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Establish own business in Switzerland as a foreigner

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Establish own business in Switzerland as a foreigner

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Foreigners are generally not disallowed from founding a company in Switzerland. However, a distinction is made between persons from EU/EFTA-states and citizens of third countries.

Persons from EU/EFTA countries

Citizens of EU/EFTA countries (currently still excluding Romania and Bulgaria) are allowed to make themselves self-employed in Switzerland. According to the free movement of persons agreement, persons who do not have a residence permit (C-permit) are also allowed to found a company—the five-year residence permit (B-permit) is sufficient. To register in Switzerland, the planned business activities have to be declared and proven. Documents to provide this proof can be—among others—the following: commercial register entry, VAT-number, business plan, professional register entry, proof of social insurance as a self-employed person, and books of account. Further information is provided by the cantonal migration offices.

Persons from third countries

Persons from non-EU/EFTA states wishing to be self-employed in Switzerland have to live up to standards of labour law. Only C-permit holders or people married to such or Swiss citizens have a legal right to be self-employed in Switzerland. All other persons have to request a permission from the respective administration. Furthermore, these persons have to convince the authorities that the planned company will have a “sustainable positive effect on the Swiss economy.” It is preferable to hand in a fully worked-out business plan. If the request is granted by the administration, the applicant receives a short-term permit for citizens of third-party states (L-permit).

In general, this permit is limited to twelve months and may only be extended for another twelve months. A new labour law examination is conducted by the administration each time the permit is extended.

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