Switzerland mulls imposing new immigrant tax: What you need to know

Switzerland mulls imposing new immigrant tax: What you need to know

A new report from the Tages-Anzeiger has suggested that the government is considering implementing a new tax on immigrants to Switzerland. The move by the Federal Council is a response to the No 10 million Switzerland! referendum proposed by the Swiss People’s Party (SVP), which is now set to be voted on.

Swiss Federal Council proposed tax on third-country arrivals

According to the newspaper, authorities in Switzerland are considering implementing an immigration tax on new arrivals to the alpine nation. Justice Minister Beat Jans (SP) is said to be drafting the idea, with the plan due to be submitted by the spring of 2025.

If approved, the special immigration tax would be applied to those from so-called “third countries” applying for residence permits - meaning citizens from nations outside of the EU and EEA. While the exact nature of the charge is yet to be disclosed, similar proposals in the past have called for the tax to be a one-off fee of half a year’s salary, to be paid by employers of the new resident, or an annual recurring fee of between 5.000 and 30.000 francs.

The idea of an immigration tax is not new: it was first proposed after Swiss citizens narrowly voted in favour of the “Against Mass Immigration” initiative in 2014. At the time, economists brought the idea forward as a way of achieving the goals of the referendum - which called for quotas on the number of residence permits issued, including to citizens of the EU - without imposing strict limits on new arrivals.

Why is an immigration tax being proposed in Switzerland now?

Current proposals for an immigrant tax follow the news that the SVP’s “No 10 million Switzerland!” or Sustainability Initiative now has enough signatures to be voted on. This plan would force the government to take measures to cut migration if the population reaches 9,5 million before 2050. This would likely spell the end of the free movement of people agreement with the EU, and therefore likely Switzerland’s access to the EU single market, the country’s largest trading partner.

While the Federal Council has vehemently rejected the Sustainability Initiative, it said it would take “accompanying measures” to placate the proposal’s supporters. One of these is said to be the immigrant tax. The argument for the charge is that it would restrict new arrivals to filling the jobs in the highest demand and would allow the country to spend the immigration tax on supporting public services and pensions, and subsidising housing.

Expat tax rejected by employers and employee associations

However, it is already clear that both employers and employees reject the idea outright. Speaking to the Tages-Anzeiger, business umbrella organisation Economiesuisse's chief economist Rudolf Minsch said that "Switzerland is dependent on researchers and specialists from outside the EU in order to be able to continue to carry out such high-quality research and development." 

"We are very sceptical," added Swiss Employers’ Association spokesperson Stefan Heini, noting that third-country nationals are already subject to extremely strict quotas. "Additionally restricting this immigration is not very effective, especially since it accounts for a small proportion of immigration in terms of quantity," he noted, adding that the change would likely make Switzerland’s chronic worker shortage worse.

“It is precisely qualified immigrants who are employed in the Swiss labour market who bring great benefits to the Swiss economy," argued Minsch, adding that expats already pay more into the Swiss state than they receive in benefits. Concerns have also been raised as to how the tax would impact ongoing negotiations with the European Union.

Parliament divided over plans for migration tax

The idea has also not won many over in parliament, with SP co-president Cédric Wermuth noting that “punishing the people who come and help us replace missing skilled workers seems very unfair to me." The Green, Green Liberal and Centre parties have also voiced opposition, with Centre party president Gerhard Pfister calling the idea “half baked…I cannot see any strategy as to how the Federal Council intends to effectively combat the SVP's popular initiative.”

Finally, the SVP said that it was not satisfied with an immigrant tax either. SVP parliamentary group leader Thomas Aeschi said that the country needed to restrict arrivals from the European Union too and that only the Sustainability Initiative could cut migration in the long term.

Thumb image credit: Roman Babakin /

Jan de Boer


Jan de Boer

Editor for Switzerland at IamExpat Media. Jan studied History at the University of York and Broadcast Journalism at the University of Sheffield. Though born in York, Jan has lived most...

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