150,000 Swiss francs
Visa Free Travel
From its top-of-the-line watches and chocolates to its ultra-safe banking system, Switzerland enjoys a reputation for quality. The European country is the gold standard for many investors, retirees and wealthy individuals.
For those looking to relocate there, the price tag is high. Some advisers on residency programs suggest having $1 million in hand before applying for Swiss residency. And most of that is for taxes, not investment, with any real estate costs on top of that. Those taxes, and other aspects of residency, vary among the country’s 26 cantons.
In exchange, those who relocate to Switzerland can count on a consistent fixed-amount tax, low inheritance taxes, political and economic security, state-of-the-art infrastructure, and a high level of privacy and personal security.
Switzerland is business-friendly by tradition and is eager to attract not only large corporations but also small and medium-size enterprises and private entrepreneurs.
While there is no CBI program, after 10 years of uninterrupted residence in Switzerland, the foreigner qualifies for a permanent residence permit.
Residence permits are issued by the authorities in each of the country’s 26 cantons; there is no central office. To obtain a residence permit, applicants should contact the appropriate cantonal migration office.
It typically takes about three to four months to get a residence permit in Switzerland.
Foreign nationals who are not EU/EFTA citizens but hold a Swiss permit B, C, L and Ci may visit the 26 countries of the Schengen area for up to 90 days in any 180-day period without a visa, if they carry their residence permit and a valid travel document.
Switzerland’s reputation as a banking powerhouse is well-known. The nation’s financial system is tightly regulated, solid and safe, offering sophisticated services to businesses and individual investors as well as privacy. The country has a stable currency and trade balance surpluses.
Along with that reputation is the country’s lofty status among the most expensive countries in which to live. Estimates of what it costs to live comfortably in Geneva, Zurich or Bern average 10,000 Swiss francs monthly, comparable to Germany, France, the Netherlands or the U.S.
That cost reflects a high standard of living and a well-oiled civic machine, with state-of-the-art public services including transportation, communications and energy systems.
Many international companies locate their European headquarters in Switzerland, including Amgen, Philip Morris and HP.
Switzerland has regions speaking German, French, Italian and Rhaeto-Romance. About a quarter of the nation’s 8 million residents are foreigners.
When awarding residence and work permits, Switzerland distinguishes between citizens of the European Union and European Free Trade Association and other foreigners. EU/EFTA citizens must have either employment in Switzerland or independent financial means.
Foreigners from countries outside the European Union can obtain a Swiss residence permit two ways:
Swiss company formation: This method is best for investors and corporations. Any foreign national can form a company in Switzerland with the intention of creating jobs for Swiss citizens. Annual sales of at last 1 million Swiss francs are required. The owner of the company is then eligible for a residence permit, though there’s no requirement to live or stay in Switzerland. The canton of Zug is considered a favorable canton in which to start a company due to its low corporate taxes.
Swiss lump-sum taxation: This method is best for wealthy individuals or retirees. The minimum amount required to obtain a residence permit varies among the country’s cantons – ranging from about 150,000 Swiss francs to 1 million or more. This amount is an annual tax payment. The most popular cantons for this program are Appenzell, Bern, Geneva, Fribourg, Graubunden, Jura, Nidwalden, Schwyz, St. Gallen, Vaud, Valais, Lucerne, Solothurn, Obwalden, Thurgau, Ticino and Zug.
In paying the tax, the foreigner need not declare worldwide income and assets to Swiss authorities – an advantage over other high-tax countries.
The main requirements for obtaining a residence permit are that the applicant is not employed in Switzerland and has not resided in the country for the previous 10 years. The applicant must show identification documents and proof of a clean criminal record.
Once a foreigner has a residence permit, it’s possible to buy real estate, though each canton can decide whether to allow the purchase. Just buying property does not qualify an applicant for a residence permit.
After 10 years of uninterrupted residence in Switzerland, the foreigner qualifies for a permanent residence permit.
A foreigner can apply for Swiss citizenship after 12-15 years of residency in Switzerland, provided a local language is spoken and the applicant is fully integrated into Swiss culture. The Swiss passport is ranked sixth in the world by Henley & Partners, with visa-free access to 172 countries.
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