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Setting up a business as a foreign national

More and more entrepreneurs from foreign countries want to become self-employed in Switzerland.

Switzerland has a dual system for granting work permits to foreign workers. Employees from the EU/EFTA area can benefit from the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons.

Permits for people from countries outside the EU/EFTA area - so-called third states - are restricted to highly qualified workforce.

Persons from the EU/EFTA area

All citizens of EU/EFTA countries - currently still with the exception of Rumania and Bulgaria - are legally entitled to freely live and work in Switzerland. This means that they can also become self-employed.

For more information:

Persons from outside the EU/EFTA area

Entrepreneurs from third states who are thus not citizens of an EU/EFTA country and who want to become self-employed in Switzerland have to meet the Swiss labour market requirements. The criteria for admittance are contained in the Federal Act on Foreign Nationals (FNA), the Decree on Admittance, Residence and Employment (VZAE) and the provisions of the FNA and the VZAE.

For more information:

Cross-boarder commuters

Cross-boarder commuters from an EU/EFTA country can set up a company in Switzerland or become self-employed. They need to meet the same requirements as citizens from the EU/EFTA area.

Cross-boarder commuters only receive a commuter permit if they have a permanent residence permit in one of Switzerland's neighbouring countries and have been living in a border zone for at least 6 months. According to the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons, these cross-boarder commuters have to return to their domicile in the respective neighbouring country once a week.

For more information:

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Eidgenössisches Departement für Wirtschaft, Bildung und Forschung (WBF)
10.12.2013 | 2976 kb | PDF