There are different types of residence categories in Switzerland and a distinction is made between European Union and European Free Trade Association citizens (EU/EFTA citizens) and other foreign persons (non-EU/EFTA citizens).
Due to the Free Movement of Persons Agreement concluded between Switzerland and the EU, it has become easy for EU/EFTA citizens to obtain residence status in Switzerland. The key requirements are to have either employment in Switzerland or to be a person of independent financial means.
Non-EU/EFTA citizens may obtain a residence permit on the basis of gainful employment (subject to a strict quota regime); as retirees with pre-existing close ties to Switzerland; or as financially independent persons who are not gainfully occupied in Switzerland and pay considerable amounts of annual taxes. For non-EU nationals, a Swiss residence permit gives visa-free access to the Schengen area, if their citizenship of origin does not already provide this privilege.
Switzerland is keen to attract not only large corporations but also small and medium sized enterprises and private entrepreneurs. Switzerland is business-friendly by tradition and offers a solution for every need and expectation. Its 26 cantons offer companies a wide range of opportunities. The advantages associated with Switzerland are complemented by the specific benefits of each of these locations.
Switzerland is often perceived as a very expensive country and accessible only to wealthy individuals and large companies. However, the overall cost of living and doing business in Switzerland compares very favourably with Germany, France, the Netherlands or the US, for example.
The Swiss tax system is very much in line with the country’s reputation as a centre for international trade and finance. Many tax privileges have been introduced in order to attract foreign investment to Switzerland, while there are very few restrictions on Swiss investment abroad. Switzerland also has an extensive network of treaties for the avoidance of double taxation.