| Setting up your business

Six steps to set up your business

The Swiss Constitution gives everyone –including foreign nationals–the right to form a company, operate a business or hold an interest in one. Your economic freedom is guaranteed. Here are six simple steps to set up your business in the Basel Area.

1. Understand the requirements

The first step is review the legal and fiduciary implications of setting up business in the Basel Area. For information about founding or relocating a company in Switzerland you can find the resources you need through Basel Area Business & Innovation, including guides for relocating, finding office space and connecting with legal and human resources experts.

2. Create a legal structure

When establishing a business in Switzerland, you have to organize your company using of one of several officially recognized legal structures.

There are no particular restrictions on foreign owned companies in Switzerland. The most common choices for a foreign company located in Switzerland are subsidiaries, in the form of a stock corporation (AG) or limited liability company (GmbH), and branch offices. The newly created limited partnership (LLP, or KkK in German) for collective investment is also an attractive option for risk capital.

Read more in the Handbook for Investors

3. File legal paperwork

The formation of a company in Switzerland typically takes two to four weeks from the submission of required documents to the date when the company is considered legally established (when it has legal effect with respect to third parties). In some cases it can be less, and for example, the complete foundation of sole proprietorships, general partnerships, and general or limited partnerships can be carried out online using EasyGov.

Filing paperwork for a capital company (GmbH or AG) involves:

  • Have legal documents drawn up by a fiduciary or lawyer
  • Deposit capital in a Swiss-based bank
  • Review and sign documents and have signatures authenticated by a notary public
  • Return foundation documents and confirmation of capital deposit to the commercial registry
  • Company is founded and registered in the commercial registry

Read more in the Handbook for Investors

4. Plan for financial considerations

Setting up a company in the Basel Area may require the services of an attorney or fiduciary if the company will be incorporated as a new entity in Switzerland. The costs are dependent on the legal structure and company size, and may range from a few hundred Swiss francs for a limited partnership or sole proprietorship to several thousand for a public company/corporation (AG).

Keep in mind Swiss accounting rules may require you to file an annual income statement (profit and loss account) using generally accepted accounting principles (such as US GAAP, IFRS, or Swiss GAAP FER), and have an annual audit completed by licensed fiduciaries or auditing companies.

5. Get the right permits

Clarify if you need any permits to perform your business activities. In addition to residential or work permits, you also need to consider potential occupational permits for regulated occupations. Bilateral agreements between Switzerland and the EU mean that EU27 and EFTA citizens have the same rights as Swiss workers in the labor market.

Residence and work permits for foreign nationals from non-EU and non-EFTA countries are allocated according to set quota: Permits are generally restricted to highly qualified and specialized professionals, executives, scientists and renowned specialists from the cultural and creative industries (provided that certain conditions are met). More information

6. Establish an address

It is possible to rent space once the company has been registered. Basel Area Business & Innovation can help companies settling in the area with the search for your new location. You may also purchase commercial real estate in Switzerland even if you’re residing in another country. Generally, no permit is required for real estate that is used for the pursuit of a business activity, (except for the construction, trade, or letting of housing).

However, a permit may be required for purchase of non-commercial real estate if you are a foreign national residing outside of Switzerland, have a head office outside of Switzerland or don’t have a permanent residence permit. Building permits are required to erect or alter structures, and compliance with local zoning and environmental/health laws is required.

Find out what the Basel Area has to offer.

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