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Digital nomads: Who can work remotely in Switzerland?

Helena Bachmann in Geneva
Helena Bachmann in Geneva - [email protected] • 8 Nov, 2022 Updated Tue 8 Nov 2022 12:30 CEST
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These days it is possible to be physically located in Switzerland, while working remotely for a company based in another country. Here’s what you should know about this growing 'digital nomad' trend - and how to do it in Switzerland.

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Modern technology means that many jobs can be done from anywhere in the world with only a laptop and a decent wi-fi connection.

This kind of work / lifestyle has given rise to the term “digital nomads” — people who are not tied down to any one physical or geographical location, but work from wherever they happen to be.

They could be working remotely for a company overseas, or be self-employed, providing services for clients abroad. 

True nomads don’t even have an office in a traditional sense of the word, preferring to be mobile and work from different locations. And this kind of work model is becoming more commonplace.

Some countries, including Spain, are even offering digital nomad visas to tempt people to head to under-populated areas of the country.

Switzerland offers no such incentives, which is not  surprising, as any kind of work visas or permits are notoriously difficult to obtain here. However, there is a small community of these location-independent workers in the country.

EXPLAINED: An essential guide to Swiss work permits

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"The scene of digital nomads in Switzerland is relatively small, but active and growing," Lorenz Ramseyer, president of the Swiss Digital Nomads' Association, told The Local in an interview.

His association currently has 151 active members and there's also a Facebook group.The members work remotely in such fields as web design / layout, software development, consulting, coaching, virtual assistants, writing and teaching.

What are the rules digital nomads must follow in Switzerland?

If they are part of staff with a company, their employer must comply with Switzerland’s labour laws, including rules pertaining to teleworking.

Most nomads, however, are so-called independent contractors — that is, freelancers.

If this is your case, you have to comply with the laws governing those who are self-employed.

For residents of Switzerland, this includes declaring your income and paying taxes, even if you don’t have a physical office address, making social security (AHV / AVS) contributions at a maximum rate of  9.7 percent of your income, and taking up the compulsory health insurance including, if you re self-employed, accident coverage.

As many Swiss residency permits are tied to an employer, moving to Switzerland in order to become a self-employed freelancer will not confer a work permit. 

READ MORE: What freelancers in Switzerland need to know about paying tax

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What are some other things nomads in Switzerland should consider?

People who don’t want to be stuck to their desks all days long — and true nomads don't — should consider different options, Ramseyer said.

For instance, “they can buy a discount day pass and work on the train while travelling through Switzerland”.

Swiss digital nomads working on a train. Photo: Swiss Digital Nomads' Association

He also recommends that digital nomads consider different co-working and co-living possibilities — shared living / working spaces for remote workers.

Are there resources specifically for digital nomads in Switzerland?

In October 2022, the Swiss Digital Nomads Association held a conference focusing on practical information about working remotely and living as a digital nomad.

Different aspects of digital nomadism, including location-independent working, entrepreneurship, and building value-creating projects, are discussed at these events. 

And if you're thinking of taking the plunge, you can get a sense of which remote jobs are currently available in Switzerland here.

READ MORE: Five insider tips to find a job in Switzerland

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Helena Bachmann in Geneva 2022/11/08 12:30

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