Living Abroad
November 1, 2021
Reading Time: 7 min

13 questions on immigration to Switzerland

Obtaining a residence permit in order to move to Switzerland is difficult. It is easier for wealthy people to immigrate to the country: they can obtain a residence permit in return for payment of a special tax of €415,000. The application for a Swiss residence permit can include your spouse and children under 18 years of age.

In this article we answer frequently asked questions on how to move to Switzerland and what you need to know about a Swiss residence permit and citizenship.

Zlata Erlach
Zlata Erlach

Answered frequently asked questions about immigration to Switzerland

Immigration to Switzerland: answers to frequently asked questions

13 questions on immigration to Switzerland

Question 1

How do you move to Switzerland?

The first step is to obtain a Swiss residence permit in order to stay in the country for more than 90 days.

A Swiss residence permit can be obtained for different purposes:

  • living in Switzerland based on income earned in another country;

  • working at the invitation of a Swiss company;

  • starting a business in Switzerland;

  • studying at a Swiss university;

  • moving to live with your spouse in Switzerland.

A Swiss residence permit for financially independent persons can be obtained in six months. The main condition is to pay a fixed annual lump-sum tax of ₣450,000 (approximately €415,000). The amount of tax depends on the region, i.e., the canton in which you plan to live. You can move to any canton in Switzerland, except for the canton of Zurich.

Question 2

How to obtain a residence permit in Switzerland for financially independent persons?


Prepare a tax agreement with the Swiss authorities

The government of the canton in which the applicant plans to live in Switzerland determines the amount of the flat lump-sum tax that needs to be paid to obtain a residence permit.


Pass the Due Diligence check

It is necessary to confirm the legality of the income declared and the absence of outstanding convictions.

A residence permit application may be rejected if the applicant has violated the visa rules in the Schengen countries or if they had problems with the authorities there.


Obtain a visa and apply for a Swiss residence permit

The documents required for a Swiss residence permit application are submitted personally by the applicant to the municipality of the canton in which they plan to live.


Wait for approval and get a Swiss residence permit card

The residence permit is valid for 1 year and renewable annually, as long as the holder fulfills the terms of the agreement with the canton.

The residence permit must be renewed annually. After ten years of living in Switzerland, you can apply for a permanent residence permit (permanent residence), and then for Swiss citizenship. A permanent residence permit is valid indefinitely.

Question 3

Is it possible to obtain a residence permit in Switzerland in exchange for purchasing real estate?

Switzerland does not issue residence permits in exchange for the purchase of real estate; however, a Swiss residence permit holder can buy or rent real estate there. It is difficult for a foreigner to buy real estate in Switzerland without a residence permit, as permission is required to purchase property. Permits are issued for holiday properties, not for permanent residence, and not in all cantons.

Residence permit programs in exchange for the purchase of real estate are offered in Malta, Portugal, Spain and Greece.

Question 4

Is the lump-sum tax in Switzerland the same for all regions?

The lump-sum tax depends on the region: the amount of the tax is set by the government of the canton where the applicant plans to move. In large cities such as Basel or Montreux, the lump-sum tax will be higher than in small towns such as Albinen or Lance.


Minimum lump-sum tax for obtaining a Swiss residence permit 

The canton of Zurich does not offer residence permits for financially independent persons.

Question 5

Is it necessary to live in Switzerland in order to keep a Swiss residence permit?

A Swiss residence permit holder is required to live in the canton that issued the residence permit for at least 183 days a year. If this condition is violated, the residence permit may not be extended.

183 days

You need to spend in Switzerland per annum to maintain residency

To get around the minimum residence time limit, investors can instead apply for a residence permit by investment in an EU country. Investors are usually not required to reside there permanently in order to maintain a residence permit. At the same time, an EU residence permit allows you to travel visa-free in the Schengen area and spend up to 90 days in Switzerland in any six-month period.

Residence programs by investment without the obligation to live in the country are available in Greece and Malta. In Portugal and Spain, you need to live in the country for at least one week per annum in order to maintain your residence permit.

Immigration to Switzerland - the center of Bern

The city of Bern is the capital of the canton of Bern. It is the political center of Switzerland: the parliament and the government of the country are located here

Question 6

Is it possible to include other family members in a Swiss residence permit application?

The investor’s spouse and children under 18 can be included in the same application. The rest of the family has to submit a separate application.

In some countries in the European Union, more lenient conditions apply. For example, programs for Maltese permanent residence, as well as residence permits in Portugal, Greece and Spain, allow you to include children under the age of 25‑28 and the parents of the main applicant in the same application.

Individual cost calculation of the Switzerland Residence Permit

Individual cost calculation of the Switzerland Residence Permit

Question 7

Is it possible to work in Europe with a Swiss residence permit?

A residence permit in Switzerland does not give you the right to work in other countries. Even in Switzerland itself, it is difficult for a foreigner to obtain a work permit if they are not a citizen of the European Union or the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), which includes Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein. EU and EFTA citizens are free to work in Switzerland and vice versa.

Citizens of countries outside the European Union and EFTA can only work in Switzerland at the invitation of a Swiss company. Moreover, invitations can be issued only for top managers or highly qualified specialists, as long as citizens of the European Union or EFTA who are qualified for the position have not applied.

A spouse of a Swiss citizen has the right to apply for any job without restrictions. Family members of employees of international organizations and representative offices located in Switzerland are also issued a residence permit with the right to work.

Foreign students cannot work more than 15 hours per week during the academic year. During the holidays, students can work full time but not more than 40 hours a week.

Holders of a Swiss residence permit for financially independent persons and their family members are not allowed to work or conduct business in Switzerland after immigration. They must receive income from outside Switzerland.

Igor Buglo

Igor Buglo,

Head of the Maltese office, MBA

Children in families with a residence permit for financially independent persons cannot work in Switzerland. It is difficult to obtain a work permit under Swiss law. To find a job in the country, you must enroll at a university, get a student residence permit, get an internship in a Swiss company, get a job and then apply for a new residence permit card. In order to provide your children with the opportunity to work in Switzerland or any EU country, you can obtain Maltese citizenship by naturalization for exceptional services by direct investment. A Maltese passport allows you to live and work in Switzerland or in any EU country.

Question 8

Do I need to be present in Switzerland to obtain a residence permit?

In order to obtain a Swiss residence permit, you need to visit Switzerland. You can get a short-term D visa to enter the country and travel to a pre-selected city, register with the police department responsible for overseeing foreigners and personally submit the documents required for the application.

Question 9

What are the requirements for an applicant for a Swiss residence permit?

At the first stage, the applicant undergoes Due Diligence. They must not have any outstanding criminal records, problems with the police in Europe or violations of the visa policy in the Schengen countries. In addition, they must confirm the legitimacy of the source of their income.

Immigrant Invest conducts a preliminary Due Diligence check before you submit your residence permit application. If during the check we find that there is a realistic risk of the application being rejected, we will show you how to reduce it, or advise you to consider applying for another program.

Question 10

When can I apply for Swiss citizenship?

You can apply for Swiss citizenship after living for ten years in the country. In order to live permanently in Switzerland you need to spend at least 183 days a year there. Living in Switzerland for a year between the ages of 8 and 18 is counted as two years.

To obtain Swiss citizenship, the applicant must demonstrate their integration into Swiss society after immigration, knowledge of the country’s language, history and culture. Citizenship applicants are screened at three levels: federal, cantonal and municipal.

How to move to Switzerland and to obtain citizenship

To become a Swiss citizen, you need to live in the country legally for at least 10 years

Question 11

Is it possible to get Swiss citizenship faster?

Yes, you can. Usually, to apply for Swiss citizenship, you need to have lived in the country for ten years and have a permanent residence permit. However, in the following two cases, it is possible to shorten the required period of residence in Switzerland to obtain citizenship:

  1. In the case of marriage with a Swiss citizen, a citizenship application can be submitted five years after immigration.

  2. For children between the ages of 8 and 18, a year of residence counts as two years. However, this condition applies only after the child has lived in Switzerland for at least six years. For example, if the family moved to Switzerland when the child was 12 years old, then, six years later, the child can apply for citizenship.

Citizens of the European Union obtain Swiss citizenship on a general basis: they also need to obtain a residence permit and live in Switzerland for ten years. However, it is easier to obtain a Swiss residence permit for EU citizens than for other foreigners: they receive a residence permit card upon application to the cantonal migration service.

One way of immigrating to Switzerland is by obtaining Maltese citizenship for exceptional services by direct investment, and then getting a Swiss residence permit. This way may be cheaper than getting a Swiss residence permit through the payment of a lump-sum tax.

In order to get Maltese citizenship for exceptional services, you need to invest at least €690,000 in the country’s economy. Citizenship can be obtained in 1‑3 years, depending on the size of the investment, after becoming a Maltese resident.

Will you obtain Maltese citizenship?

Practical Guide

Will you obtain Maltese citizenship?

Question 12

Is it possible to obtain Swiss citizenship by investment?

Switzerland does not have an immigration program for investors. To obtain Swiss citizenship, the applicant must have lived in the country for ten years, have a permanent residence permit and prove that they have integrated into Swiss society in the following ways:

  1. Respect public safety and the rule of law.

  2. Respect the constitutional values ​​of Switzerland.

  3. Fluently speak and write in one of the official languages ​​of Switzerland: German, French, Italian or Romansh.

  4. Participate in economic life.

  5. Promote the integration of family members: spouse and minor children.

Individual cost calculation of the Maltese citizenship

Individual cost calculation of the Maltese citizenship

Question 13

Why do wealthy people choose Switzerland for immigration?

Switzerland attracts wealthy people from all over the world due to its high quality of life. Switzerland was ranked fourth in the world in the UN’s 2020 Global Happiness Report. In order to estimate the level of happiness, the UN’s report uses the following six factors that characterize the economy, the quality of medical services and the quality of life:

  1. GDP per person.

  2. Social support.

  3. Life expectancy.

  4. The freedom to make your own life decisions.

  5. Participation in charity.

  6. Attitude towards corruption.


Switzerland’s ranking in the UN happiness index in 2020

Switzerland has a strong and stable economy: it has the second-largest GDP per capita and family income after taxes in Europe.

Switzerland has the highest life expectancy (83.7 years) in Europe due to its excellent medical services and ecology, as well as its high-quality products and water.

Moving to Switzerland. Historic center of Lucerne

The Reuss Dam in Luce e is a historical monument. It regulates the water level in Lake Luce e. The dam’s valve continues to be adjusted manually as a tribute to the pastф

The overwhelming majority of Swiss residents are satisfied with their lives. According to a survey by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the average life satisfaction score in Switzerland is 9.6 out of 10. According to this indicator, Switzerland is among the world’s leaders, together with Finland, Norway and Denmark.

Immigrant Invest is an official representative of the Swiss residence permit program for financially independent persons. We help wealthy people to obtain a residence permit to move to a country with a high standard of living and to travel around Europe visa-free.

Immigrant Invest is a licensed agent for citizenship and residence by investment programs in the EU, the Caribbean, Asia, and the Middle East. Take advantage of our global 15-year expertise — schedule a meeting with our investment programs experts.

Ultimate comparison of Golden Visa programs

Practical Guide

Ultimate comparison of Golden Visa programs

Frequently asked questions

  • Who can travel to Switzerland without a visa?

    EU citizens can enter Switzerland without a visa and stay for any length of time.

    Foreigners with a residence permit issued by an EU country, except for Romania, Bulgaria, Cyprus and Croatia, can enter Switzerland without a visa for up to 90 days in any 180-day period in accordance with the rules for entering the Schengen area.

    Citizens of countries outside the European Union can also visit Switzerland without a visa: for example, citizens of the United Kingdom and the United States. Programs for obtaining a residence permit by investment are offered in Malta, Portugal, Spain and Greece. Malta provides an opportunity to obtain citizenship of an EU country by naturalization for exceptional services by direct investment. The minimum investment amount for getting Maltese citizenship is €690,000.

  • How can I get a Swiss residence permit?

    A residence permit for financially independent persons can be obtained by wealthy people. The applicant can select any canton apart from the canton of Zurich and enter into an agreement with the local government to pay an annual flat lump-sum tax. The amount depends on the canton. The minimum tax is ₣450,000, or about €415,000. Also, a Swiss residence permit can be obtained by marrying a Swiss citizen or receiving a job offer in a local company.

  • What is a lump-sum tax and how is it calculated?

    A lump-sum tax is a flat tax payable annually that replaces income tax. Payment of a lump-sum tax is a prerequisite for obtaining and renewing a Swiss residence permit for financially independent persons. The amount of the lump-sum tax is determined by the authorities of the canton in which the applicant intends to live. The minimum tax is ₣450,000 (€415,000).

  • What are the requirements for an applicant for a Swiss residence permit?

    An applicant for a Swiss residence permit must meet the following requirements:

    1. Be over 18 years of age and have no criminal record.

    2. Prove the legality of the source of their income outside Switzerland.

    3. Live in the country for more than 183 days a year.

    4. Pay an annual lump-sum tax.

    5. Must not work or do business in Switzerland.

  • Which family members can obtain a residence permit in Switzerland together with the main applicant?

    In the application for a Swiss residence permit for financially independent persons, the investor can include their spouse and children under the age of 18. Other family members, such as parents or adult children, must apply separately. They will also need to enter into an agreement with the cantonal government to pay the lump-sum tax.

  • Why do foreigners move to Switzerland?

    Switzerland attracts foreigners through its high standard of living. It has a strong and stable economy: the second highest GDP per person and family income after taxes in Europe.

    Switzerland has the longest life expectancy (83.7 years) in Europe, due to its excellent medical services and clean environment, as well as the high quality of its products and water.

    The large majority of people in Switzerland are satisfied with their lives: according to the surveys undertaken, the average life satisfaction score is 9.6 out of 10, making it a world leader, together with Finland, Norway and Denmark.

    A Swiss residence permit allows entry into any Schengen country for up to 90 days in any six-month period. Swiss citizenship gives you access to visa-free travel to 185 countries around the world.