How to open a company in Switzerland

  • By Matthijs von Piekartz
  • Wednesday, April 24, 2019

When choosing a country to open a company in, there are many relevant factors to consider. What kind of company are you trying to open or expand? Does the country suit your requirements, will your company be successful in the target country? When you have considered all the pros and cons and made the decision to open a company in Switzerland, there is a lot of information to keep in mind. To help you along we have written this blog, which will guide and inform you during the process of opening a company.

How to open a company in Switzerland

  • Step 1: Create a business plan, name and choose an area to open your company in;
  • Step 2: Find office spaces, business aspects and relevant taxes for your business;
  • Step 3: Obtain the relevant permits and visas from the Swiss government;
  • Step 4: Submit a trade registration;
  • Step 5: Consider learning German and about the cultural aspects of life in Switzerland;
  • Step 6: Create a checklist to make sure you have covered everything.

Switzerland is famous for its natural beauty, stunning landscapes, high-quality products and excellent financial services. With around 8.4 million inhabitants, Switzerland is not one of the biggest countries in Europe when it comes to population size, but that does not diminish its importance as one of the world's most advanced free market economies.

Working in SwitzerlandWith four different national languages, Switzerland is a very diverse country.

The economy of Switzerland ranks first in the world when it comes to innovation and competitiveness according to the 2015 Global Innovation Index and the 2017 Global Competitiveness Report. Aside from that, the country has one of the highest GDP per capita in the world. Settling your company in this innovative and internationally competitive market is a direct advantage. Also because it allows you to find better clients and gain access to a labour market with a highly-skilled workforce.

The economy of Switzerland ranks first in the world when it comes to innovation and competitiveness

When opening a company in Switzerland, you have several legal forms to choose from. The first legal form is Sole Enterprise, there is no required amount of capital required for this legal form and the liability, in this case, is personal. The second legal form is the limited liability company (GmbH), this requires you to have a minimum amount of capital of 20,000 CHF. It is important to note that this is one of the most common legal forms used by companies in Switzerland and that the liability is limited. One advantage of this legal form is that your personal assets are not at risk in case of bankruptcy.

The third common legal form is limited (AG), which includes a two-tiered board and at least one shareholder. The liability for this legal form is also limited and this form has a capital requirement of at least 100,000 CHF, with a minimum of 50,000 paid up. Finally, there is the limited partnership legal form. This includes personal liability, no capital requirements and at least two people in the partnership. It is difficult to say which legal form is the best, while GmbH is the most popular legal form, it entirely depends on which one suits your company the best.

Opening your company in Switzerland

After considering all the options You might be determined to open a company in Switzerland. Upon making the initial decision, there are many different guides and website available that can help you on your journey. Did you already decide on which city you would like to settle your company in? Switzerland has a large variety of towns and cities which are suitable options for you to open a company in.

Did you already decide on which city you would like to settle your company in?

Due to the good infrastructure available throughout most parts of the country, facilities such as high-speed internet connections and good accessibility are almost always available. It is important to know whether or not you are able to get all the relevant permits and visas. Luckily, the Swiss government has made this website available which will help you answer your questions regarding required visas and permits.

Furthermore, it could be good to keep a checklist of all the things you still need to take care of before being able to open a company in Switzerland. Things in this checklist could include finding a notary for the required legal documents, drafting articles of association, opening a bank account and submitting a trade registration.

Modern Swiss Company

A Swiss office space using an industrial interior design.

Moreover, finding a tax advisor to help you with the Swiss tax system and getting insurances for your company could also hold a place on this checklist. A cooperation of Swiss governmental bodies have created a checklist, which could form the base of your own checklist, you can find the checklist here.

Life in Switzerland

Now that we have covered the geographic, financial and legal aspects of opening a company in Switzerland, we will now have a look at the cultural aspects. Seeing as opening a company in Switzerland means that you will also have to live there or at least will often be present there, it is important to inform yourself as to what life in Switzerland is like.

Geert Hofstede is a Dutch social psychologist at Maastricht University in the Netherlands, well known for his pioneering research on cross-cultural groups and organizations. According to Hofstede, Swiss people are mostly focused on long-term goals, value individualism and have a relatively low power-distance within organisations.

Work environment Switzerland

An office space should offer a comfortable working environment which will help you think clearly.

Switzerland is placed right in the middle of Europe, the impressive landscapes and mountain ranges are internationally famous and attract visitors from all over the world. There is no shortage of natural splendour in Switzerland and perhaps that is one of the reasons why, according to the United Nations, Switzerland has the 5th happiest population in the world.

Switzerland has the 5th happiest population in the world.

Aside from that, Swiss cities are well connected and often have great historic value as, unlike most of its neighbours, Switzerland did not have any wars for nearly 180 years. Because of that, the local historic buildings were not damaged by any of the World Wars either and thus many buildings remained in great condition.

Finding places to settle your company

Zürich is the biggest city in the country. With over 400,000 inhabitants, Zürich is a good option to settle your company in. Opening a company in Zürich means you are located in one of the most central and well accessible locations in the country.

Because the city has such a large population, this means that it is easier to find suitable employees as a larger labour market comes with more potential candidates for your vacancies. Aside from being an important centre in the country, Zürich also holds many international companies, big multinational companies like Nestlé, Glencore and Vitol are located here.

work spaces in Switzerland

Office spaces in Switzerland can also contain concentration areas, allowing you to focus at all times.

One of the most popular areas in Zürich is the ’Enge’ district, this district holds a large variety of available office spaces. The lively district of Zürich Enge is located southwest of the city centre and borders on the beautiful Lake Zürich, which is much more than just a place to relax. The lake is of great economic importance for the city. Around 40% of the drinking water demand is covered here by nine waterworks.

This area is the perfect location if you want to place your company in the heart of the city in a prestigious business district. With 27,000 jobs, the district is home to many national and international companies, so renting an office in this exclusive location will surely enhance your company's reputation.

This area is the perfect location if you want to place your company in the heart of the city in a prestigious business district

There are a lot of different office styles available in Zürich, which means that finding the right property could be difficult. Finding the right office space is important as this forms the very heart of your company. Having a location with good accessibility and layout can have a big impact on the effectiveness of your organisation. If you are interested in being close to an international airport, Zürich Flughafen is the right location for you. If a central location is of importance to you, the Zürich Mitte district is definitely a good option. Moreover, there are many excellent office spaces available in the Zürich Riesbach area.

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Still wondering whether Switzerland is the right country for you?

Maybe you are not sure whether Switzerland is the right country for you? Perhaps you are still considering other options? Because many countries in Europe do not share a hard border, shifting your focus on other nearby countries is entirely possible. You could also have a look at our other articles in the series of "how to open a company":

If you have any questions, we are happy to help you! Feel free to contact us on +31 85 888 2339 by phone or at via email. When contacting us through either of these channels we will try to help you right away. If we are unable to respond immediately, we will get back to you within one business day. We hope this article gave you the most important information on how to open a company in Switzerland.

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