While Swiss entrepreneurial spirit runs deep across the country, setting out on your own as a self-employed foreigner requires permits and permission.
Working for yourself offers lots of freedom but not without risk. Being allowed to work for yourself as a foreigner means being able to prove to the authorities that you can make ends meet. For others it's extremely difficult to get permission to set out on their own.
Nationals from EU/EFTA countries
People from EU/EFTA countries are allowed to be self-employed in Switzerland and can receive permits for five years. To extend the time, they will need to prove that being self-employed pays enough to cover living costs. Self-employed European nationals lose the right to residence if they can no longer cover their living costs and become dependent on welfare assistance.
In June 2016 the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union. It will remain an EU member while negotiations are carried out. After that, it is not clear how Brexit will affect British citizens wanting to start a business in Switzerland.
To get a permit as a self-employed worker, an applicant must present the following documents as a general rule:
- Proof that the company has been correctly registered (in the commercial register, see section on investing in Switzerland, how to start a business)
- Proof of a professional domicile in Switzerland (a rental contract for your business premises)
- Proof of contributions to the Old-Age and Survivors’ Insurance Fund (OASI) or the Swiss Accident Insurance Fund (SUVA)
- Proof of a regular income showing that there is no risk of needing welfare assistance
- Bookkeeping data (interim balance, etc.)
- Business plan
Other countries (so-called third states)
It is extremely rare that a person from a so-called third state (neither EU/EFTA nor Swiss) is given a residence permit based on self-employed work. For information on becoming self-employed once already in Switzerland, you may inquire at your cantonal migration office, a list of which can be found here.
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