERI Declaration Center is in daily contact with domestic and foreign authorities and in some cases also with professional associations. It is most frequently in contact with authorities in neighbouring Germany, France, Italy and Austria. At national level, cooperation takes place via an online portal. SERI works closely with various recognition authorities and the cantonal authorities responsible for the practice of the professional activity, i.e. the cantonal health or labour market authorities depending on the profession in question.

Graphic Number of declaration forms

Over 30,000 declaration forms received since 2013

Since the relevant law – the Federal Act on the Declaration Requirement and the Verification of Service Provider Qualifications in Regulated Professions and the associated ordinance – came into force on 1 September 2013, SERI has received over 30,000 declaration forms. Currently, 125 occupations are subject to declaration. Most declaration forms are received for the professions of doctor, mountain guide and electrician, although the actual number received depends on the situation on the labour market together with other factors. Not surprisingly, fewer declaration forms were received during the COVID-19 pandemic; meanwhile the numbers for the current year are again increasing. Additionally, the increase in declaration forms is seasonal and dependent on the sector, as can be seen, for example, in the case of snow sports instructors and mountain guides.

Sandra Schindler, SERI Deputy Head of Unit Recognition of Professional Qualifications +41 58 464 93 54
Sandra Schindler