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How wealthy foreigners can ‘buy’ a Swiss residence permit

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.

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

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.

‘Golden visas’: How multi-millionaires are ‘buying’ Swiss residency permits

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.

For more information on ‘golden visas’, click the following link. 

KEY POINTS: What you need to know about golden visas in Switzerland

Member comments

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

  2. 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”.

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Zurich approves simplified path to Swiss citizenship

Voters in Switzerland’s most populous canton on Sunday approved a proposal which will make it easier for foreigners to get Swiss citizenship.

Zurich approves simplified path to Swiss citizenship

The vote passed with 69.1 percent support, making it the most popular of the four initiatives put to the polls. 

Around 350,000 foreigners live in Zurich, which is roughly one quarter of the population – although the percentage is as high as 50 percent in some municipalities. 

The successful proposal called for Zurich’s naturalisation process, including the citizenship exam, to be made uniform across all 162 municipalities. 

The questions in the exam will now be centralised on a cantonal level. 

The test will include 350 questions about Swiss history, tradition, politics and culture, with a focus on Zurich. 

Anyone taking the test will be given 50 questions at random and must answer at least 30 correctly to pass. 

More information about the citizenship process in Zurich can be found at the following link. 

EXPLAINED: How Zurich wants to make naturalisation easier

What else was decided on Sunday? 

Voters in Zurich also decided to reject a proposal to lower the voting age to 16, with 64.1 percent saying ‘nein’ to the proposal. 

A proposal to provide for more parental leave – and even up gender imbalances between fathers and mothers – was also rejected. 

Finally, voters supported law changes which sought to enshrine Zurich’s climate change goals in the cantonal constitution. 

A detailed breakdown of the vote can be seen here.