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Old 20.07.2020, 08:53
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Options/Paths To Permanent Residency and Citizenship for a USA citizen

Hey guys, I've spent a decent amount of time looking at various websites trying to figure everything out but I'm ultimately left a little confused. I ran across this website and you seem like an extraordinarily helpful bunch so I wanted to say thank you before I begin.



My desire ultimately is to move to Geneva, Switzerland as soon as possible given the current coronavirus closed border situation. If Switzerland opened up in September, for example, I'd like to ideally be on one of the first flights to begin a new long-term chapter of my life over there.



Currently, I'm in my mid-30s, male, single (never married), a millionaire, and I operate a start-up online business that has yet to pull in any profit. All of my money was made in my former years as a professional poker player and as an early Bitcoin investor. I speak three languages, including French, so assimilation shouldn't be too difficult for me I'd hope.


I'm trying to move to Switzerland because politically/culturally/raising a family/everything else, it's one of the only countries on Earth that makes any sense to me and it's really where I feel like I could finally start to live in peace and be happier. And that's where I start having issues from the legal side of the equation.



The Permit B seems to be a work/study visa. Given that I have my own online business, I won't seek employment while in Geneva and have plenty of savings to last quite some time. The other permits don't seem to make sense to fulfill my desires either. I have received residency permits in other countries in the past with relative ease simply by filling out documentation and paying some fees but that doesn't seem to be the case here, or is it?



Given the above, what paths can I even seek for temporary/permanent residency and citizenship in Switzerland if they exist? Would I be allowed to get a 12-month apartment rental there to start things off?


Thanks for your time!
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Old 20.07.2020, 09:10
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Re: Options/Paths To Permanent Residency and Citizenship for a USA citizen

To live in Switzerland you either need to be a Swiss Citizen or have a valid permit. This applies to those not employed or self-employed as well as those that work.

Permits for third-country nationals (ie non-EU) are very limited and very difficult to come buy. Most will go to workers in jobs where a Swiss or EU national can’t be found.

It is possible but it won’t be based on your wealth, it will be based on what you can bring to Switzerland.

I wish you luck ...
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Old 20.07.2020, 09:17
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Re: Options/Paths To Permanent Residency and Citizenship for a USA citizen

If you are rich, you can get permission to live here... Tina Turner did. Also you will be working, just not for a Swiss company.

Best thing to do would be to find a Swiss immigration expert... they will know about the residency/tax deals done for the wealthy in certain Swiss cantons and be able to organise it for you.
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Old 20.07.2020, 09:18
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it will be based on what you can bring to Switzerland
Given that information, my start-up company currently has around 10 employees. If I were to hire Swiss citizens instead of segments of my current enrollment, would that change anything for example to provide value to Switzerland?


Alternatively, is there anything to do with marriage with Swiss citizens that changes the situation by chance?

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If you are rich, you can get permission to live here... Tina Turner did. Also you will be working, just not for a Swiss company.

Best thing to do would be to find a Swiss immigration expert... they will know about the residency/tax deals done for the wealthy in certain Swiss cantons and be able to organise it for you.

Ah, I see, that can make a lot of sense. Thank you for this clarification!

Last edited by 3Wishes; 20.07.2020 at 20:43. Reason: merging consecutive replies
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Old 20.07.2020, 09:24
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Re: Options/Paths To Permanent Residency and Citizenship for a USA citizen

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Given that information, my start-up company currently has around 10 employees. If I were to hire Swiss citizens instead of segments of my current enrollment, would that change anything for example to provide value to Switzerland?


Alternatively, is there anything to do with marriage with Swiss citizens that changes the situation by chance?
If you are married to a Swiss citizen, you can live here as long as they can afford to support you. Would make it easier. But if you are working and have serious savings, you should get permission anyway. Beware, Switzerland tax’s wealth. Not just income, so you’d want to choose a low tax canton. You’ll still have to pay tax in the US too.

If you are not married to a Swiss citizen, you can apply for permanent residence after 5 years in CH. If married to a Swiss citizen, you can apply for citizenship after 3 years marriage, 5 years in CH. if you are married to a Swiss cit already, you are able to appl for citizenship after 6 years of marriage.
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Old 20.07.2020, 09:39
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Re: Options/Paths To Permanent Residency and Citizenship for a USA citizen

Oh, I didn't realize there was a wealth tax, thanks for informing me. That said, I'm mostly about trying to live somewhere of quality at this stage of my life, I'm not trying to dodge on any legal taxes owed in any particular jurisdiction.



I guess the real question is how you get to those first few years of residency in Switzerland then, I've already contacted a few agencies that I found with a quick search online. I've often had bad experiences with lawyers but hopefully Switzerland has ones of higher quality.


On the marriage issue, it would be tough to meet a woman, for example, and then want to get married a few years later if she were a good match if I couldn't extend past the first 90 days in the first place which has a similar issue listed above.



Overall, I'm sympathetic to the situation because if the country had immigration policies that were too lenient, the country probably wouldn't be nearly as good as it is. I just hope I can find a way in myself
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Old 20.07.2020, 09:45
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Re: Options/Paths To Permanent Residency and Citizenship for a USA citizen

Be cautious with the Tina Turner example. She came to Switzerland in 1994, when the rules were different. She also came with her partner Erwin Bach, an EU national (German) who she later married. She became Swiss, and renounced her US citizenship in 2014 (after 20 years residence).
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Old 20.07.2020, 09:48
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Re: Options/Paths To Permanent Residency and Citizenship for a USA citizen

As you have seen, it is difficult for a non-EU citizen to move to Switzerland. Wanting to move here because you are unhappy in the US/with the state of US governance, is simply not enough.

Americans especially are particularly toxic right now - if not officially then socially. And I say that as an American. If you manage to make it over here, do not expect an open-armed welcome.

The routes to residency are generally a sponsored work visa, generally only available to those with special skill sets in high demand that cannot be filled by a CH or EU citizen, marriage to a Ch or EU citizen, study in a recognised course, albeit this is a limited time visa, or as a UHNW who will not undertake work in Switzerland.

FYI, bringing a company here does not necessarily mean that you will get a residency permit. Your company generally has to be a serious contributor.

You mention you are a millionaire. But seven figures is generally not enough to interest the authorities*. If you are UHNW, though... have your people call their people to get the ball rolling. Seriously - this visa is for the select few and decisions are made case by case.

You will notice I have used qualifiers like 'generally' a lot - that's because in Switzerland there is a whole lotta YMMV.



*The old joke:

An American walks into a Paradeplatz bank carrying a briefcase. He furtively approaches the teller and whispers:

"I have a million dollars cash in this briefcase, and I'd like to open an account".

The teller, in a normal voice, says:

"Sir, there is no need to whisper. Poverty is no shame in Switzerland."


So... what is your education, what skills do you have that might be scarce in Switzerland, or do you qualify as UHNW?

Have you looked at other European countries? There are schemes in other countries that are easier for an American to access.

And one last comment: I know the grass looks greener in just about every other place on the planet at this moment - but do be aware that in Switzerland all that glisters is not gold. It has it's positives and it's negatives, just like anywhere else, and many Americans struggle to find their feet here due to very different cultural norms. If you do find a way to qualify for residency here, do be aware that one reason it's in better shape than the US right now is exactly those cultural differences. You will have to change.


Also be aware that if you make it here, citizenship is not simply a matter of time. You might never be granted citizenship.



By the way, as you are targeting Geneva, do you speak French? Or German or Italian? If you don't start working on that now. If you do manage to find a way in, competency in the Swiss languages of your area will be needed to maintain your stay here.


---

ETA:

Sorry for the repeated info, many posters type faster than I do...
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Old 20.07.2020, 10:00
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Re: Options/Paths To Permanent Residency and Citizenship for a USA citizen

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If you are rich, you can get permission to live here... Tina Turner did. Also you will be working, just not for a Swiss company.
Tina Turner meets one very important criteria - her income is derived from royalties and investment not economic activity and is sufficient to cover her living expenses for an indefinite period.

If the OP needs to work or manage a company either in Switzerland or anywhere else he will not meet the criteria for such a permit.
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Old 20.07.2020, 10:31
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Re: Options/Paths To Permanent Residency and Citizenship for a USA citizen

Thanks for the response Meloncollie.


I am very well off but no, I would not presently qualify as an ultra high net worth individual. In the passing years from now though that's always a possibility on the distribution of outcomes that I can't predict. That said though, even if that were to happen, a lot of my wealth is from my own doing, not by having these people-call-people thing you are mentioning. I'm just a single person in this world, not a Bill Gates network simply because I have some money. I can't just "call" people if I become wealthier any differently than you could other than doing an internet search for immigration offices. Just saying



As far as education, I received a bachelors in university over 10 years ago but it never amounted to much as I quickly became a professional poker player for the following 7 years or so after graduating. With that said, I probably have few, if any, specialized skills that matter in the traditional work place, though I tend to work quite a bit in general on relatively difficult tasks related to my company as that keeps me happy and occupied.



As I mentioned earlier, I speak 3 languages including French. I went to French private school in my youth and maintained most of what I learned so my accent / understanding and speaking are all, at least in my opinion, quite good though I can be a bit rusty the first few weeks but within a month I'd be more than good to go.


While citizenship is a nice end goal of mine, I'm not quite shooting for the moon quite so soon. If citizenship never were to happen that would be acceptable (though obviously worse). Just getting my foot in the door so that I may reserve an apartment rental in the heart of Geneva for 12-24 months to start with would be my first step for now with legal residency.


I understand the grass is greener comment thing you are saying but I have also lived in many countries over the last 10 years or so and I have a good enough understanding at this point to know what it is I'm saying and getting into. If it is legally possible based on what the immigration agencies I've contacted end up saying or any specialized-knowledge individual on this forum my be able to offer, it's what I'd like to pursue. I'll update this thread with any information I get from them in case anyone is curious and continue to chat here since it's been a good time so far meeting everyone.
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Old 20.07.2020, 10:42
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Re: Options/Paths To Permanent Residency and Citizenship for a USA citizen

If I were an American and wished to work in Switzerland, I might:
a. Determine whether I was eligible for a Swiss or EU passport through heritage, which would allow me to work in Switzerland.
- Some of the common citizenship by heritage schemes are: Irish, Italian, Polish, Slovak, Slovene, Maltese, and possibly others.
b. Look for an employer who would sponsor me as a US citizen only.

If I were an American and wished to work somewhere in Europe, I would review these possibilities:
a. Dutch-American Friendship Treaty (DAFT): This treaty allows Americans to set up their own businesses in the Netherlands and obtain a work permit.
b. Germany: Americans and several other non-EU nationalities can relocate to Germany and register with the authorities after arrival, i.e., you could look for a job/ set up your own business after arrival.
c. Austrian Red-White-Red Card: This programme allows non-EU citizens to obtain work permits in Austria. It is intended for highly qualified individuals. Americans are number two or three in usage of this programme.

A few EU countries sell citizenship, e.g., Malta. There's also the possibility of joining the French Foreign Legion and obtaining French citizenship after three years. That might be exciting.

More information on the above programmes can be found on the internet.
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Old 20.07.2020, 13:31
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Re: Options/Paths To Permanent Residency and Citizenship for a USA citizen

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Beware, Switzerland tax’s wealth.
It is very low, so why beware?

Property tax in the US is far worse.

Tom
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Old 20.07.2020, 14:20
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Re: Options/Paths To Permanent Residency and Citizenship for a USA citizen

Some more info for you. To get a job here this is what any potential employer must do

https://www.sem.admin.ch/sem/en/home...zulassung.html

Also there are requirements for you in there as well. If these can't be met then you wouldn't get a permit via employment.

Owning a company here doesn't grant residency rights so that won't really help you either.

Nor will being a millionaire particularly. If you don't want to work then it is possible to get a permit if you have sufficient funds to support yourself for the rest of your life without working. How much is enough only the canton in question could tell you. So that would rule out running your company here or in the States since that permit doesn't allow employment.

Other things to consider relate to being American. Firstly, getting a basic account here isn't easy since your choices are pretty much restricted to UBS, Credit Suisse and PostFinance. Maybe if you're wealthy enough a few more might consider you, but Americans in general are persons non gratis as far as banks here are concerned. You can blame the US's FATCA law for that. It also means that getting anything like an investment account or a mortgage may be impossible. To open an account here you'll need to agree that the bank can send the account details on to the IRS. Otherwise no bank account for you.

Related to the above, you need to realise that as an American citizen you're obliged to continue filing US tax returns no matter where you live in the world and could owe the US tax on top of any Swiss ones. You will also need to file FBAR's each year detailing your foreign, i.e. outside of the US, accounts if the aggregate total comes to more than $10,000 at any time of the year.

The only way to avoid this is to give up your American citizenship. To manage that you'd need to have another one: Swiss/EU because it's not a good idea to be stateless.

Also note that the above re banks passing info to the IRS applies worldwide; it's not just a Swiss thing. If you want to open an account anywhere outside of the US you're going to have to agree on your details being passed on.

To clarify the permits for you:

Permits are granted for residency. Whether they also allow employment as well depends on the reason they were granted. Unless you're a Swiss citizen you must have a permit to reside here.

An L permit is granted for less than a year.

A B permit is for more than a year.

C permit: This is a requirement to be able to apply for Swiss citizenship.

Years spent here on an L permit do not count towards citizenship as far as the residency requirement goes. For non-EU nationals you need to be living here for 10 years before you can apply for a C permit, although there is an option to apply after 5 years if you meet the requirements.

Citizenship: C permit required and must be well integrated into Swiss life. Here's the French page re the requirements since the new laws came in on 1st January 2018.

https://www.sem.admin.ch/sem/fr/home...uergerung.html

Those are the Federal requirements. Cantons and communes also have their own requirements such as how long you have to have resided in said canton/commune, etc.

Bear in mind that it's not a quick procedure, sometimes it can take years before citizenship is granted.
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Old 20.07.2020, 15:29
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Re: Options/Paths To Permanent Residency and Citizenship for a USA citizen

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Just getting my foot in the door so that I may reserve an apartment rental in the heart of Geneva for 12-24 months to start with would be my first step for now with legal residency.
You can rent anytime and for as long as your heart desires, but lacking a residence permit your usage will be limited.

WRT getting a foot in the door, you may be interested in buying citizenship in one of the following countries:
- Austria requires €10mln investment or €2mln payment into a charitable foundation
- Malta, €0.5mln investment plus €0.65mln into a government fund
- Cyprus, €2mln investment during up to 3 years

Each of these citizenships gives right to residence in all EU countries, also in Switzerland subject to certain conditions that are probably trivial for you to meet.
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Old 20.07.2020, 16:37
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Re: Options/Paths To Permanent Residency and Citizenship for a USA citizen

OfftoGeneve, what you have to realise that at present Switzerland has enacted strict limitations to immigration in response to public opinion. Many Swiss (and I'd say most in my part of the country) firmly feel that the boat is full, punkt fertig. Do not underestimate the anti-immigration views commonly held at present. Immigration is a political hot potato... just as it is in the US and many other countries.

Because of the FMOP, immigration from the EU cannot be restricted. Therefore to control the numbers as the Swiss voters have said they want, non-EU immigration bears the brunt of those restrictions.

In short, as a non-EU you are at the back of the line. Wanting to be here isn't enough. Being able to support yourself isn't enough. Contributing to the economy isn't enough. Those things are simply the starting line. No - Switzerland has to need you, as a non-EU you have to be able to offer something of significant value that cannot be found elsewhere.

My own uneducated guess is that this won't change anytime soon, in fact it will likely get even tougher given the the impact of the pandemic/world recession on the Swiss economy.

---

That's not to crush your dream, but rather to inject a dose of reality.

And speaking of reality, at the levels of income you imply you do need to understand the impact of US taxes when resident overseas and in Switzerland.

You are likely in the bracket where you could feel the sting. Even with all the bits and bobs the IRS allows for overseas taxpayers, combining what we owe to the US and to Switzerland, we pay more tax as overseas residents than we would had we remained Stateside.

You will pay US tax (assuming a high income) or have filing obligations (assuming a lower income) for as long as you have US citizenship. Should you gain a foothold here, it will still be 10 years minimum before you can apply for Swiss citizenship - as Medea says you can't renounce until you have a second citizenship.

And as mentioned in my earlier post, citizenship is by no means a given. Even when you are a good tax payer, economic contributor, speak the language, and are by most lights well integrated, you still might not be judged fit. So you have to plan for the economic impact of the dual tax systems for quite some time yet.

If your goal is to get outta Dodge quickly, do look at the schemes Mullhollander and Urs Max mentions upthread. Other EU countries might be a better bet.


All the best.
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Old 21.07.2020, 00:34
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Re: Options/Paths To Permanent Residency and Citizenship for a USA citizen

Re: Madea. I have many international bank accounts, all of which I believe are FATCA compliant, I am well accustomed to this rule at this point. This to me, while annoying, has never been a real issue since I don't tax dodge.



It was interesting to see how certain permits apply differently, so thanks for shedding light there!


As urs pointed out, there are those investment options but I've had cold feet about wanting to take such backhanded routes. Perhaps if I'm cornered I would do such a thing.


... And thanks again for the very informative stuff Meloncollie. You have really insightful stuff here to say. I never really understood that EU/non-EU standpoint until now.


I do keep hearing about taxes, this is not an issue for me. I've lived abroad for about 6 years and I paid taxes to the United States each of those 6 years. I'm well accustomed to the process and this is a non-issue for me. Honestly, if I could pay those taxes to a better country, like Switzerland, I would be a happier person knowing the money is being utilized substantially better and more efficiently but it all is what it is.



If the reality is I can't live in Switzerland then I guess that will be that, I won't break the law obviously. I have contacted a few immigration agencies at the suggestion from this thread via an internet search and also received one additional Swiss immigration contact from a family member. I'll see if they have any solutions or not.


Unfortunately for me, whatever country is #2 for me to settle down in is in my mind so much worse than Switzerland that I couldn't tell you what that country even is yet, but I'll figure that out the day it's determined that immigration is not possible here first.
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Old 21.07.2020, 07:49
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Re: Options/Paths To Permanent Residency and Citizenship for a USA citizen

Another point which you may not know is that you could get what we call here on the forum "nosy neighbours". While most neighbours are usually friendly and welcoming some will happily report you to the commune/police if they think you're breaking the rules. You may not want this sort of scrutiny. An example for you.

We had a satellite dish put up, nothing unusual about that you say. But a little while later when I was talking with someone in our commune admin office they asked what size the dish was because they'd been told it was too big - yes there are regulations about how big a dish you can put up in many places here. I was able to tell him the size and it was fine so didn't go any further. No idea who reported it, but someone did.
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Old 21.07.2020, 08:52
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Re: Options/Paths To Permanent Residency and Citizenship for a USA citizen

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Another point which you may not know is that you could get what we call here on the forum "nosy neighbours". While most neighbours are usually friendly and welcoming some will happily report you to the commune/police if they think you're breaking the rules. You may not want this sort of scrutiny. An example for you.

We had a satellite dish put up, nothing unusual about that you say. But a little while later when I was talking with someone in our commune admin office they asked what size the dish was because they'd been told it was too big - yes there are regulations about how big a dish you can put up in many places here. I was able to tell him the size and it was fine so didn't go any further. No idea who reported it, but someone did.

I have spent more hours than I care to admit learning about Swiss customs and cultures. Of course nothing really beats living in the area to truly understand everything (I have been to Switzerland twice but both times were rather brief).


That said, my overall take as an outsider on the situation has been that there are a lot of situations where the Swiss are very strict or very lenient in various situations. And by and large, I have a lot of respect for the things where strict measures tend to be in place since they tend to be for the good of society rather than useless bureaucratic/fascist policies I see elsewhere. And the lenient measures I see tend to go along with my free market ideologies. Of course, I'm always speaking in large generalizations. I doubt it's a perfect fit for nearly anyone, the point will always be that it's a better fit than other solutions.



I can get why that dish thing is annoying. But that type of thing can happen anywhere, including the states, but maybe it happens more in Switzerland, I don't know. But as a relatively quiet, non-drinker non-party-er and studious/hard-working individual, I don't think there's much in the way for people to complain about me if I were there. I plan on moving into an upscale apartment complex in the middle of the city if it becomes legally possible and minding my own business. I've never had issues in the past and if anyone were to actually say something negative directly to me (as I've heard can happen in Switzerland as this can be culturally acceptable), I'd probably more often than not give them the benefit of the doubt for something I may be obliviously doing wrong and try to correct myself. Who knows. Nobody is perfect.
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Old 21.07.2020, 20:55
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Re: Options/Paths To Permanent Residency and Citizenship for a USA citizen

OfftoGeneve,

While perhaps a long shot, have you considered exploring canton Zug?

Zug is (in)famously (and anecdotally and arguably) stereotyped as wealthy foreigner friendly.

Have a gander around the Zug cantonal website, even if only just for fun:
https://www.zg.ch/international/english

Just tossing that out there.

All the best.
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  #20  
Old 29.07.2020, 21:46
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Re: Options/Paths To Permanent Residency and Citizenship for a USA citizen

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OfftoGeneve,

While perhaps a long shot, have you considered exploring canton Zug?

Zug is (in)famously (and anecdotally and arguably) stereotyped as wealthy foreigner friendly.

Have a gander around the Zug cantonal website, even if only just for fun:
https://www.zg.ch/international/english

Just tossing that out there.

All the best.

That's a very nice suggestion Meloncollie, however really for me I am trying to restrict myself just to the French areas because I know that language rather well. I wouldn't mind learning a fourth language one day, like German, but I'd probably rather do that if I'm already living there and its an easier side quest at that point rather than a must do from the get go.


I have been having conversations with two immigration firms (one never responded). The more serious firm has said that they work on a fixed fee with no guarantee of success. I asked a follow up question if I apply to more Cantons if that changes the chance of success, which I have yet to hear an answer on. Presumably based on what you said and what I've read the answer is yes. I'm not sure if that changes their pricing model though.



Geneva has been and continues to be my favorite of the bunch. But if it increases my chances of entry to apply to other Cantons I'd also be looking at living in Lausanne, Sion or maybe even Fribourg. If local jursisdictions matter within the state of Geneva, I could see Lancy/Vernier. Basically any reasonable sized town.


The crazy cool thing I've noticed with Switzerland is that even the smaller towns with 30,000 people still have a lot of character and charm. This ultimately doesn't surprise me taking a step back because Switzerland is just such a good country filled with such good people. It's still shocking to me though because if you have towns like this in the USA they are often the most worthless things ever in my experiences with nothing but unhealthy chain restaurants and no personality. So while I'd dread living in smaller towns in the United States, in Switzerland it seems quite doable for me if that were to make the immigration process possible.
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