If you are not a Swiss citizen, you need a Swiss residency permit to live in Switzerland for a period longer than 3 months because only a tourist visa does not allow a 3-month stay. There are various types of permits and different ways to get in their possession, depending on what you want to do in Switzerland.
If you want to conduct a business activity in Switzerland, first you have to find a job that satisfies certain requirements. In particular, it is necessary to carry out independent professions of high intellectual and practical specialty and this job must be for a limited period only. Instead, if you want to come to Switzerland to work as a member of a Swiss-based company, you will need to apply for a work and residence permit. Your salary will have to satisfy certain criteria and you will have to live under certain conditions. If you want to come to Switzerland to incorporate a company or to work for a company, you will not have particular problems in obtaining a permit.
Persons who intend to come to Switzerland study will need to find a school that suits their needs and they will need to apply for a residence permit that allows them to study in Switzerland.
You might want to live in Switzerland on a rent. If your declared income is sufficient and you really want to live in Switzerland and not just use Switzerland as a postal address, then you will be able to receive not only a B residence permit, which is an annual residence permit, but you can also pay taxes in a single flat rate to significantly lower rates than in other European countries. In this case, it is advisable to have a declared annual income of at least 150'000 CHF, for which, of course, you will have to pay a flat tax rate on the basis of predefined rates, whose quotas are much lower than the European ones.
Finally, it is possible to marry a Swiss citizen to obtain Swiss residency immediately; after 5 years of residence, you will be able to obtain the residence permit and the Swiss nationality.
It is useful to know that Switzerland favors citizens of countries that have joined EFTA (practically states from Western Europe) when deciding whether to grant a work permit or a residence permit. On the contrary, there is no special favoritism in obtaining a permit granted under a tax convention with the Swiss tax authorities.
Types of permits that Switzerland issues to foreign citizens
The first type of permit that is required for most people is the B permit. It is a yearly conditional permit to have a job and live in Switzerland for a sufficient period of time over a year.
If you want to come to Switzerland to live on a rent or income of a business located outside Switzerland (company directors, retailers, famous athletes, renowned artists), you can request the so-called permit with a tax convention, a variant of the B permit, which will allow you to pay lower taxes compared to other European countries.
You can also request another permit - the C permit, the right of residence permitting, among other things, the purchase of real estate and the exercise of a freelance activity almost without limits. In order to obtain this type of permit, you must have lived in Switzerland for many years, from 5 to 10 years, depending on the case, and have led an exemplary life without creating problems of justice and without having any debts.
The final step is to acquire full-fledged Swiss citizenship, which is generally granted after 12 years of residence in Switzerland. You will also have to undergo a Swiss history and culture exam and demonstrate that you have integrated into the society you live in.
Defining Swiss residency permits
It is called a G permit a cross-border permit, better said for those who live near the Swiss border for at least one day. This permit authorizes the foreign worker to live and work in Switzerland as an employee and to buy real estate in Switzerland. In practice, people living near the border can enter Switzerland on Monday morning and leave the country Friday night without being forced to return to their home country daily. There is also the right to change the job or the profession without having to wait for authorization from the authorities. There is also the right to stay in any Swiss city.
The opening of the borders to the free movement of persons also allows the exercise of an independent activity. However, the exercise of self-employment must be proven. In the other cases, the legal provisions applied to employed workers are valid.
Under bilateral agreements, an autonomous border worker is a national of a Contracting Party who exercises an independent activity in the territory of the other Contracting Party and who returns normally to their place at least once a week, if not on daily basis.
The L permit gives holders the right to live and work in Switzerland for a short period of time, i.e. for a maximum of 364 days out of 365. There is the possibility to change the profession and the employer, but in this case it is necessary to announce the reason for stay within 8 days. The duration of the residence permit is equal to that of the employment contract. This permit is conditional on a decision issued by the Foreign Workers' Bureau because it is subject to a quota and the priority of Swiss workers and the control of income conditions. There is no possibility of exercising an independent profession.
If you want to work in Switzerland for a whole year or if you simply want to live of income obtained abroad, it is necessary to hold a B permit. This permit is quite easy to obtain if you have a very high specialization and if your qualification is sought by Swiss companies and if there is a shortage of Swiss workers in this area or if you are rich enough to live in Switzerland without assistance from the Swiss state. Also, if you founded a company based in Switzerland that has a serious and efficient activity and through this company to hire yourself personally, then you can easily obtain a B permit.
The C permit is the last step before obtaining Swiss citizenship. It offers almost the same rights as Swiss citizens, especially in real estate investments. This permit can be obtained after 5-10 years of Swiss residency.
The C permit based on a tax convention is a variant of the B permit and is reserved for wealthy people who intend to transfer to Switzerland to live, not with the intention to work. You must have a net capital of at least one million CHF and an annual income of at least 150,000 CHF, and you have to be willing to spend a considerable part of the year (180 days) in Switzerland. The positive aspect of this permit consists in the fact that it allows a fixed tax rate of low value to be paid, not proportionate to the actual income and in any case much lower than the other quotas in force in other European countries.
Therefore, obtaining Swiss residency permits is not only advantageous if you want to work or pursue business activities in Switzerland, but also if you have a large annual income, because it is possible to pay lower income taxes.