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Old 26.06.2015, 22:50
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American Wanting to Work in Switzerland

Hello everyone. I am a late 30s US citizen and have decided that longer term (in 3-5 years time) I want to relocate my family (wife+2 children) to Switzerland. I have a specialized job in investment management and suspect I could find a similar job in Zurich or Geneva. I am blessed to have had good success in my career to date and anticipate no problems proving that I can support my family financially should I not be able to find work. English is my first language although I am proficient in French and Spanish.

My questions:
-Do I have a good shot at gaining a residence and work permit without getting a job first? Or would I need to seek employer sponsorship?
-Will my wife and children fall under my residence permit as well?
-What other challenges should be considered? I've read that establishing a bank account and complying with US tax law is a nightmare for example.

Thanks to all for your guidance.
MD
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Old 26.06.2015, 22:55
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Re: American Wanting to Work in Switzerland

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My questions:
-Do I have a good shot at gaining a residence and work permit without getting a job first? Or would I need to seek employer sponsorship?
You'll need a job first/employer sponsorship, but still no guarantee of a pemit

-Will my wife and children fall under my residence permit as well?
Maybe
-What other challenges should be considered? I've read that establishing a bank account and complying with US tax law is a nightmare for example.
So is finding a job for you, you are bottom of list and your skills are nothing exceptional

Thanks to all for your guidance.
MD
God luck (not good luck)
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Old 26.06.2015, 23:28
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Re: American Wanting to Work in Switzerland

As a non-EU, you will have to be sponsored by an employer in order to get a residency permit, unless you are incredibly, incredibly wealthy and, if that is the case, you and your lawyer can probably finagle a way in.
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Old 26.06.2015, 23:34
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Re: American Wanting to Work in Switzerland

Here's what an employer would need to do to request a permit for you:

https://www.bfm.admin.ch/content/bfm...zulassung.html
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Old 26.06.2015, 23:35
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TheSpouse, thank you for the response. Another option I could consider is starting a company doing the same thing I'm doing in the States and self-sponsor. Have others had success with that route?

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Here's what an employer would need to do to request a permit for you:

https://www.bfm.admin.ch/content/bfm...zulassung.html
Thank you for your response.

Last edited by 3Wishes; 26.06.2015 at 23:43. Reason: merging consecutive replies
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Old 26.06.2015, 23:49
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Re: American Wanting to Work in Switzerland

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... Another option I could consider is starting a company doing the same thing I'm doing in the States and self-sponsor. Have others had success with that route?
None I'm aware of, because the company you create would still have to prove to the authorities it could not find a Swiss, EU, or non-EU already here with a valid permit to do the job. It's a pretty tall order, but I suppose not impossible. I think you'd need to have a Swiss resident as part of the company structure. See the "Starting a Business" thread.

Another option is to get a job with an American company that does business here (Google comes to mind) and have them transfer you here.

Lastly, keep in mind that daily life here isn't the same as vacation. English is not an official language, so all official documents (including your company formation ones) will have to be in German, French, or Italian. If you're not fluent in one of those it can be a bit of a learning curve.

You'll also unfortunately face annoying tax hurdles and reporting requirements thanks to FATCA. You're already aware of the basics.

Have a look at some of the other threads here started by non-EU folks to get more personal stories. There's bound to be a success story out there somewhere.

Out of curiosity, what makes you want to move here (besides clean air and great chocolate)?
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Old 27.06.2015, 00:14
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Re: American Wanting to Work in Switzerland

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Out of curiosity, what makes you want to move here (besides clean air and great chocolate)?
Again, thank you for the thoughtful response. I've traveled extensively throughout Switzerland and Europe and frankly I'm incredibly impressed with how efficiently the country operates. That, combined with the business-friendly atmosphere, great personal liberty and unparalleled scenery is why I want to make the move!
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Old 27.06.2015, 00:38
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Re: American Wanting to Work in Switzerland

So, it sounds like you are a hedge fund guy and you say you are fluent in French, yes? Go to work for Fidelity or somebody like that and request a transfer to Geneva. It might work. You never know until you try.
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Old 27.06.2015, 00:55
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Re: American Wanting to Work in Switzerland

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...., great personal liberty .....!
There are many good reasons to move to Switzerland, you have listed some of them. However, this particular reason is somewhat of a stretch. And this is not limited to living in an apartment and wanting to take a leak after 10 pm - just read a few of the threads what you /your neighbors think you are permitted to do on [insert any specific time/day of your choice] even if you own property.
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Old 27.06.2015, 07:07
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Re: American Wanting to Work in Switzerland

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TheSpouse, thank you for the response. Another option I could consider is starting a company doing the same thing I'm doing in the States and self-sponsor. Have others had success with that route?

Thank you for your response.

You don't think this "loophole" maybe a little too easy ?

Self employed for EU people is not so much of a problem, but still not easy, for a non EU very difficult. If you were to create a company here, employ 10 people, pay taxes etc, THEN make a demand for a permit, you would have a chance.

Their are very few permits available for non EU people and the competition is fierce. You really need a very special, exceptional skill set to get a permit here; making money isn't a skill the Swiss need and so your exceptional skill set will probably not cut much ice.

By the way thankyou for your private message, maybe try and hone up your people skills a bit ?
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Old 27.06.2015, 09:21
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Re: American Wanting to Work in Switzerland

The finance industry had been shedding jobs right, left, and center in the last few years and the major banks have announced yet another round of layoffs this year. Walk down any street in one of the 'tax paradise' towns and you'll trip over an unemployed investment banker.

You need to understand what you are up against as you plan your strategy. As others have pointed out, non-EU folks are at the back of the line when it comes to permits, a company will have to prove that there is no CH or EU candidate available and willing to do the job. Which given the recent layoffs is a hard-sell.

There are only 6500 permits available for non-EU folks, across all industries.

So maybe you need to think differently. For instance, it is generally less difficult to get approval for intercompany transfers for short term limited assignments. Perhaps look for a job with one of the US banks or funds that also has a presence in Switzerland, with a goal of an eventual transfer to Switzerland.

Your idea of your own company is problematic for the same reasons as above, the permit situation. However, if you are talking about substantial investment (think Marc Rich) that's a different story.

But I really must warn you about this:

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great personal liberty
It is a very common misperception on the part of a certain subset of Americans that Switzerland is a personal liberty utopia. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Heck, I had more actual day-to-day 'personal liberty' living in Beijing in the early 90s than I do in Steuerparadis Schwyz today. Between officious bureaucracy, curtain-twitching as the social norm, and endless rules and regulations, I can barely turn around without needing a permit stamped in triplicate. (Case in point: I would like to plant a dwarf tree to replace one that died. I will spend today going door to door asking my neighbors to sign a permission form to allow me to do what I want in my own garden.)

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the business-friendly atmosphere
Take some time to read about recent Swiss referenda and initiatives - this will give you a handle on how the concept of 'business friendly' is changing.



Switzerland is a nice place - orderly, efficient, safe - but that is largely due to a social cohesion which comes at a price in terms of (what an American views as) personal liberty.

Except in Tessin.

Come to Switzerland for what it is, not for the myth, or you will be very unhappy.

Last edited by meloncollie; 27.06.2015 at 09:56.
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Old 27.06.2015, 16:28
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Re: American Wanting to Work in Switzerland

On the personal freedom front I'll add that I got queried a while ago by our commune (village) admin office because someone thought my recently installed satellite dish was too big. And I've had problems with my neighbour for driving over the yellow lines that mark out his property boundary. First we knew about it was when a policeman turned up on our doorstep as our neighbour had taken us to court and he had to make a report for the judge. The neighbour never talked to us about this first, just straight to court. So personal freedom will really depend on your neighbours.

As Meloncollie also says, non-EU permits were reduced last year and the Swiss recently voted to curb immigration from the EU too. How that's going to work is still being decided, but may come into force in the next 2/3 years. Whether that will cause a further squeeze on non-EU permits no one knows yet.

Starting a company here has several problems for you:

1) anything other than a sole trader needs to have a person who is already resident in Switzerland as one of the directors.

2) owning a company here does not bestow residency rights to non-EU nationals.

3) as 3Wishes says for your company to be able to employ you they have to prove they can't find a Swiss/EU national who could do the job.

On the bank/tax side

a) to open a basic checking/salary account (unlikely to get investments, business account or a mortgage so bear that in mind) you will need to sign a W-9 for each account so the bank can pass the account info on to the IRS.

b) you'll still need to file US returns and could owe US tax on top of your Swiss ones. Start your research here:

http://www.irs.gov/Individuals/Inter...-Aliens-Abroad

c) Said Swiss bank accounts will also have to reported annually on a FBAR form if the aggregate figure comes to more than $10,000 at any time of the year.
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Old 29.06.2015, 10:53
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Re: American Wanting to Work in Switzerland

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It is a very common misperception on the part of a certain subset of Americans that Switzerland is a personal liberty utopia. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Heck, I had more actual day-to-day 'personal liberty' living in Beijing in the early 90s than I do in Steuerparadis Schwyz today. Between officious bureaucracy, curtain-twitching as the social norm, and endless rules and regulations, I can barely turn around without needing a permit stamped in triplicate. (Case in point: I would like to plant a dwarf tree to replace one that died. I will spend today going door to door asking my neighbors to sign a permission form to allow me to do what I want in my own garden.) .
When I moved here I didn't think a second that Switzerland is a personal liberty utopia. I was actually keen to live in a country where rules and regulations are respected by everyone and everything functions like a clock.
Anyway, even I little I knew how far they took these principles, and even I find it difficult and frustrating to cope with episodes like the one you mentioned, sometimes.
Thus, I can only imagine the total disappointment and potential unhappiness of people who come for the aforementioned utopia that exists only in their imagination. We used to be friends with a family that moved back to the USA for this reason...
Anyway, do you have any idea how comes that so many Americans have this image of CH?
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Old 29.06.2015, 11:20
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Re: American Wanting to Work in Switzerland

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When I moved here I didn't think a second that Switzerland is a personal liberty utopia. I was actually keen to live in a country where rules and regulations are respected by everyone and everything functions like a clock.
Anyway, even I little I knew how far they took these principles, and even I find it difficult and frustrating to cope with episodes like the one you mentioned, sometimes.
Thus, I can only imagine the total disappointment and potential unhappiness of people who come for the aforementioned utopia that exists only in their imagination. We used to be friends with a family that moved back to the USA for this reason...
Anyway, do you have any idea how comes that so many Americans have this image of CH?

I personally wouldn't move here for those reasons, I can't think of anything more dull. Saying that I appreciate it when people are considerate, but I would expect that wherever I lived. The rules are a little OTT here in Switzerland. On the plus side it is an incredibly safe place to raise a family, send your kids to school etc., kids may not grow up streetwise, but they'll get a good education, so I see the appeal. Its also unlikely that your child is going to get stabbed while picking up a pint of milk or run with the wrong crowd and get hooked on Meth.
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Old 29.06.2015, 11:36
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Re: American Wanting to Work in Switzerland

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I personally wouldn't move here for those reasons, I can't think of anything more dull. Saying that I appreciate it when people are considerate, but I would expect that wherever I lived. The rules are a little OTT here in Switzerland. On the plus side it is an incredibly safe place to raise a family, send your kids to school etc., kids may not grow up streetwise, but they'll get a good education, so I see the appeal. Its also unlikely that your child is going to get stabbed while picking up a pint of milk or run with the wrong crowd and get hooked on Meth.
Well, I didn't move for those reasons or for the country itself tbh, it happened to be here but when I knew it's going to be Switzerland I was glad, knowing how things are, generally.
And I come from a place where I was never afraid of the things you mentioned, in fact my country is quite a safe place re. violent crimes. But CH seemed a safe(r) place from other points of view - financial stability, little or no bureaucracy, social cohesion, etc etc. Things like these. Anyway, they sometimes come with a price I wasn't exactly aware of...

Last edited by greenmount; 29.06.2015 at 11:50.
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Old 29.06.2015, 12:00
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Re: American Wanting to Work in Switzerland

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Anyway, do you have any idea how comes that so many Americans have this image of CH?
From those I know, bearing in mind that this handful o' folks might or might not be a representative sample...

Those I know who see Switzerland through rose colored libertarian glasses seem to have filtered their experience of Swiss culture and politics through a US lens, assuming that the use of similar terms implies a shared agenda. Terms like 'conservative' are assumed to mean the same thing on both sides of the pond. And if 'A', then obviously B, C, D, linked issues as they exist in my world, must follow.

Add in a lot of sloppy journalism and a myth is easily propagated.

As they say in the song, 'A man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest.'

Finding out that many Swiss conservatives are politically and socially way to the left of US mainstream then comes as a shocker.

But one shouldn't be surprised. We all interpret other societies through our own filter. If we didn't EF would be a pretty empty forum.
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Old 29.06.2015, 12:19
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Re: American Wanting to Work in Switzerland

here is information regarding setting up a business in Switzerland as a non-EU entrepreneur:

http://www.kmu.admin.ch/kmu-gruenden...x.html?lang=en

we had neighbors when we lived in Zuerich who had set up an independent financial company, and we have friends here in Luxembourg who have done the same thing. in both cases, however, the Americans already had key clients on the ground in the new country who were able to help them navigate the process, etc.

if I were you, I would reach out to the Swiss-American Chamber of Commerce as an initial step:

http://www.amcham.ch/
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Old 29.06.2015, 12:30
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Re: American Wanting to Work in Switzerland

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From those I know, bearing in mind that this handful o' folks might or might not be a representative sample...
.
Of course, no worries. Our friends moved here because it was a good move career wise, but they were prepared for the eventuality when one (or all) of them didn't like it...as it turned out, unfortunately. Very well educated people, with so much common sense, but well...they had to draw the line somewhere.
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Old 29.06.2015, 18:22
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Re: American Wanting to Work in Switzerland

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... Anyway, do you have any idea how comes that so many Americans have this image of CH?
In addition to what meloncollie said, Hollywood does play a part. Swiss bank accounts, secrecy, organization, etc. are practically legendary in films. Most of my friends have a warped view of what my life is like here because of that, no matter how I might tell them it's not what they think. I'm pretty sure they think I have a numbered account with millions in it hiding somewhere.
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Old 08.07.2015, 19:37
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Re: American Wanting to Work in Switzerland

Thank you all (sans Today only due to his hubris) for your thoughtful and enlightening posts.
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