In its report on immigration figures in the first half of 2017, published on Monday, the SEM said the migratory balance (arrivals minus departures) was 25,526, just under 12 percent lower than the figure for the same period last year.
Overall, six percent fewer people arrived to live in Switzerland so far this year. However fewer people left; in the first half of the year 35,411 people quit the country, 2.3 percent down on same period in 2016.
As of June, half the total number of foreigners were from four European countries: Italy (15.6 percent), Germany (14.9 percent), Portugal (13.2 percent) and France (6.3 percent).
In total 68.5 percent of foreigners in Switzerland were from EU/EFTA countries.
Yet immigration from those countries is slowing. From January to June this year the migratory balance for EU/EFTA citizens was down 21.5 percent on the same period last year and the lowest figure since 2005, said the SEM.
While the numbers of French, Eritreans, Italians and Germans in Switzerland rose this year, the figures for citizens of Serbia, Croatia, Turkey, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Portugal went down.
Analyzing the reasons for the slow-down, one expert told the Tages Anzeiger that many were returning home or not emigrating to Switzerland because of an upturn in the economies in their home countries, particularly in Portugal and Spain.
Overall, around half of foreigners arriving in Switzerland from January to June 2017 were here for a job, 30 percent came to join family members, just under seven percent came to study or train and 5.6 percent were asylum seekers.
The unemployment rate for foreigners in June 2017 was 5.2 percent – slightly down on the previous year – compared with 2.2 percent for Swiss citizens.
Just over two million foreigners now live in Switzerland, which includes both immigrants and those who were born in Switzerland but do not have Swiss citizenship.