Switzerland is famous for many virtues and enjoys a very positive reputation.
Our experts highly recommend it as the best jurisdiction for launching new non-resident companies. But the success depends on the awareness of details and requirements that should be thoroughly observed.
This article addresses the most relevant issues of starting and doing business in Switzerland. Should you need more information, the InternationalWalth team offers free-of-charge expert advice and fee-based services to help you with the application for your business incorporation, work permits, solutions for the most essential banking matters, a scope of other arrangements. You can direct your questions and requests to our e-address given at the top of this page.
Planning Your Business in Switzerland
The World Happiness Report, an annual publication of the United Nations based on the surveys collected from people in over 150 countries, ranked Switzerland as the happiest country in 2014. It has been mentioned near the top of the annual list of the happiest nations since then. It rightly deserves such a prominent status due to its consistent political atmosphere, competitive economy, social support, employment rate, healthy life expectancy, freedom to make choices, low level of crime and corruption, a very transparent legal system, and other essential life factors.
No doubt, the high life satisfaction score can be attributed, among other things, to the impressively impeccable Swiss business environment and the rater formal and conservative Swiss business culture.
The geographic position of Switzerland right in the heart of the European Union, even though it is not a member state, benefits its close economic ties across the continent.
The country’s government maintains a policy and legislation that support entrepreneurship and SMEs.
While most European countries prohibit foreigners from starting a business, Switzerland puts forward a rather straightforward set of rules and requirements.
You can start a business if you have a very clear business idea and know your prospective market, choose the most suitable legal structure for your entity, get an employment Permit of the right type, and make other essential arrangements. Your company incorporated in Switzerland is the guarantee of a sustainably profitable business, provided that consumers are offered quality products and services.
In most cases having the professional assistance of an experienced consultant helps overcome possible complications when launching a company.
There are three ways to start a business:
- register a new company,
- open a representative office of an existing one,
- buy a ready-made business.
Our experts specialize in all these areas, and you can rely on their comprehensive support.
Reasons to Start a Business in Switzerland
Quality Labor Force
The inflow of highly qualified professionals in Switzerland is one of the country’s advantages. Several world-class Swiss universities regularly provide the labor market with top quality graduates. Secondary education is also of an outstanding level. Besides, there is a choice of labor migrants from many parts of the world attracted by competitive wages, low taxes, low unemployment in Switzerland.
The Swiss population, though quite small compared to other European countries, has a high purchasing power. Most companies registered here have risen thanks to the loyalty of local buyers.
Many Swiss investors are ready to cooperate with foreign businessmen, create and develop joint ventures.
The Swiss government makes it rather easy for foreign investors to obtain work permits. Knowledge of the details of the municipal, cantonal, and federal tax systems is a legal way of reducing the tax burden.
Starting a Business as a Foreigner
In Switzerland, there are no prohibitions for non-residents to do business. Any foreigner can start a business. You only need to meet certain conditions –get a local office (address), hire a Swiss director, comply with some other reasonable requirements.
There are some very important nuances to take into account. For example, it is easier to open a business in Switzerland for those who have a permanent residence Permit (a C permit).
The full list of the requirements and comments on the necessary arrangements can be received from our experts during a detailed consultation.
It’s important to know that much depends on the foreigner’s country of origin.
There is a considerable difference whether the business owners come from EU/EFTA member-states or other countries.
What are the Legal Provisions for EU/EFTA Citizens?
Under the Pan-European Treaty on the Free Movement of Persons, Europeans (except for Croatians) may engage in self-employment without having a permanent residence permit. It is enough to fill in an application form to obtain a B Permit (valid for 5 years) and submit a business plan.
The Swiss law requires to declare and confirm business activities, for example, by providing a valid VAT number, registration in the registry of self-employed entrepreneurs, legal registration as a legal entity.
What are the Legal Provisions for Foreigners from Outside the EU/EFTA?
To act as self-employed, applicants who are not EU/EFTA citizens must have valid Swiss citizenship or a C Permit.
Foreigners who do not meet these requirements must file an application to the relevant cantonal authorities. They will need to prove that their future company will make a sustainable positive contribution to the Swiss labor market in terms of creating new jobs and add to the overall economic development.
Your business plan is a key document. Once the application portfolio is approved, non-residents receive a short-term work/residence Permit (an L Permit) or residence Permit (a B Permit), both subject to annual quotas. Foreign entrepreneurs must meet the requirements of the Swiss labor market and be adequately qualified to conduct their business.
Important: In addition to the conditions described above, there are other nuances that only experts know about. Some activities require permits, some activities may require special qualifications and licenses. You should be particularly specific in considering such aspects as taxation and insurance in advance. That is why we recommend you the professional support of our experts – from the early planning of your entry into the Swiss market, through the entire process of collecting and compiling the portfolio of documents, and during the first stage of your business operation.
Conditions for Opening a Corporate Bank Account
Swiss banks can open a corporate account for a company, regardless of whether it has a local office or not. As for the particular terms and conditions, they vary, depending on the place of the company registration.
Legal Entities Registered in Switzerland
If an organization is entered in the Swiss Commercial Register (SCR) as an entity conducting some commercial activities, providing services, or manufacturing some products, it will need to submit the SCR statement to open a bank account with a Swiss bank.
Legal entities registered abroad and therefore not mentioned in the SCR, need to provide an extract from the trade register (a public database managed by the cantons on all commercially managed companies) or some other similar document required by banks for setting up an account. Each document of this category should be not older than 12 months.
These are companies registered in Switzerland or abroad but not conducting any commercial or manufacturing business or any other form of commercial operation in the country where their registered office is located. Thus they have neither local personnel nor local physical premises. To open an account, they will need to submit the most detailed package of documents, including a special form with data about every beneficial owner of their assets.
Procedure for Opening a Swiss Business by Non-Residents
Please start by sending us a request for a consultation or services. The e-address is given at the top of this page.
You should pay the fee for our services, then start collecting documents according to our instructions.
You should follow our recommendations when filling in all the necessary documents, and we’ll check all the nuances for you before the package is finalized for registration.
After you are granted the permit of the required category, you’ll need to proceed with filing the business registration.
The Cost of Incorporating a Company in Switzerland
The overall registration-related expenses depend mainly on local factors. Canton-specific fees include the cost of the legal address and services of a Swiss director. Our experts are ready to advise you on any issue when you request updates on particular matters.
Steps Towards Launching Your Business
Get a good look at the market before you start a business in Switzerland. You need to be aware of your competitors, know the profile of your target clients, and understand your niche. In other words, you’ll need to make or order market research. The result of this analysis can give you an idea for the winning name for your company. Besides, you should incorporate all the findings in your business plan.
Naming Your Company
The commercial name of your company needs to be unique for its market, so you will have to make a thorough search in the publicly available resources. In parallel, you will need to choose the legal form of the entity which will be integrated into its official name. Please note that GmbH (an analog of an LLC) is more suitable for medium business, while AG (an analog of a JSC) is ideal for large companies.
The commercial register will need to confirm that the name you have liked is not used by other entities. Choose all kinds of activities and select the primary one for your business. This is important to consider before the registration because some activities require a license (for example, insurance, banking).
Filing for Business Registration
Now that you know what the company will do, what its structure will be, you can proceed to registration. When filling out an application, remember to check whether the application form and information you are entering into it comply with the rules and regulations stipulated for business registration. You will need to attach copies of some documents according to our guidelines.
Registration with the Tax Office
Any business that generates income within the country is taxed. You can only start working after you have applied for a taxpayer registration.
The standard list of the required documents to be submitted
- the passport of the beneficiary;
- an L or B Permit;
- a bank statement (a letter confirming that the account has been opened).
To register a company in Switzerland, you need to deposit funds to the authorized share capital on the bank account opened for your business. Prepare the Articles of Association, the Memorandum, other corporate documents, and a filled-out application form.
Some additional papers to be submitted
- a statement of a valid bank account;
- a business plan;
- a transcript from the trade register;
- a transcript from the professional register;
- a reference to the social insurance (for self-employed persons);
- the VAT number.
Should you need any prompts or instructions regarding the documents, our experts will supply them as part of their fee-based service.
Can a Foreigner Start a Business in Switzerland?
The country’s constitution allows anyone, including non-residents, to do business in Switzerland, set up companies, and generate some financial income from them.
The Swiss provisions for foreigners’ work-related permits are as follows:
– Citizens of the European Union and/or the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) are usually allowed to come to Switzerland for three months on a job search mission.
– Other foreigners need to be granted a C Permit/citizenship or prove to the municipality that their business will be beneficial to the country and help improve the local employment rate.
Is It Allowed to Start a Business in Switzerland If the Founder Speaks Only English?
Switzerland has 4 official languages (German, French, Italian, Romansh). Most locals are German speakers. There are many varieties of Swiss German influenced by the local dialects. English is not on the list of official languages, but it is used quite often in business. Knowing only English, you can register a company as well as open a bank account. Besides, our experts are available any time to help you understand all the legal nuances and advise you on how to prepare and submit your documents.
What Kind of Business Can One Start in Switzerland?
As for choosing the business sphere and professional profile of your company, we recommend that you should first analyze the local situation on the Swiss market, identify priorities, estimate the demand for a particular product/service, and evaluate the competitive advantages of your business idea. If you decide to set up a chemicals trading company, for example, you will certainly not miss out. It is one of the most viable and profitable businesses, as chemicals make the largest part of export goods in Switzerland (34 %). Information on other fields of activity can be discussed with our experts as well.