Complete guide on starting a business in Switzerland in 2022.
Top talent, attractive taxes and other unique features make Switzerland a company’s paradise. All you need to do is found it — we show you how.
On this page, you’ll learn all you need to know about starting a business in Switzerland, whether you’re a local or a foreigner. We’ll present a simple shortcut before breaking down the process into six easy steps.
Want to set up your business in the Basel Area?
A short overview of legal forms in Switzerland.
With over 300,000 sole proprietorships, this is Switzerland’s most common form of company. Thanks to its simple requirements and no minimum capital requirement, it’s a start to self-employment for many craftsmen, doctors, lawyers and so on.
The company doesn’t exist as a legal entity in a sole proprietorship. The sole proprietor has unlimited liability and pays taxes as a private person.
Like the sole proprietorship, the general partnership is easy to start and has no capital requirements.
Under a general partnership, more than one person is part of the company, but it’s still not a legal entity. Each partner pays taxes as a private individual based on their profit share and has unlimited liability.
46,842 companies new to the commercial register in 2020
Limited liability company (SARL or GmbH).
Limited liability companies are a mix of stock company and partnership. They require startup capital of CHF 20,000 and an entry into the Swiss commercial register.
The LLC is a separate legal entity with public shareholders, of which at least one needs to be director and a Swiss resident.
Stock corporation (SA or AG).
Mid- to large-sized companies most often choose to register as a stock corporation. It comes with a CHF 100,000 capital requirement but offers a myriad of benefits, from limiting liability to anonymity for shareholders and high credibility.
Like the limited liability company, the stock corporation requires a Swiss resident director.
Foreign companies can take a lean approach to doing business in Switzerland. A branch office is legally affiliated with the parent company but commercially independent.
There is no capital requirement for establishing a branch office, but it needs to be registered in the Swiss commercial register and have at least one Swiss resident on the management board.
Foreign companies usually choose to register in Switzerland as a limited liability company, a stock corporation or a branch office. On this page, we’ll focus on these legal forms.
Three central questions about starting a business in Switzerland.
Can foreigners start a business in Switzerland?
Citizens of EU/EFTA member states only have to apply for a residence permit and proof that they can support themselves and their families with their business. Companies from foreign states can appoint a legal representative with single-signature authority and Swiss residency to act on their behalf and establish the enterprise in Switzerland.
How much does it cost to start a business in Switzerland?
Startup cost is directly tied to the legal structure of your company. If you start a limited liability company, you need CHF 20,000 in capital and for a stock corporation, at least CHF 100,000 in capital plus CHF 3,500 to 5,000 for various registration fees.
How long does it take to set up a business in Switzerland?
The formation of a company in Switzerland typically takes two to four weeks from submitting the required documents to the date when the company is considered legally established. In urgent cases, a company can be established sooner.
A shortcut to starting your business in Switzerland.
Every canton has its dedicated agency that’ll help you build bridges with local authorities, experts, organizations and partners. Once you’ve selected where you want to start your business, get in touch with the local investment promotion agency.
If you want to set up in the Basel Area, Europe’s innovation hub of the future, we’ll help you:
- Set up the right legal structure: Whether your company will need to be registered as a stock corporation (AG), limited liability company (GmbH), branch office, limited partnership (LLP) or another type of entity, we’ll help you locate the experts to help you register your company.
- Plan for financial considerations: From gathering information about tax breaks to finding an accounting firm, we can help you get off on the right track.
- Apply for permits: If you need a work permit or residence permit, we can help you find the information you need to stay compliant.
- Finding the right talents: We will give information on how to find talents in Switzerland. If you need local staff, we will introduce local recruiters and staffing companies to you.
- Research real estate permits: From renting to purchasing real estate, we’ll help you navigate the process of finding experts and resources to meet your needs. Learn more about renting a lab in Switzerland.
- Partner for business operations: If you have manufacturing, shipping, development or other logistical needs, we can help you locate the right partners to make your business thrive.
Doing business in Switzerland
The Basel Area is Switzerland’s most innovative economic region, with the ideal mix of hard and soft location factors for global, European and Swiss headquarters.
Commercial real estate
You’ll find a wide choice of real estate options in the Basel Area – from large development plots to production and warehousing facilities, right through to office space, technology/innovation parks and co-working spaces, as well as units suitable for light industrial and laboratory purposes.
Sitting on the borders with France and Germany will make it easy for your business to attract talent from all three countries as well as across Europe.
Once you’re settled in, you’ll find it easy to grow your network and expand your business connections through the many events we offer. Our unique event platform promotes regular exchanges of experiences and knowledge across firms and disciplines in the Basel Area.
Talk to us
”We’re the go-to agency for every question or request about launching in or relocating to the Basel Area. Either we know the answer, or we know the people who do. We help you solve questions about real estate but also about hiring or collaboration opportunities with universities.Fabio MarelliManager Business Affairs at Basel Area Business & Innovation
Six steps to start your business in Switzerland (LLC, stock corporation and branch office)
Step 1: Choose the right business structure for your company.
In Switzerland, a business operated for profit must be registered in a recognized legal form.
Although there are no particular restrictions on the legal form of foreign-owned companies, they usually select one of the following: a limited liability company (GmbH), a stock corporation (AG) or a branch office.
Limited Liability Company (GmbH)
Stock Corporation (AG)
|Formal requirement||Notary public certificate, entry in commercial registry||Notary public certificate, entry in commercial registry||Entry in commercial registry|
|Purpose||Commercial purpose or non-profit||Commercial purpose or non-profit||Commercial purpose or non- profit (legally affiliated with parent company, commercially independent)|
|Founder(s)||At least 1 individual person or legal entity||At least 1 individual person or legal entity||Parent company|
|Institution||Annual general meeting, executive director, statutory auditor||Annual general meeting, board of directors, statutory auditor||Authorized agent, permanent resident of Switzerland|
|Liability||Company assets||Company assets||Joint liability of parent company|
|Minimum capital requirement||CHF 20,000 (fully paid in)||CHF 100,000 (min. CHF 50,000 paid in)||No minimum capital requirement|
|Advantages||Limited liability and low minimum capital requirement||Limited liability and anonymity||Controlled by parent company and no minimum capital requirement|
Step 2: Deposit the capital in a bank.
For a limited liability company, you need to deposit CHF 20,000 in your new company’s Swiss bank account. For a stock corporation, it’s CHF 100,000. You can only register your company if you have deposited the money. If you want to establish a branch office, a capital deposit isn’t necessary.
Step 3: Public notarization (LLC and stock corporation only).
The formation requires public notarization. It’s best to get in touch with a notary to ensure you have taken all the necessary steps until here.
These steps include:
- 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.
Your notary will forward the documents to the commercial register. As soon as your company shows up in the registry search, you can start operating.
Step 4: Register your company in the commercial register.
To register a company in Switzerland, you need to appoint someone with a Swiss domicile single signature authorization. Some law firms offer this as a service to make it easier for you to register your company and then hire locally.
The commercial register is a public database managed by the cantons, containing information on companies in Switzerland.
It’s a public record of:
- Sole proprietorships with an annual turnover of more than CHF 100,000
- General partnerships
- Limited partnerships
- Limited companies
- Limited partnerships with share capital
- Limited liability companies
- Associations running a commercially managed business
- Foundations (apart from family and religious foundations)
- Branches of foreign and Swiss companies
Send the necessary documents to register your company to the commercial register. You can do this either with your local notary or lawyer, or get started yourself on EasyGov.
Step 5: Take out insurance.
There are various business insurances that can be broken down into two types: social security schemes and company insurance.
Social security schemes are mandatory. They protect all employees in case of illness, accident or unemployment and also fund the Swiss pension system.
Company insurance comes in many ways and is optional. You choose what risks you want to cover.
Here’s an overview of the mandatory and optional insurancess available to companies in Switzerland.
Step 6: Get started!
Establish a local presence by renting or buying commercial real estate. Generally, no permit is required for commercial real estate (except for the construction, trade or letting of housing). However, building permits are required to erect or alter structures, and compliance with local zoning and environmental/health laws is mandatory.
Hire local and international talent from a strong local talent pool. Switzerland ranks #1 on the Global Talent Competitiveness Index (GTCI) and is well known for its productive workforce. Working in Switzerland is desirable enough to attract top talent from all over the world.
Get connected with your local scene. Attend events, conferences and tradeshows to build your network. Many things in the Swiss business world are easier when you know the right people and can rely on your connections.
Additional tip: Register for VAT.
This is often overlooked. Businesses with an annual turnover of more than CHF 100,000 must pay value-added tax (VAT).
This doesn’t happen automatically. It’s on you to register your business on the Federal Tax Administration’s website if you’re obliged to pay VAT.
”"We all feel very comfortable when we come here, you have a beautiful relaxing river that runs through the city, and that's how it felt for our organization as we set up here. At every moment, we felt very comfortable and like we were flowing with a stream of things to get our organization going, and it's been a pleasure, delight, and refreshing."John V. OylerCo-Founder, Chairman and CEO of BeiGene
As the region’s innovation promotion agency, Basel Area Business & Innovation offers consultation and connections to help companies, entrepreneurs, and startups launch and grow innovative ventures. The DayOne Accelerator, as an example, has expanded its offerings and is supporting startups and companies that specialize in the fields of digital health prevention, diagnostics and treatment, no matter where they are located.
Furthermore, we provide introductions and help you build your network, we host events and workshops, and we help you get access to resources from funding to mentoring, accelerator programs, and collaborative workspaces.