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Frequently Asked Questions – Moving to and Living in Switzerland

Switzerland is a very attractive location to live and work in for many non-Swiss nationals.

It is an attractive country with amazing scenery as well as a number of world-famous cities such as Berne, Geneva, Lausanne and Zurich. It also offers an attractive tax regime for individuals as well as for companies, in the right circumstances.

Please see below some frequently asked questions and their respective answers, regarding moving to and living in Switzerland:

How long can I stay in Switzerland as a tourist?

Non-Swiss nationals are allowed to stay in Switzerland as tourists, without registration, for up to three months. After three months, anyone planning to stay in Switzerland must obtain a work and/or residence permit, and formally register with the Swiss authorities.

What is the situation regarding working in Switzerland?

The acquisition of a Swiss work permit allows a non-Swiss national to become legally Swiss resident.

There are three ways to be entitled to work in Switzerland:

  • Being hired by an existing Swiss company.
  • Forming a Swiss company and become a director or an employee of the company.
  • Investing in a Swiss company and become a director or an employee of the company.

When applying for Swiss work and/or residence permits, different regulations apply to EU and EFTA nationals compared to other nationals.

What is the minimum investment required for Swiss residency, when forming a company by a Non-EU/EFTA citizen?

The company must present a business plan detailing how the amount to be invested in it will generate a turnover of CHF 1million or more per annum, in the ‘near’ future (the business plan has to show that the company will achieve this turnover in a specified number of months, not necessarily in the first year, particularly if the company is a start-up).

Can individuals gain Swiss residency through investment in real estate?

Non-Swiss nationals can only gain Swiss residency through the ‘Swiss Business Investment Programme’, detailed above or through the Swiss Lump Sum System of Taxation.

Switzerland does not offer a real estate investment programme.

Swiss based real estate can be purchased after gaining a residence permit. Quotas may be applicable to non-Swiss nationals in relation to owning a second residence in Switzerland.

What is Swiss Lump Sum Taxation?

A non-Swiss national can move to Switzerland and apply for residency under the Lump Sum System of Taxation.

This annual tax is based on:

  • The applicant’s ‘expenses’ (not income), which are generally calculated as being 7 times the applicant’s annual rent.

Cantons also have ‘minimum deemed expenses’, which are considered as being a percentage of the applicant’s tax base. These ‘taxes’ depend on the canton and are generally between the tax rates, 21% and 46% of the tax base, as agreed with the cantonal tax authorities. Minimum annual tax bands are detailed below for several key cantons:

  • Aargau – CHF 400,000
  • Bern – CHF 400,000
  • Geneva – CHF 600,000 (multiplied by the tax rate applied in the relevant canton)
  • Fribourg – CHF 250,000
  • Lucerne – CHF 600,000
  • Ticino – CHF 400,000
  • Schwyz – CHF 600,000
  • St Gallen – CHF 600,000
  • Uri – CHF 400,000

What are some of the advantages of living in Switzerland?

Switzerland is:

  • A safe and neutral country.
  • High standards of living and education.
  • Multicultural cities.
  • A beautiful country with pristine lakes and the backdrop of the Alps.
  • Business is investment friendly.
  • An excellent banking system

How can an individual become a Swiss Citizen?

  • An EU or non-EU/EFTA national must have lived at least 10 years in Switzerland to be able to apply for a Swiss passport.
  • However, if an EU or non-EU/EFTA national is the spouse of a Swiss national, they need only to have lived in Switzerland for 5 years. A child of a Swiss national (under the age of 18) will automatically be granted Swiss nationality.  

What reputation does a Swiss passport have?

  • A Swiss passport is very well respected across the world.
  • A Swiss passport is very well ranked in the world passport rankings in terms of visa free travel to. Swiss citizens can travel, visa free, to 172 countries.

Which cities are well-known and popular to live in?

  • Geneva, Zurich, Bern, Lausanne, Basel, Lucerne, and Lugano are some of the most well-known cities in Switzerland.

What languages are widely spoken in Switzerland?

  • English is spoken everywhere, as well as the three national languages of; French, German and Italian.

Is Switzerland in Schengen?

  • Yes, Switzerland is a Schengen signatory, enabling free movement for Swiss nationals within the EU.
  • A Swiss residence card also allows for free movements in Schengen countries.

Does Switzerland have tax treaties?

  • Yes, Switzerland has a large number of tax treaties, just over 100 in total.

Additional Information

If you require additional information regarding moving to and living in Switzerland, or have any other questions about this jurisdiction, please contact the Dixcart office in Switzerland: advice.switzerland@dixcart.com. Alternatively, please speak to your usual Dixcart contact.

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