How to setup a company in Switzerland as a foreigner

Switzerland offers a very attractive business environment, for both local citizens and foreign investors. It's currently one of the world’s largest business centers. This is because the Swiss government greatly supports a competitive and dynamic business environment, while having strict financial laws at the same time. Breaking into the Swiss market can be quite rewarding, however you should know some important facts before you start thinking about setting up your company.

According to the Swiss law, foreign citizens have the right to establish a business in Switzerland; however, it is important to meet some requirements.

For instance, citizens of the EU or EFTA countries can take advantage of the Agreement of Free Movement of Persons. Citizens that are outside of the EU or EFTA block don’t have the same advantage and they might encounter some difficulties. In some cases, special requirements are in order, such as obtaining a certain permit. However, if that’s the case, there are still very good chances to set up your own company or to become self–employed in Switzerland.

Citizens of the EU/EFTA countries

Citizens from EU or EFTA countries not only have the right to setup a company, but they can also benefit from numerous competitive advantages. The Agreement of Free Movement of Persons states that these citizens don’t require a C permit in order to be able to have their residence in Switzerland.

In order to start a business, EU and EFTA citizens must obtain a B permit, valid for 5 years. They also declare their object of activity and provide proof for it. The following documents are required as proof:

  • Valid bank account
  • Business plan
  • Commercial register entry
  • Professional register entry
  • Social insurance proof for self – employed persons
  • VAT number

Citizens of non – EU/ non – EFTA countries

If you live outside of the EU or EFTA area, but you do want to benefit from advantages obtained from setting up a company in Switzerland, you have to meet the standards established by the labor law.

There are three ways to obtain a legal right to establish your own business in Switzerland, if you don’t want to acquire the help of a specialized firm:

  1. Obtain the C permit and get therefore the right to be self – employed in Switzerland
  2. Be married to a person who hold a C permit
  3. Be married to a Swiss citizen
Those that don’t have a C permit must submit an application to the cantonal authorities where they want to establish their business. Apart from those requirements, the company formed by foreigners must have a lasting positive effect or influence on the Swiss labour market.
 
The new company or the self-employed individual must contribute to the industry's specific diversified Labour strata in the region in order create or preserve jobs for local residents. The entity must make considerable investments and generate income for the Swiss economy.
 
With all these factors in consideration, entrepreneurs must have a very clear and feasible business idea before they consider investing in Switzerland. A solid business plan is the foundation for a successful evaluation process. Existing organizational relationships with other companies is another advantage for any start-up company. The application must also have an attachment of the foundation charter and or the Commercial Register entry.
 

If you will be allowed to set up your own business, you will receive a short – term permit (L permit). By having this permit, you will be able to conduct business activities in Switzerland for 12 months. You can renew this permit for another 12 months, but in order to renew it, you must pass the labor law exam organized by the administration.

If you don’t want to go through the rigorous process, you can always set up a company using the services of a specialized firm, that will take care of all the bureaucratic hassle for you and obtain all the necessary permits.  Our highly experienced and well-informed team is ready to answer all your questions and give you all the help you might need.

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