SHARE
COPY LINK

FOREIGNERS

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

A little-known article of the law allows wealthy foreigners from outside Europe to move to Switzerland. It is becoming increasingly popular with Chinese arrivals.

'Golden visas': How multi-millionaires are 'buying' Swiss residency permits
Wealthy Chinese like to move to Switzerland. Photo by AFP

Normally only people from the EU / EFTA nations are entitled to move to Switzerland, thanks to a treaty called the Free Movement of Persons Agreement. 

However, the little known and rarely used Article 30 of the Federal Aliens Act enables foreigners from outside Europe to move to Switzerland —but only if they are sufficiently wealthy, which means they can prove that they have sufficient financial means to live in Switzerland without having to work or resort to welfare benefits.

Based on this law, cantons can issue residence permits B to these people, if local authorities deem that there is a “significant fiscal interest” in such a move.

For more information on how to get such a visa, please click the following link. 

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

What exactly does “significant fiscal interest mean?”

This term is defined by each canton.

For instance, the lowest annual tax rate for a non-EU foreigner is 287,882 francs in Valais, 312,522 francs in Geneva, and 415,000 Vaud. 

Every year, around 40 to 50 people ‘buy’ their way into Switzerland this way, as reported by TagesAnzeiger, which used the numbers published by the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM)

A total of 352 foreigners with this special permit now live in Switzerland. They come mostly from Russia, Saudi Arabia, the United States and Brazil.

However, people from China are now making up the largest proportion of special-permit foreigners, according to SEM.

A total of 34 Chinese nationals came to settle in Switzerland in the last four years.

“Coincidence or not, the increase is occurring in parallel with the increasingly totalitarian course of the Beijing regime”, TagesAnzeiger said.

READ MORE: IN NUMBERS: How Switzerland’s population is becoming increasingly multilingual

Cantons don’t release the identities of these wealthy foreigners, justifying the lack of information with data protection laws.

What is known about this select group of people is that most of them live in canton Geneva. Next are Ticino, followed by Vaud, Zug and Bern. 

Seen as safe and secure, “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.

In all, just over 2.1 million foreign nationals live in Switzerland, accounting for 25.1 percent of total population. 

Member comments

  1. I am a foreign nation in Switzerland. I have been here on a C permit for almost 20 years. I did not support Brexit until after the vote Given the majority of voters in the UK I changed to support the majority. I am now disappointed that someone in my position could not get a residents permit in Switzerland. I have together with my companies contributed more then CHF 100,000 average annually to the Swiss revenues.
    Can’t Swiss have an agreement with the UK for this and v.v for Swiss wanting to go to the UK.

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members

TRAVEL

What do Switzerland’s foreigners miss most during the pandemic?

New survey reveals which activities members of the international community are looking forward to most when life in Switzerland gets back to normal.

What do Switzerland’s foreigners miss most during the pandemic?
Expats miss travel most of all. Photo by NA FASSBENDER / AFP

Many people experience the so-called “pandemic blues” and foreigners in Switzerland are no different.

In fact, their feelings are often exacerbated by the isolation from their home countries. This is evident from a new survey, carried out by Glocals expat group. 

“On our social network, we perceived a feeling of frustration”, in particular concerning inability to see families, said Nir Ofek, one of the managers of Glocals.

“In this, their needs undoubtedly differ from those of the local population”.

Not surprisingly, the desire to resume travelling is the number one wish of 69 percent of respondents.

“Travel is not only linked to family contacts, but it also symbolises freedom”, Ofek said.

And there is also likely to be a rush on restaurants and bars, the survey found.

Some 43 percent of those surveyed said they will eat out the first week restaurants reopen, while 35 percent plan to do so in the first month.

Of those, 68 percent believe they will be safe there, even indoors, if social distances are maintained.

Overall, foreign respondents are not too optimistic that the pandemic will develop favourably. Sixty-three percent believe that new shutdowns will happen in the future. And 60 percent doubt that Switzerland will be able to vaccinate the majority of the adult population by the end of the summer.

Their outlook on the Swiss management of the pandemic is mixed. Only quarter of those polled rate it positively, a fifth find it poor, while more than half (52 percent) answer “so-so”.

Respondents also shared some of their experiences of living in Switzerland during the pandemic.

On a personal level, vast majority (86 percent) said they have missed social contact, experienced stress (66 percent) and decline in mental (61 percent) or physical (43 percent) health.

A fifth faced concerns about professional stability.

One person said that after she lost her job, “my residence permit expired and I had to leave Switzerland where I had lived for seven years and which had become my home.”

READ MORE: How do the Swiss really feel about foreigners?

What do you miss most about normal life – and what are you looking forward to the most when things return to normal. Get in touch at [email protected]

SHOW COMMENTS