Jet set residents: How the super-rich can buy a Swiss residence permit
For expats, it’s not uncommon to claim a B-residence permit in Switzerland to live and work in the country long-term. It is not usually a feasible option for non-EU / EFTA nationals who have not been a resident for very long or have fewer qualifications, but some Swiss cantons are offering B-permits” to the super-rich of Russia, Turkey, China and the Middle East, in exchange paying the maximum amount of taxes.
Switzerland’s B residence permit
For most residents in Switzerland, obtaining a B-permit is straightforward if you are an EU / EFTA citizen who has been working in Switzerland for at least 12 months, or are a non EU / EFTA national and have strong qualifications and knowledge of a Swiss language. But according to a survey by the RTS public broadcaster, there is another option: wealthy non-EEA citizens who don't fit the criteria or haven't lived in Switzerland for very long are able to obtain the same B-permit status by negotiating an annual tax package. The amount that applicants are required to pay differs between each canton, but can cost up to 415.000 Swiss francs a year until they fulfil the residency requirements.
RTS’s survey has found that the demand for such permits from non-EEA nationals has increased during the coronavirus pandemic, as wealthy internationals have sought the stability of Switzerland's government, financial institutions and top healthcare system. “Switzerland is the Rolls-Royce of destinations. These rich foreigners want a country that has good health infrastructure,” said Enzo Caputo, a lawyer based in Zurich who specialises in permits and tax packages.
How much is a Swiss residence permit worth?
One of the great advantages of having a B-permit is that it allows third-country residents to travel freely through the Schengen Area - but it does come with a hefty price tag. Of the French-speaking cantons surveyed by RTS, Jura has the lowest tax rates for applicants. If they pay 146.816 Swiss francs a year, third-party nationals can apply for a B-permit in the canton without fulfilling the residence criteria, while Vaud is one of the most expensive - costing applicants 415.000 Swiss francs in taxes annually.
Canton Geneva has so far offered the most B-permits to wealthy internationals, totalling 58 residents, while both Vaud and Valais come just behind with 24 and 16, respectively. The beneficiaries of the scheme are mostly wealthy Russian, Turkish, Chinese, Ukrainian and Middle Eastern nationals.