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How to setup a company in Switzerland as a foreigner

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Switzerland is one of the world’s largest business centers, due tot the policies conducted by the Swiss government that support a competitive and dynamic business environment, while having strict financial laws at the same time. Therefore, it’s not a surprise that many foreigners are interested in investing in Switzerland, as breaking into the Swiss market can be quite rewarding. The number of foreigners who want to set up their own company in Switzerland is constantly growing, but you should know some important facts before you start thinking about setting up a 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 example, 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

If none of the criteria above is applicable, then foreign investors are still allowed to setup their own companies, as long as they can offer proof for the fact that their businesses will have a lasting and positive effect on the Swiss economy. Obviously, a business plan is mandatory.

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 need the hassle, 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. 

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