FOR MEMBERS

How wealthy foreigners can ‘buy’ a Swiss residence permit

How wealthy foreigners can 'buy' a Swiss residence permit
Most third-nation foreigners who ask for a Swiss residence permit are Russian. Photo by AFP
Rich people from non-EU/EFTA countries can receive a residence “B” permit, allowing them to live in Switzerland. But it comes at a steep price.

Usually, a B residence permit is given to EU / EFTA nationals who are employed in Switzerland for at least 12 months. 

But Swiss cantons can also grant these permits to non-European foreigners if they can prove that they have sufficient financial means and adequate health and accident insurance to live in Switzerland without having to resort to welfare benefits.

According to a survey carried out by RTS public broadcaster, wealthy foreigners can negotiate an annual tax package that varies greatly from canton to canton.

Most of beneficiaries of this scheme are rich Russians, followed by Turks, Chinese, Ukrainians, and citizens of Gulf countries.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: What’s the difference between permanent residence and Swiss citizenship?

RTS noted that the number of requests for the permit has increased since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, as well-heeled people want to move away from developing nations to safer and more prosperous locatons.

“Switzerland is the Rolls-Royce of destinations. These rich foreigners want a country that has good health infrastructure”, said Enzo Caputo, a Zurich lawyer specialising in permits and tax packages.

Another advantage of a B-permit is that it allows third-nation citizens to move freely throughout the Schengen area.

So how much in tax revenue do foreigners have to shell out for the B-pemit?

It depends on where in Switzerland they would like to live.

According to RTS, which surveyed only French-speaking cantons, Jura has the lowest minimum tax rate for a non-EU foreigner — 146,816 francs in taxes annually. Next is Neuchâtel (190,000), Fribourg (209,000), Valais (287,882), Geneva (312,522), and Vaud (415,000 ).

Geneva is the canton that has issued the most B permits to wealthy non-Europeans (58), followed by Vaud (24), and Valais (16).

At the end of 2018, the last year for which statistics are available, 4,557 people were taxed at a fixed rate, paying an annual tax of 821 million francs.


Member comments

  1. OL is correct in theory. As US citizens with our pension income from US source, in order to qualify for the benefits of the US-CH income tax treaty, my wife and I must pay Swiss taxes on our worldwide income as though we were CH citizens resident in CH. This is necessary to avoid our being double taxed – the US being the only country in the world that taxes it’s citizens even though they are resident outside the US. That means that we would pay MORE in worldwide taxes if we paid a flat “forfait” tax to CH. Our not wanting to negotiate a flat tax significantly slowed down our residency application in our canton because it was viewed as unusual, despite the fact that we pay more “regular” income tax to CH than we would if we were to pay the flat tax. That is why I say “correct in theory”.

  2. There is no connection between the flat rate tax package and the issuance of a residence permit if you have means to support yourself.

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