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Old 11.08.2010, 11:50
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How to work as freelance translator in Switzerland?

Hi all,

my name is Decarolis Eliana and I am a freelance translator, still living in Italy. My working languages are English, German and French. I would like to live and work in Geneva (I am planning to leave Italy the next year) and I am searching information regarding the questions connected to VAT number, tax differences between Italy and Switzerland and, above all, whether there is anyone interested in translation services or not. I mean, do you know if there are some possibilities for this kind of job in this beautiful Country?

Thank you all in advance for you precious advices.

Eliana
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Old 11.08.2010, 14:21
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Re: How to work as freelance translator in Switzerland?

The beauty of freelance translation is that geography is immaterial so if you are making a living at translation now, there's no reason why you can't do so in CH too if you have an established client base. If you are just starting out, then the principles and issues you'll face will be the same anywhere too. To get a residence permit you'll need to register as self-employed with your community. You will then likely be sent a letter by the canton migration office telling you what you need to do which will certainly include registering for social security (who will require you to prove that you are self-employed by having more than one client etc), and may also include setting up a sole tadership (which is likely to cost around CHF 500 by the time you've got signatures notarised etc) and proof of sufficient funds to subsist for a few months until your business is up and running supporting you. You won't need to register for VAT unless your turnover in CH is in the region of CHF 100,000 but you can register voluntarily
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Old 11.08.2010, 20:27
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Re: How to work as freelance translator in Switzerland?

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and proof of sufficient funds to subsist for a few months until your business is up and running supporting you.
No longer applies to EU citizens - proof of income / financial status not a requirement.

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You won't need to register for VAT unless your turnover in CH is in the region of CHF 100,000 but you can register voluntarily
All change 01.01.2011 - can't remember all the detail but basically every business registers for vat but those turning over less than 100k can opt out of reporting (or something like that).
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Old 11.08.2010, 21:01
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Re: How to work as freelance translator in Switzerland?

Hi Eliana (and Eng_ch and Swissbob),

I'm not sure if the situation is different in Geneva, but I am currently registering as self-employed in Zurich - I'm a freelance translator (Japanese to English) and an EU citizen (Ireland).

I have been asked for proof of funds by the Zurich Immigrationsamt, as well as a decision from the AHV (Alters- und Hinterlassenenversicherung) that I am self-employed. I've supplied the AHV with 5 or 6 contracts and several invoices, business cards, etc. (I've been working freelance for two years already) and that seems to be good enough. I haven't got anything in writing from them yet due to a hiccup at their office, but they say I'll have it by Friday.

The community I've moved to also required me to register with the Zurich commercial registry (Handelsregisteramt) and although that does cost some money it was very useful for opening a business bank account. I registered as an Einzelfirma/Entreprise individuelle.

I'm afraid I can't comment on the tax differences as I'm not up and running here yet (and could only compare it to the UK anyway).

I agree with Eng_ch that the geography is immaterial (as you can tell from my language combination!) although I do get some flak for being in one of the most expensive bits of Europe. Since your language combinations fit Switzerland very well I'm sure you'll find business here too, especially somewhere like Geneva with all its international organisations.

There is a Swiss translators' association that also has some job postings, which might be of interest: http://www.astti.ch/

Best of luck!
Arline
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Old 11.08.2010, 22:50
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Re: How to work as freelance translator in Switzerland?

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I have been asked for proof of funds by the Zurich Immigrationsamt
My goodness this took some finding - the information available on official Swiss sites is so out of date in many cases.

Old situation was an EU-17 citizen got a 6 month permit after which they had to prove economic viability and then they got the 5 year permit. They had to have enough funds to survive this period.

New situation is that EU-17 citizen gets a 5 year permit immediately on proof of self employment (an AHV number is sufficient proof).

Only if the person becomes reliant on Swiss social security is the permit in jeapordy. Proving economic viability is no longer required.

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The community I've moved to also required me to register with the Zurich commercial registry (Handelsregisteramt) and although that does cost some money it was very useful for opening a business bank account. I registered as an Einzelfirma/Entreprise individuelle.
There is absolutely no obligation to register an einzelfirme. Doing so is proof of self employment though and can have other benefits, like being taken seriously by banks etc.

It does seem that the requirements vary from canton to canton and maybe local law comes into effect - not sure of that at all but I can state categorically and from personal experience that in Saint Gallen the situation is as described above.
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Old 11.08.2010, 23:48
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Re: How to work as freelance translator in Switzerland?

Hello Swissbob,

Thank you for the link! I hadn't seen that one before, although I had seen bits of the information in different places.

Things do vary depending on where you are... I needed a lease or sublease to register in my community (just outside of Zurich) whereas in Zurich itself people stayed with friends and got them to fill out a form as proof of address.

I was also told that I should not work until I have the permit, but my accountant tells me that another person she's helping in a similar situation has been told they have to be working and producing invoices.

Land of confusion?

Arline
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Old 12.08.2010, 11:31
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Re: How to work as freelance translator in Switzerland?

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I was also told that I should not work until I have the permit, but my accountant tells me that another person she's helping in a similar situation has been told they have to be working and producing invoices.
This bit, at least, is easy. The permit is not to work, it is to reside.

They can't have it both ways. It's either old method with a 6 month permit issues immediately and then proof of viability after 6 months or new method with a standard permit in which case you wouldn't mind waiting a couple of weeks, I guess.

Basically, it sounds like many local authorities are not up to date. Feel free to make it your mission to help them catch up .
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Old 12.08.2010, 12:43
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Re: How to work as freelance translator in Switzerland?

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New situation is that EU-17 citizen gets a 5 year permit immediately on proof of self employment (an AHV number is sufficient proof).

Only if the person becomes reliant on Swiss social security is the permit in jeapordy. Proving economic viability is no longer required.

There is absolutely no obligation to register an einzelfirme.
Sorry, but from the horse's mouth, I know that ain't so because I've just helped my BIL through the process. He registered as resident in March and the letter he received from the Migrationsamt required him to register an Einzelfirma, provide proof from the SVA that they deem him self-employed and provide proof that he had enough funds to live on in the interim; all of which had to be provided by June. He did, however, then get a full 5-year B permit.

I wouldn't, however, be at all surprised if a) the requirements are different from canton to canton and b) requirement might change in each individual case. I would also expect there to be a difference between people who become self-employed once they have already been here a while and people who enter the country and are relying on self-employment to get their first permit.
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Old 12.08.2010, 12:44
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Re: How to work as freelance translator in Switzerland?

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Basically, it sounds like many local authorities are not up to date. Feel free to make it your mission to help them catch up .
Zurich canton Migrationsamt too, then?
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Old 12.08.2010, 12:51
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Re: How to work as freelance translator in Switzerland?

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There is a Swiss translators' association that also has some job postings, which might be of interest: http://www.astti.ch/
I would strongly recommend membership of a professional organisation if you aren't already, as their directories of members are very useful. Check out the terms of ASTTI but you might find the professional organisation in your home country meets your needs better
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Old 12.08.2010, 12:56
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Re: How to work as freelance translator in Switzerland?

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All change 01.01.2011 - can't remember all the detail but basically every business registers for vat but those turning over less than 100k can opt out of reporting (or something like that).
Yeah, I know all sorts changes at new year, but hadn't clocked that one - I only need to remember the correct rate to charge. When I registered ages and ages ago, the criterion was the old 75k but, critically, if most of your revenue is generated outside CH, then there was no need to register but you could do so if said revenue would required registration had it been generated within CH

(PS sorry for the multiple quotes - I can't seem to get multi-quoting to work)
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Old 12.08.2010, 13:02
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Re: How to work as freelance translator in Switzerland?

Hello Eng_ch,

I can definitely second that - I'm a member of two professional organisations for linguists in the UK (ITI and CIoL) and have found them invaluable for support and professional development as well as for finding work. They also have a strong online presence so it's been easy to keep up with them even after moving. Strongly considering the ASTTI as well - they have Zurich and Geneva local chapters - although it might be best to wait until I can hold a conversation in German!

Arline
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Old 12.08.2010, 14:00
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Re: How to work as freelance translator in Switzerland?

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Sorry, but from the horse's mouth, I know that ain't so
It certainly is so . You could have argued the point with your local authorities. In Switzerland only GmbH and above are compelled to be in the business register.

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I wouldn't, however, be at all surprised if a) the requirements are different from canton to canton and b) requirement might change in each individual case.
Differences there may be but only based on policy, and sometimes ignorance, but not law.

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I would also expect there to be a difference between people who become self-employed once they have already been here a while and people who enter the country and are relying on self-employment to get their first permit.
Indeed, this is specifically mentioned as there is a difference between EU and non-EU. EU can just do it. Non-EU must gain permission and must prove viability and funds but at least now they have the right to do it.
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Old 12.08.2010, 14:28
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Re: How to work as freelance translator in Switzerland?

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It certainly is so . You could have argued the point with your local authorities. In Switzerland only GmbH and above are compelled to be in the business register.
I know that's technically the case, but in this instance I didn't think it was a good idea to argue with the Migrationsamt. BIL is only starting to build his business here (didn't have a client base in that field in the UK that wasn't 10 years out of date) so the Einzelfirma was a good way of convincing the SVA of his self-employed status. Time was also of the essence as he had loads of enquiries that wouldn't proceed without sight of his permit - which he couldn't get without the Migrationsamt's approval, for which they demanded the said information. Any argument would only have delayed matters. Point being - yes you might argue, but in Zurich at least, this information IS being required.
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Old 17.08.2010, 16:43
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Re: How to work as freelance translator in Switzerland?

How many messages!!

These are very useful information. Now I am going to search for translation centers based in Switzerland which need an Italian translator working with German, French and English languages.

Hope I will find someone interested in my cv.

Thank you very much for your help!

Eliana
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Old 25.07.2016, 21:11
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Re: How to work as freelance translator in Switzerland?

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My goodness this took some finding - the information available on official Swiss sites is so out of date in many cases.

Old situation was an EU-17 citizen got a 6 month permit after which they had to prove economic viability and then they got the 5 year permit. They had to have enough funds to survive this period.

New situation is that EU-17 citizen gets a 5 year permit immediately on proof of self employment (an AHV number is sufficient proof).
Hi, so nowadays what's the deal? Do I just need to get an AHV number to proof I am self employed? And how do I get that number?
Thank you very much for your help!
Josh

Last edited by 3Wishes; 25.07.2016 at 21:43. Reason: fixed quote
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Old 25.07.2016, 21:35
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Re: How to work as freelance translator in Switzerland?

Welcome to the forum.

Sorry, but no, not that easy and especially since you have the American "taint" it may be impossible for you.

Firstly the self-employment side. You need to have a good business plan, finances to support yourself and the business while it gets going, etc. More in these links:

https://www.ch.ch/en/becoming-self-employed/

https://www.kmu.admin.ch/kmu/en/home...efta-area.html

Now the American "taint" problem. I hope you already know that as an American citizen you have to file US tax returns and could owe the US tax on top of your local ones, that you need to sign a W-9 form to allow any bank to send the account info on to the IRS and that a FBAR may also need to be filed. The problem you're going to find here is that I doubt any Swiss bank will let you have a business account if you're a signatory to the account as it would have to be reported to the IRS. The only account would be a simple checking/salary account, no mortgage, no investment, no business.

Oh, and possible 3rd problem - the Swiss want to limit immigration of EU nationals as well which is due to come into force in February 2017 so whether you'd even get permission to set up as self-employed could be problematic.
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