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Self-employment

Keystone / Christian Beutler

While Swiss entrepreneurial spirit runs deep across the country, setting out on your own as a self-employed foreigner requires permits and permission.

This content was published on August 23, 2018 - 16:44

The procedures for starting a business and becoming self-employed in Switzerland vary greatly depending on your country of origin. The rules are not the same for nationals of European Union (EU) and European Free Trade Association (EFTA) countries and those from elsewhere. 

EU/EFTA citizens

People from EU/EFTA countries are allowed to be self-employed and set up a business in Switzerland. To obtain a renewable five-year residence permit (B permit), they must certify the existence of the planned self-employed activity and prove that they are able to support themselves.

To do so, they can submit to the cantonal authorities any of the following: a business identification number (BIN), proof that they have registered in a professional register or with a social insurance company as a self-employed entrepreneur, a business plan, bookkeeping data, or confirmation of registration in the commercial register. 

With a B permit, EU/EFTA citizens can set up a company with any legal structure. For public limited companies, at least one member of the board of directors must be resident in Switzerland, and for limited liability companies at least one director authorised to sign must be resident in Switzerland.

Self-employed EU/EFTA nationals lose the right to residence if they can no longer cover their living costs and become dependent on welfare assistance.

Cross-border commuters 

Cross-border commuters who are EU/EFTA nationals can set up a business and become self-employed in Switzerland. They must prove to the cantonal authorities that their plans for self-employment are viable. This proof can include significant company data such as a business plan, confirmation of registration in the commercial register, the opening of an office or workshop, establishment of the company or bookkeeping data. 

Once the entrepreneur has proven that his/her self-employed activity is viable, the authorities issue a cross-border commuter permit (EC/EFTA G permit), which is valid for five years and can be renewed. 

Other countries (so-called third states) 

Entrepreneurs from countries outside the EU/EFTA area are only admitted to the Swiss labour market if they are particularly qualified and their activity will serve the economic interests of the country as a whole. 

Foreign nationals who hold a settlement permit (C permit) are allowed to become self-employed and set up their own business. Other third-state nationals must submit an application to the respective cantonal authorities and demonstrate that they can support themselves and that their future business will have a lasting positive influence on the Swiss labour market.

Switzerland limits the annual quota of workers from third states. Since leaving the EU, the United Kingdom falls within this category. 

For more information on working in Switzerland please visit the State Secretariat for MigrationExternal link. For information on becoming self-employed once already in Switzerland, you may inquire at your cantonal migration office, listed hereExternal link.


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