Contracting in Switzerland


Switzerland is a country in Central Europe.  It is composed of twenty six cantons.  It is landlocked and is bordered by Italy, France, Germany, Austria and Liechtenstein.

Since its military successes in the medieval period and its independence from Rome, Switzerland has adopted a policy of armed neutrality and has not taken any part in an international war since 1815, hence its international reputation, which has led to the common phrase ‘I’m Switzerland’, meaning you will not get involved.  It does however have an active foreign policy which is geared towards peace.

In line with its pursuit of global peace and equality Switzerland is the birthplace of the Red Cross the world’s oldest and best known humanitarian organisation.  It is also a member of numerous organisations such as the United Nations which has its office in Geneva.  As well as being a founding member of the European Free Trade Association.  It is not a part of the European Union, but participates in the Schengen Area and the European Single Market through bilateral agreements.

Switzerland is considered one of the most developed countries in the world.  It always ranks high in economic competitiveness and human development.  Its cities are amongst the highest ranking for quality of life.  Multiple international organisations are headquartered there and of course its banking system is world renowned.

Switzerland has a reputation for attracting skilled workers and why not with its expanse of opportunities and liberal minded progressive thinking.  It also has a lot to offer on a personal level with glorious mountainous countryside as well as ease of travel to numerous other European countries and a high quality of life.  If it is your dream to move abroad for work and experience and embrace a different lifestyle and culture then Switzerland is definitely a contender.  Here at Chesterfield we can help by discussing the various options with regards to the technicalities of working and being paid abroad for temporary contracts.  Please do not hesitate to contact us if you require further information on Switzerland or any other number of counties that are possible options.


If you are from the EU, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein then you can work in Switzerland for up to ninety days without a permit.  You can also stay in Switzerland for up to three months whilst looking for work, although you should register with your local canton.  If you plan to work for longer than ninety days in Switzerland then you will need to get a residence permit to enable you to work legally.

If you are not from the EU or any of the countries stated above then you will need to have a job offer.  This will usually need to be in a professional field whereby you are somewhat uniquely qualified as once the employer sends the application to the local cantonal authorities this then goes to the State Secretariat for Immigration who will not approve the application if they believe that the position can be filled by locals or even citizens of other EU states.  Once approved you will need to complete your application with your local Swiss Embassy, only then can you enter Switzerland at which point the procedure is the same as for an EU citizen whereby you will need to register with the cantonal authorities, this should be done within two weeks of your arrival.

As a self-employed freelancer the procedure is different again.  It is similar to the above, once again being easier for EU citizens, however, there is a quota system which is taken into account and if the quota has already been reached then your application will likely be denied.  They will also take into account as to whether they believe that your business will be successful and therefore your application should be quite involved.

There are several visa’s available to work in Switzerland and these depend on various factors such as your nationality and intended business and therefore before engaging in the process it is best to discuss with an experienced professional firm such as ourselves to decide on your structure and payroll in order to proceed correctly from the start.

Income Tax

As Switzerland is divided into the communal, the cantonal and the federal level working out your taxes is not a simple matter.  There are twenty six independent cantons, each with their own tax system.  If you are resident then you will be taxed on your worldwide income regardless of the source, although if you are from an EU country it is useful to check what agreements are in place so that you do not pay tax twice.

The tax rates are progressive and can be effected by a number of factors such as if you are married or any expenses that can be taken into account.  The federal income tax has a maximum rate of 11.5%, but depending on your income and the canton you choose to reside in you can be paying up to 40% total.

With all the different factors to be taken into account, please do not take on this endeavour by yourself, ensure that you are not overpaying by seeking help from a professional firm.

Social Security

Social security in Switzerland is divided into five distinct areas.  If you are self-employed then you must register with a compensation office and make contributions which depend on the amount of income you have.  As an self-employed person then the amount you pay will be higher as you will not have the employer contributions.

Switzerland has numerous multilateral and bilateral agreements with regards to social security and therefore it is worth looking into whether or not you are covered already from working in your native country.

Employment Rules

There are three main things to consider when looking at employment laws in Switzerland.  Firstly The Swiss Code of Obligations, which provides a framework.  Then the Employment Law, which focuses on the health and happiness of the employee.  Finally any Collective Labour Agreements that might be relevant.

Switzerland is a low density population and therefore has a high employment percentage.  This reflects in its rules and regulations, for instance you might find it a lot easier to terminate an employment contract there than elsewhere as you do not necessarily have to give a reason as to why, only unjustified dismissal is taken seriously.  Due to the high level of employment it is common that working hours and annual leave can be negotiated above the legal minimum.

It is important to remember that as Switzerland is made up of cantons there is no national standard for things like public holidays or requirements with regards to other factors such as sick pay or maternity and therefore as well as employment law it is a useful practice to familiarise yourself with your particular canton’s individual statutes.


Banking is an integral part of Switzerland’s global reputation as it is known for its low levels of financial risks and its high levels of data protection.  Therefore a number of Swiss banks are well known globally and the Swiss Franc is one of the world’s most stable currencies.  Quite a few banks in Switzerland focus on wealth management as opposed to day to day transactions and therefore you should consider and discuss what banking requirements you need before engaging in opening a bank account as some may have high minimum balances and unnecessary restrictions.

You may experience issues with opening a Swiss account for routine transactions prior to moving there, likewise if you were then to move from Switzerland your account will likely be closed.  In addition to proving your identity and residential address your bank will likely want information on your personal and employment history and therefore be prepared to provide a lot of information and documentation.  Most major cities have branches with English speaking members of staff, but you may experience issues with the language in more rural areas.

Swiss banks have a lot of charges and if you will be moving money abroad you may wish to also consider an online solutions.

Corporate Structures

If you wish to contract in Switzerland we offer both self-employed services and employed payroll services.  Each are taxed differently and as you have already seen with Switzerland the different cantons further complicate matters and therefore we do provide a Swiss accountant who can prepare and submit self-employed tax returns.  If required we can also offer establishment of your own company and can structure the invoicing to your particular needs.

Chesterfield and Contracting in Switzerland

Chesterfield has years of experience with contractors and freelancers working in a wide diversity of different jurisdictions and with a variety of payroll services and solutions in order to make life easier. You will be given a dedicated member of staff who is responsible for all your administration and contact, allowing them to be more in tune with all your needs and able assist you in every way possible.