11 November 2015

Is there nothing money can’t buy?

Third-country nationals and a portion of the EU/EFTA citizens who wish to apply for a permanent residence permit in Switzerland must speak the language of the relevant canton to a certain degree. Canton Zug is now planning, as the first canton, to loosen this criterion and allow applicants to compensate for their lack of language skills elsewhere. If you have an income of CHF 1 million and assets under management of CHF 20 million then you're in the race.

A permanent residence permit can be applied for, as a rule, after a stay of at least 10 years in Switzerland but citizens of the EU-17 states (except Cyprus and Malta) and the EFTA may already apply after 5 years. Exceptionally, and with good integration, the residence permit may also be granted to third-country nationals after a minimum stay of 5 years. However, the prerequisite is always that the candidate has mastered the national language of the place of residence to at least A2 level. For the early issue of residence permits many cantons have stricter requirements (for example, in such cases, Zurich requires level B1).

While general rules on the granting of permanent residence permits depend on federal law, the implementation and the concrete form, however, are left to the cantons. Thus, the cantonal government in Zug is planning to break the principle of the necessary language skills: In the future whoever has a taxable income of more than CHF 1 million and taxable assets of at least 20 million Swiss francs does not have to pass a language test in order to obtain a permanent residence permit.

There is the risk that this loosening could weaken the so-called Lex Koller: Third-country nationals with temporary residence permits can only purchase residential property if they occupy it themselves whereas those who have a permanent residence permit can purchase whole real estate portfolios as pure investment.

Furthermore, it is questionable how the proposed change can be reconciled with the idea of integration and the principle of legal equality. Whether the fiscal interests of the Canton are able to justify unequal treatment by the migration authorities, is undecided.

Authors: Urs Haegi, Ann Sofie Benz

Photo: German Federal Archive (Deutsches Bundesarchiv), picture 183-L1107-0008 / CC-BY-SA 3.0

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