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Tags: bilateral agreements, criminality, european community, jobs at multinationals, professional workforce, social disturbances, swiss economy, swiss tax, swiss-based companies, tax advantages, Unemployment

Multinationals Reconsider Switzerland

Posted on 25 January 2010 by Steven

swiss_economy_downAccording to a SwissHoldings survey conducted in 2009 across 80 of the largest multinational groups operating in Switzerland, there is considerable anxiety and uncertainty over the degradation of working conditions and ‘standard of living’ in general.

The erosion of banking secrecy is no the only illness affecting the health of the Swiss economy. Switzerland is also suffering from a variety of other problems, some of which of such a serious nature that many multinationals are re-examining the advantages of remaining in Switzerland.

Criticism is rising concerning the different tax regimes in operation in the different cantons, which compete to attract the multinationals and foreign holding companies.

This loose federated system is under attack by the European Union, of which Switzerland is not even a member; the EU considers it to be unfair competition.

The companies surveyed evinced anxiety over the uncertainty over the political direction Switzerland will take. The Swiss only narrowly voted for bilateral agreements with the European Union permitting the free flow of workers into Switzerland from any EU country, and the integration into the Schengen space. The result has been a stark degradation in the employment market, as well as precipitous rise in criminality and disorder. In all the major Swiss cities, open air drug dealing and violent crime has risen sharply, prisons and police forces are overwhelmed, and at the same time real-estate prices and rents have exploded as Switzerland welcomed 300,000,000 potential buyers onto its market. Previously, Switzerland’s laws forbid the acquisition of property by nonresidents.

Multinationals have often chosen to set up their European headquarters in Switzerland not only for tax advantages but for the standard of living it offered its expatriates — a major selling point in its global recruitment efforts. The decline in living standards, along with overcrowding, housing shortages, regular traffic jams, rising criminality and other social problems previously unknown here, are causing companies to reconsider their presence here.

A change in the tax structure may just be the last straw. Finance Minister Hans Merz (who was responsible for the UBS bailout) has proposed instead of changing the regime of cantonal prerogatives in taxation, to rather appease EU concerns by proposing to abolish or modify the statutes regulating domiciled or holding companies. The cantons would be forced to raise their taxation of these types of companies. The Swiss government has been doing a lot appeasing of foreign governments over the past year. In Switzerland the Federal government (following almost a Chinese-style model) is not elected by the people.

SwissHoldings director Peter Baumgartner laid particular stress on the fact that the large international companies are seeking ’above all a legal and fiscal stability,’ and that this stability is absent in Switzerland.

However the current problems affecting international companies based in Switzerland go beyond potentially shifting tax structures –which well-paid accountants have always been able to navigate– and overlap with the current problems facing almost every other Swiss citizen: and these problems, extensive in nature, will require a major change in direction of Switzerland’s currently mismanaged foreign policy and economy.

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Non – EU Nationals Working in Switzerland

Posted on 25 July 2007 by LegalBeagle

As the implementation of the laws governing foreigners working in Switzerland is constantly evolving, here is a current run-down on obtaining permits for work in Switzerland if you are not an EC / EU national.

On the Swiss labor market, priority is given to Swiss nationals or to resident foreigners who hold residence permits or permits to work in Switzerland.

Permits are granted only if the employer is offering the foreign national the same salary and employment conditions that are in effect for locally recruited staff in the relevant industry and if the foreign national has adequate health insurance.

The employer wishing to obtain a permit for employing a non EU national is required to prove that it has made every possible effort to find qualified candidates on the Swiss and European labor markets. The Cantonal Employment Office has a special application form which companies are required to use to announce vacancies. No permit (for a non EU national) may be applied for until at least 3 weeks has elapsed subsequent to filing such a vacancy notice. During this period the Employment office will seek to present qualified candidates to the company. Because of the penury of highly qualified professionals in information systems, telecommunications, biotechnology, banking and financial technologies, pharmaceutical research, and luxury watchmaking, often for these specific fields international recruitment is the only viable solution for companies.

Foreign nationals holding the annual (B) work permit are required to obtain permission to change their job, profession or canton or to change from employment to self-employment.

When filing a request for a permit for a prospective employee, employers wishing to hire a non EU citizen must provide the following to the government immigration authorities:

1) A description of the job position

2) Proof that they have advertised the position locally, sought staff on the local market and failed to find adequately qualified personnel

3) A filled-out application form for a permit for a non-EU national, specifying the salary of the job (which must be at a ‘specialist’ level – Minimum $65,000/year). A company wishing to relocate executive staff to its Swiss offices is exempt from scrutiny of the job position.

4) Copies of the CV of the individual the company wishes to hire

5) Copies of the diplomas and relevant work certificates of the individual the company wishes to hire

6) Copies of the passport of the individual the company wishes to hire

7) A motivation letter from the company explaining why they want a permit for this individual

Obviously, large multinationals who have substantial weight on the national labor market– such as the banks, agro-industrials, pharmaceutical companies and research institutes, hospitals, luxury watch companies – have, as a rule, little trouble obtaining the permits they request. Therefore, when offered a job, which is obviously contingent on authorization of the company’s permit request, you can start packing your bags if the company is UBS, Nestle, Credit Suisse, Novartis or MerckSerono, but you may want to wait prudently if the company seeking to hire you is XYZ Export company with only 8 employees.

On the basis of an authorization to work in Switzerland the foreign national then applies for the specific entry visa at the Swiss consulate or embassy of his residence and picks up his work permit upon entering Switzerland. The entering foreigner must have his visa stamped by the immigration officers at the border.

Failure to do this can result in being required to exit and reenter Switzerland !

A Summary of the myriad permits for work in Switzerland is found below:

B PERMIT (Ausländerausweis) — this is a long term permit subject to quotas (Aufenthaltbewilligung mit Erwerbstätigkeit)
Issued for ‘Economic interests’ based on Employee qualifications
Priority for Swiss and European Union workers
Compliance with local employment conditions
Availability of quota
Renewable until granting of settlement C permit after 10 years (USA + Canada 5 years)

B PERMIT — short term and also subject to quota (Kurzaufenthaltbewilligung)
Issued for ‘Important projects’ or International joint programs
For sports figures
Issued for up to 3 years, potentially even up to 6 years in certain cases

B PERMIT for Residency (Aufenthaltbewilligung im Rahmen des Familiennachzugs)
A long term permit not subject to quota
Based on family grouping, or change of employer, profession or canton
Renewable and Can be converted into a C Permit

L PERMIT — Short term permit not subject to Quota
(für die Ausübung einer kurzfristigen Erwerbstätigkeit sowie für andere vorübergehende Aufenthalte)
For training, project work, setting up Information systems or other technical infrastructures, fiduciary review, extra labor in a busy period, start-ups, etc. Also Management and development of a company when the presence of a manager is not required all year. Ususally for 4 consecutive months — known as a 120 – day permit.
Also for young people employed as au pairs, aged 18 to 30 years : Canadian, USA, Australian and New Zealand nationals (30 hrs/wk), young workers qualified as health professionals and trained abroad who wish to develop their professional skills
Renewable up to a maximum of 24 months
For Cabaret dancers and other artists (Form A7) renewable up to maximum 8 months in a calendar year

G PERMIT for Border workers for commuting to work in Switzerland (für Grenzgängerinnen und Grenzgänger)
For third countries workers under specific circumstances; residence is not in Switzerland
Valid for 1 year, Renewable

N PERMIT for asylum seekers (für Asylsuchende. Dieser Ausweis wird von den kantonalen Behörden gestützt auf den Entscheid des Bundesamtes für Migration ausgestellt)
Foreign nationals, who during the time their asylum application are being processed are permitted to seek temporary employment until a ruling is given on their application

F PERMIT for temporary admission (für vorläufig aufgenommene Ausländerinnen und Ausländer (Art. 14a ANAG, Art. 5 VVWA). Dieser Ausweis wird von den kantonalen Behörden gestützt auf eine Verfügung des Bundesamtes für Migration ausgestellt.)
This work permit is for foreign nationals who do not qualify for asylum; it’s renewable.

Ci PERMIT (Dieser Ausweis wird von den kantonalen Behörden für erwerbstätige Ehepartner und Kinder von Angehörigen ausländischer Vertretungen oder intergouvernementaler Organisationen (IO) ausgestellt.)
This is the work permit for the spouse of an employee of an international organisation. The spouse must be living in the family unit. Also valid for children under 21 years.

C PERMIT – permanent residency — this is what the other permits usually turn into if you reside in Switzerland long enough.

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Current Legal Framework

Posted on 15 June 2007 by LegalBeagle

Citizens of the EU and EFTA continue to have to obtain a valid work permit to work in Switzerland, but have now have the same opportunities on the labor market to find employment in Switzerland as do Swiss nationals.

Separate regulations apply to third country nationals who seek work in Switzerland.

Labor Force Flexibility and mobility of workers within Europe
The European job mobility portal – EURES- is the official conduit of information and services for those seeking employment in Switzerland. It explains the rules and regulations now in force for EU nationals who wish to move to Switzerland find a job.

For those wishing to exercise the benefits offered by the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons and work in Switzerland, “EuresInfo Switzerland” provides detailed information about how to go about finding a job in Switzerland.

employment in Switzerland

EFTA / EU nationals wishing to be self-employed in Switzerland
EU/EFTA nationals can now be self-employed in Switzerland. Information on the procedures to follow can be found in the brochure “European Nationals in Switzerland, which explains how to obtain residence in Switzerland and work in a profession in a self-employed capacity.”

Employment and Work Permit Policy for third-country nationals
For citizens from countries other than EU /EFTA, the following restrictions apply:

1) Priority on the Swiss labor market is given to Swiss nationals and EU /EFTA nationals. Therefore, job applicants from third-countries are only be considered when there are no qualified applicants for the job from the EU/EFTA member states.

2) Work permits for third country nationals are only issued in compliance with the established quotas.

3) Wage and working conditions for the advertised job (the same as for Swiss nationals) must be complied with.
There are possible conditions for various professions and groups of individuals: specialists, executives of multinational companies (executive transfer), employees of international organizations and artists. The government’s Federal Office for Migration can answer any questions regarding living and working in Switzerland.

Third-country nationals are not permitted to be self-employed in Switzerland.
As a general rule, self-employment is only possible for third-country nationals AFTER they have obtained their residence permit (C permit).

Internships in Switzerland / third countries
Switzerland has agreements on the exchange of interns with numerous countries to facilitate the obtaining of limited residence and work permits. Those admitted as interns are expected to between 18 and 30 and have finished the relevant vocational training. Interns may only be employed for up to 18 months as such. Information concerning internships and the regulations that govern entry under such a formula are to be found on the Federal Office of Migration (FOM) website.

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Questions from our readers

Posted on 09 June 2007 by LegalBeagle

Following are some questions from our readers concerning procedures and experiences for obtaining residence or permission to work in Switzerland. Please address all questions to

??? I am granted a student visa to attend a Masters program in Switzerland. With this kind of permit, I have to leave Switzerland after the end of the program. What if I find a job? Does this type or permission mean that I can’t even search for a job, because I will be forced to leave Switzerland anyway?

LB: In fact it does – or rather: it did– but you won’t be forced to leave because by June 1st 2007, as an EU citizen, you have a right to a work permit and to stay and work in Switzerland. So complete your academic course and while you are studying look for a Swiss job. All the employers know of the changes and the impact these changes will have and will be willing to employ you if they are interested in your credentials.

jobs in Switzerland

??? My employer has just offered to relocate me to Zurich. At this time I am working for the same company but at the US headquarters. I am Turkish and hold neither US citizen nor EU citizenship. I have a BA in economics (Turkish University) and 3 years of fulltime work experience in finance in the USA. What are my chances to get a work permit in Switzerland ?

LB: To get a permit to work in Switzerland, it helps enormously if:

> you are educated
> a company already wants to employee you

You are likely to get a permit to work in Switzerland. The company wishing to employ you will have to prove that they have looked in Switzerland for a person with the same qualifications as you. They should show that they put advertisements in the local newspaper or on Budget about 4 months for the company to obtain the work permit from the time they start the paperwork.

??? I am setting up a company (GmBh) in Switzerland and I am planning to use an agency to do this for me. Part of the deal is that they are going to apply for my Swiss residence permit on my behalf as the owner of the Swiss business. My friend, acting as Director, will have to sign the application for my Swiss working permit.

The agency quoted me 4,700 Euros for the service, which is about 8000 Swiss francs. Is that too high? Are there any other companies you know who provides the service of obtaining a permit to work in Switzerland?

LB: Agencies charge for basically putting your name on the templates and sending off the forms.

You can start a company in Switzerland yourself for under CHF 1800. Many accountants will do this for you. The notary fees are under CHF 1000 in Fribourg. Handelsregister and notary fees are unavoidable. An accountant or fiduciary or a notary’s office draws up the legal documents to incorporate a Swiss company and a notary ultimately registers them. An Swiss S.a.r.l. costs about CHF 2000 to set up and an SA a bit more. The S.a.r.l. only requires a CHF 20,000 funds guarantee while the SA –which is essentially a private bearer-shares company—requires a minimum CHF 100,000 funds guarantee. The set-up fees are the monies that actually leave your pocket.
An SA, on average, costs about CHF 4000 to set up. An SA has to be audited, so the yearly accounting fees (assuming you will be paying for outside accountancy) are higher.

The bottom line is, these fees being what they are, you can employ yourself in a Euro 50,000 / year job, thereby obtain a permit to work in Switzerland, and these set up and maintenance fees will not matter on the scale of things.

You can look on for checklists and guidance for gmbh in English or on the Swiss government website.

??? I have been in Switzerland for 2 months. I don’t need a visa to be here – I am South African– but have read on the Swiss Immigration website, that I am only able to stay here for 3 months, and then I have to leave.

Does anyone have any experience with how the “leaving switzerland for 1 month” thing works? Is it necessary? I don’t want to get in trouble as its really important that I am here for the next period of 3 months…

LB: That is correct: three months, then one month break, then three months, to a maximum of six months per year. And if you don’t leave, they will deport you.

Its the law, and while it is not always applied, they do selectively apply it. To stay longer than a twice three-month tourist stay, one needs a residence permit to actually live in Switzerland, a opposed to visiting or touring. So you overstay at your own risk, which can result in the authorities stamping your passport with your overstay and rendering your travel to third countries more difficult.

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Getting a U.N. Internship

Posted on 05 June 2007 by Fixer

If you are not from Switzerland or from the European Union, finding an entry level job in Switzerland is extremely difficult. Recent graduates often pursue an internship before seeking employment.

The United Nations and international organizations in Geneva offer myriad internships and this is one of the ways young professionals and students can find work in Switzerland, without the problem of obtaining a work permit.

There are several ways students and young professionals can go about finding a UN internship. Below are some recommended steps. UN internships are generally unpaid and therefore this option — while an interesting way to parachute into work in Switzerland, experience the life, and perhaps look for more profitable employment— is not for everyone.

Consider the type of job you ultimately want to find and whether the given internship will fit in with your academic, professional or career internships in geneva switzerlandobjectives. And consider whether the internship will offer a realistic chance of leading to a job in an international organization in Switzerland.

A quick check of the different internet web sites of the UN organizations will inform you whether these programs or agencies are doing the sort of work which interests you. Consider emailing and even phoning people in or around the organization who might help you.

If you seek academic credit for your internship, you should look at a study-internship program. There are several such programs in Geneva and elsewhere that offer courses in combination with an internship.

Almost all the international organizations have internship programs and they each have their own application form,

process and timeline. You will need to check each organization’s web site for specific information and instructions.

Prepare your CV : consult books or online resources, or our tips (see prior postings) for examples of practices for CVs in Europe. Most applications are accepted by email, but you may actually have to write our some by hand and send them via regular mail.

The application process for the United Nations Headquarters Internship Programme differs from the other organizations within the U.N. system.

Most of the HR services of the international organizations in Geneva put all the applications of interns seeking a job into a database. The organization’s staff then check these databases if they want an intern.

This system, combined with the fact that many U.N. staff in Geneva don’t even know they can find a free intern this way, makes the following very important: follow up. After having you’re your application for employment as an intern at one of the international organizations in Geneva, follow it up with an email to someone working in the area, division or section where you seek to work. You might find the contact info of such a person by checking the website thoroughly or examining the names on reports published by the organization – try calling the organization if you have to. Ask they have seen your curriculum vitae and your application.

In your email, write that you know about their work, that you know the internship will be unpaid, and discuss your qualifications, and that you have sent your official internship application to their HR office.

They probably won’t realize that they need you until you contact them in this way.

internships at the United Nations in GenevaAn internship is usually 3-6 months. Once you start your internship you will be inside the structure, have physical access to the different organizations and you can start your search for a job, start networking, circulate your curriculum vitae among your new acquaintances, and begin consulting the job boards, meeting people within the organizations and looking for regular employment at one of the international organizations.

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Working in Switzerland as an Independent

Posted on 23 May 2007 by info

For foreign nationals seeking to find a job and establish themselves professionally in Switzerland, one can avoid potential obstacles by preparing the relevant documents and applications a few months before finishing one’s studies.

It is also possible to set up one’s own company (‘société’ anonyme’). For a salaried activity that is fewer than 3 months, one need only register at the ODM (Office fédéral de la migration) — see – and fill out the application found on their website. For a salaried position longer than 3 months, one needs to contact the Office de la population in the canton where one intends to live, and they will indicate the documents which need to be presented in order to legally work in Switzerland.

In general, these are the employment contract, a copy of your passport, and a few photographs. For nationals of non-European countries, a letter describing the job or professional activity you will be doing as well as a resume of your skills and experience should additionally be made available to the commune where you will be residing.

This process comes after having looked for employment in Switzerland, perhaps through the numerous recruitment websites or employment agencies publishing job offers for work in Switzerland in the major sectors of the Swiss economy, like banking, finance, trading, the luxury industry, pharmaceuticals, hotel and tourism, or other branches.

One can go directly to the commune where you will be domiciled with the employment contract, a curriculum vitae, a copy of your passport, copies of your diplomas, passport photos, and the cantonal application filled out. Sometimes the authorities will ask for a copy of your police record (which should be empty, obviously).

One does not have to find a job in Switzerland if one has the wherewithal to create one’s own employment. If you want to set up your own Swiss company (in which you must be a salaried employee), the documents which will be required are:

1.a letter describing your skills and experience for the Office de la population
2. a business plan, which must contain the financial aspects related to the consitution of an SA (société anonyme) with a minimum capital of CHF 100′000.
3.any relevant elements relating to intellectual property
4.a governing board or administrative council, conformant to the legal requirements of domicile and nationality. See :;
5.the project hould have some economic interest for the canton ;
6.copies of passeport, employment contract, diplomas, passport photos
7. the cantonal application filled out.

For EU nationals ONLY, the procedure for obtaining a residence permit for engaging in an independent professional activity is simplified : One needs only:
1.copy of passport,
2.letter describing the professional activity you will be engaging in;
3.a copy of the dimploma, where relevant, necessary to work in such a professional field.
4.the filled-out application for the Canton;
5. a dcument from the Social Security authorities (caisse compensation AVS) stating that you are affiliated as an independent and will be paying your own social security.

Finally, for a permanent residency (after 6 months), the independent professional from the EU working in Switzerland, will need to proivde :
1. his accounts which prove that he is effectively functioning as an independent professional ;
2.the relevant documents proving the creation of a company or juridic structure.
Consult the ODM (Office fédéral de la migration) :
or the Canton de Vaud Site Employment Office for more information.

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Overview of Swiss Labor Laws

Posted on 12 February 2007 by LegalBeagle

The Employment contract between the employer and employee sets down the working relationship in writing.
The law does not foresee any special form for this contract, but there are a few important points of an employment contract:

>> the trial period may not exceed 3 months
>> the employment contract contain any ‘immoral’ or illegal tasks
>> the period of notice must be clearly stated

The General Labour Agreement (GLA) is a contract between employer(s) or their representatives and employees’ federations or trade unions and governs employment relationships. A GLA is relevant when employees and employers belong to affiliated federation or trade union or if its applicability has been agreed in some other way.

If the GLA has been declared generally binding by the competent authority, it is applied for the relevant branch irrespective of federation or trade union membership and only provisions that are more favourable for the employee may be included in the individual employment contract.

A limited employment contract, of a duration defined by both contracting parties expires at the end of the period agreed. Generally, this type of contract cannot be terminated in advance.

An unlimited employment contract (the duration of which is not fixed) may be terminated by one of the two parties taking accout of the period of notice stipulated in the contract and the date for giving such notice. The notice period is 7 days during the 3-month trial period, then one month. After 1 year, the notice period becomes 2 months. After 5 years, it becomes 3 months. If requested, the party giving notice must give written reasons for his decision.

Minimum Wage
A statutory minimum wage does not exist in Switzerland, though some GLA’s stipulate minimum wages for certain sectors (such as the hotel industry). According to law, employeees are entitled to specially indexed remuneration for night or weekend work, as well as work on public holidays.

In Switzerland there is still a certain holdover of the principle of ‘seniority.’ Nonetheless, things are gradually moving to a system of results-oriented remuneration both in the private sector and (of course more slowly) in the public sector. There remain appreciable discrepancies between women’s and men’s wages for the same level of professional qualifications.

Working Hours
Legally, the maximum working time is 45 hours a week for industrial and white collar employees — office staff,
technical personnel and other employees, including sales assistants in large retail businesses. For other salaried persons, the maximum is supposed to be 50 hours.

Vacation Allotments
By law the minimum entitlement is fixed at four weeks for employees and apprentices over 20 years of age.

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Residence in Switzerland – The Celebrity Fast Lane

Posted on 11 February 2007 by LegalBeagle

If you are very wealthy or a celebrity, there is a special fast-lane available for you. Numerous celebrities have chosen to make Switzerland their residence for tax reasons, as well as for the quality of life, the safety and stability of the country, the low criminality, and its ideal environment for raising children, as well as the culture of respect for people’s private life.

If you are rich or a celebrity, it doesn’t really matter what your country of origin is, you can obtain a Swiss residence permit when you invest in a Swiss company. This route is often taken by sports professionals (like formula 1 pilot Schumacher), rich businessmen whose businesses are elsewhere or who have sold their companies, actors, singers or diverse retirees.

In order to qualify for this procedure, you need to invest at least CHF 500′000 in a company in the canton in which you intend to reside. It is not sufficient to simply deposit 500k in a local Swiss bank account or invest such an amount stock of a publically traded Swiss company. It is necessary that the your investment helps the local economy and contributes to creating jobs.

Also, you usually need to demonstrate some kind of links with Switzerland, whether those links be friends, family, or sometimes regular travel. If you are an international celebrity, these ‘links’ become less important to the Authorities issuing the residence permit.

However, in principle, under this process it is necessary to reside in Switzerland for the majority of the year. Exceptions are possible as long as they are in good faith. This said, it is normally not possible to use this procedure and then live most of the year elsewhere only coming to Switzerland now and then for a few weeks of vacation.

Under this program, you receive a B permit renewable each year. The B permit gives you the rigth to live in Switzerland with your family – that is : wife and children under 18. You also have the right to buy real estate for your personal use and also obtain the right to be taxed under the much more advantageous lump-sum formula.

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