Obtaining a residence permit in Switzerland

Life in mountainous Switzerland with its intoxicatingly clean air and crystal lakes is the dream of many wealthy people. One of the most important issues of immigration or purchasing real estate in Switzerland is obtaining a residence permit. It is worth noting that obtaining a residence permit and Swiss citizenship is a rather difficult and, in some cases, very costly process, with its pitfalls. We will tell you about the details of obtaining a Swiss residence permit in our article.

Main types of residence permit in Switzerland

The most popular types of Swiss residence permits among foreign citizens are:

  1. Type L – short-term residence permit, period of residence in Switzerland – no more than 364 days;
  2. Type B – this type of Swiss residence permit is issued on the basis of an employment contract, while citizens of non-EU countries are required to renew this resident status annually;
  3. Type C – permanent residence permit.

The procedure for issuing a residence permit in Switzerland is carried out in accordance with a dual system (different requirements for EU/EFTA citizens and citizens of “third countries”, which also include Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, etc.).
In addition to the above, third-country nationals are issued residence permits of the following types:

  • Ci (residence permit with right to work),
  • G (work permit for a resident of border areas),
  • N (for a person applying for refugee status),
  • F (temporarily admitted foreigner).

Permit L

Among all the indicated types of Swiss residence permits, the most common categories are L – this type of residence permit is relevant for people traveling to Switzerland for the purposes of temporary employment, training and treatment. It is important to consider that the extension of this type of residence permit can be carried out once for one year (the total period of residence is 2 years), and re-obtaining a long-term visa type L is possible after a sufficiently long absence from the country (calculated individually depending on the period of residence). The number of type L residence permits issued is quoted by the state (in 2018 the quota was 4,000 permits).

Permit B

Obtaining a Swiss residence permit type B for third-country citizens presents a number of restrictions. One of them is obtaining prior permission from the authorities of the selected canton (a large state-territorial unit in Switzerland). Others include qualification restrictions, established quotas for issuing residence permits, insufficient language proficiency of the applicant and his potential for integration into society, and others. At the same time, the issuance of a Swiss residence permit with the right to work is initially intended exclusively for specialties requiring special skills and experience. For non-highly qualified personnel, obtaining this type of residence permit is not possible.

Obtaining a Swiss residence permit when starting a business


Obtaining a Swiss residence permit on the basis of opening a business is also limited by the policy of the canton in which it is planned to conduct business activities. Mandatory documents for applying for this type of residence permit are a detailed business plan presenting the company’s development forecasts for the next three years, documents confirming the availability of sufficient funds for the operation of the company, a lease agreement for commercial space or a certificate of ownership of commercial real estate, etc. Other conditions for obtaining this type of residence permit are the usefulness of the business project to the Swiss economy, the creation of jobs for the local population and the conclusion of employment contracts with the Swiss.

In addition, in the future the operating company must show profitability, which is a prerequisite for renewing the residence permit. This type of residence permit is issued not only to the main applicant, but also to his family members.

Permanent residence permit (permit C)

Residence permit type C is considered indefinite (the resident card is renewed every five years). At the same time, obtaining a Swiss residence permit of category C without a previous residence permit of another type is impossible (with the exception of professors invited to work by Swiss universities).

The main conditions for obtaining a residence permit on a type C visa are:

  • legal residence in Switzerland for 10 years, with the last 5 years without interruption of residence;
  • lack of grounds for annulment (for example, criminal record in Switzerland or abroad);
  • in some cases (successful integration), a special procedure for issuance is applied, in which case it is necessary to legally reside in the country for at least 5 years.

Even if all the conditions are met, the issuance of a permanent residence permit does not occur automatically, and it is recommended to entrust the application to professional lawyers.

Obtaining a Swiss residence permit when purchasing real estate


It is important to know that neither buying real estate nor opening an account in a Swiss bank, contrary to popular opinion online, are grounds for obtaining a Swiss residence permit. Owning real estate in Switzerland can only represent an additional advantage when considering an application for a Swiss residence permit on other grounds set out above.

Refugee status in Switzerland

Due to the large number of restrictions and difficulties in obtaining a residence permit in Switzerland, some people from “third countries” are attracted to the path of obtaining a residence permit through refugee status. But an imaginary simplification of the procedure can carry a large number of serious and unpleasant consequences if an application for refugee status is rejected. Among them are prompt deportation (in some cases, covering the costs incurred by the state in the deportation process), and a negative “trace” in the dossier with a possible subsequent ban on entry not only into the territory of Switzerland, but also into the Schengen zone.

Is it possible to buy a residence permit in Switzerland or a lump sum tax in Switzerland?

The issue of purchasing a Swiss residence permit most often involves obtaining a residence permit under an agreement with the canton on the payment of a lump-sum tax. This tax is often called the “tax for the rich” (also “cord tax” and “income tax”), and it is one of the most likely ways to obtain a residence permit in Switzerland (but not guaranteed).

Initially, this form of obtaining a residence permit was intended for wealthy foreigners who wanted to spend their old age surrounded by the beauty of Swiss landscapes. This type of residence permit has two goals: obtaining a residence permit and tax optimization (the percentage of tax collections based on the “household” expenses of a foreigner, and in accordance with this, the amount of tax can be much lower than he would have to pay in his home country when taxing his income and property).

The disadvantages of this type of obtaining a residence permit include the lack of the right to work and high requirements for registration. Among the advantages is that with lump sum taxation there is no need to confirm the source of funds, and a residence permit can be requested by members of the applicant’s family.

In the period from 2014 to 2016, about 60 citizens of Russia, 4 representatives of Ukraine and 4 representatives of Israel received such a residence permit using the lump-sum taxation model.

The most popular cantons for foreigners to obtain residence permits are Ticino, Geneva and Zug (the latter is especially popular among wealthy Russians).

What are the requirements for a potential lump sum tax payer?

Conditions may vary for each canton. Thus, a foreigner must have a taxable income of 1 million francs and a capital of 20 million francs, with an average annual tax deduction of 295,000 francs. It is important to consider that even if the financial conditions are met, the applicant must have an “optimized dossier”, which is sent to the cantonal migration and tax services by a local lawyer, since in the vast majority of cases the migration authorities do not enter into dialogue with foreign agents.

Obtaining Swiss citizenship

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On January 1, 2018, a new Federal Citizenship Law came into force in Switzerland. The procedure for obtaining Swiss citizenship is one of the most difficult in the world. According to the law, the path to a Swiss passport lies through compliance with regulations at three levels: at the level of the Federation, the canton and the Geminde (community, or lowest level of territorial division).

It is important that, according to amendments to the legislation, in assessing an applicant for citizenship by naturalization, the most significant factor was not the number of years the foreigner lived in Switzerland, but the general level of his integration in the country, which is expressed in respect for the constitutional order, economic independence, knowledge of the language ( the applicant’s family members must also meet these requirements).

Other updated requirements include the mandatory presence of a permanent residence permit in Switzerland (permit C), residence in the country for at least 10 years. In this case, stay in Switzerland between the ages of 8 and 18 is counted double (actual residence is at least 6 years). It should also be noted that the new law, like the previous one, does not imply automatic acquisition of citizenship through marriage; compliance with the conditions is necessary (residence for 5 years in the country, of which 3 years – married to a Swiss citizen and the last year before filing an application – continuously).

The changes also affected the requirements of the cantons and Geminde, and in many cases they were made more stringent. It is impossible to cover all regional requirements in one publication. To do this, it is recommended to seek help from an immigration lawyer who will privately provide advice on obtaining a Swiss residence permit.

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