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

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

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

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  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.

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