Why Swiss employers are eager to hire US professionals

Helena Bachmann
Helena Bachmann - [email protected]
Why Swiss employers are eager to hire US professionals
US employees are sought after in Switzerland. Photo by frank mckenna on Unsplash

Personnel shortages are pushing big Swiss companies to recruit executives from abroad, specifically from the United States.


Some Swiss employers, including pharmaceutical giants Roche and Novartis, pull out all the stops to attract foreigners — especially from the United States — for top management positions. 

Companies even go so far as to cover the rent, private school tuition fees, and sometimes even taxes and health insurance, of the senior US executives.

Why are these employers offering perks to the professionals from the US?

“Depending on the size of the company, the number of [locally-based] candidates is very limited for certain positions. Hiring foreign executives is therefore inevitable," according to recruiter Erik Wirz. "And in the United States, there are very qualified employees in the pharmaceutical or technological fields.” 

The demand also extends to top researchers or those who are recognised specialists in their field, Wirz added.

The high cost involved in relocating sought-after US personnel, as well as all the perks they receive once in Switzerland — typically a package ranging from five to six-figures — are worth every franc, according to a Roche spokesperson.

 “What matters to us is the aptitude and performance of our employees. We want to attract the best talent, regardless of their origin.”


But wait…aren’t Americans third-country nationals and therefore have restricted access to Switzerland’s labour market?

Yes, and as such, they are subject to stricter employment rules than their counterparts from the European Union and EFTA states (Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein).

However, according to rules set out by the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM), "admission of third-country nationals to the Swiss labour market is only granted if it is in the interests of Switzerland and the Swiss economy as a whole."

Furthermore, “you must be a highly qualified specialist or skilled professional in your field. This means that you should have a degree from a university or an institution of higher education, as well as a number of years of professional work experience.


And in Switzerland’s employment hierarchy, you can be hired only if the employer can prove to the authorities that no suitable Swiss or EU / EFTA candidate could be found to fill the vacant position.

Clearly, the top US executives recruited by Swiss companies meet all these requirements, which is why they are allowed to come and work in Switzerland.

What's in it for the American employees?

The financial benefits are obviously generous, as these execs earn more, and get additional benefits, while working in Switzerland they would back home.

"It is impossible to attract top managers if they get the same salary,” Wirz said.

There is, however, one negative aspect of working in Switzerland — or anywhere else outside of the United States.

And that is the burden of dealing with both the Swiss and US tax system, as Uncle Sam operates citizenship based taxation, even on people who live overseas.



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