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26 July 2019

According to the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons (AFMP) between Switzerland and the European Union (EU), citizens of EU/EFTA member states have the right to enter and stay in Switzerland without having to take up gainful activity. The following article serves to outline the requirements for residency without gainful activity in Switzerland and to point out inter-cantonal distinctions in requirements of financial means.

Requirements for residency

Considered a diverse, beautiful and safe place to live, Switzerland is a very popular destination for foreigners to move to, even if immigration quotas and processes are increasingly tightening up.

However, the AFMP between Switzerland and the EU facilitates many aspects of mobility and the obtaining of a residence permit for EU/EFTA citizens in Switzerland. The AFMP confers the right to EU/EFTA citizens to freely enter, reside and work employed or self-employed in Switzerland.

Retirees and other private individuals who are EU/EFTA citizens and wish to reside in Switzerland without working may apply for a residence permit without gainful activity if they fulfill certain requirements. A residence permit is granted if the applicant can prove that he or she possess sufficient financial means to cover the cost of living in Switzerland in order to ensure that he or she will not become dependent on welfare benefits and additionally, has taken out adequate accident and health insurance policies.

What are "sufficient financial means" for residency in Switzerland?

In general, financial means are deemed sufficient if they exceed the welfare entitlement threshold established under Swiss law. Thus, financial resources are considered sufficient if a Swiss citizen in the same situation could not apply for social assistance or supplementary benefits. In Switzerland, the social subsistence level is defined in the guidelines of the Swiss Conference for Social Welfare (SKOS), which serve as a reference for assessing social assistance entitlements. The adequate financial resources for living in Switzerland are determined on the basis of a calculation of all regular costs as for instance housing, sustenance and health insurance.

An EU/EFTA applicant for residency without gainful activity in Switzerland can demonstrate sufficient financial resources by showing liquid funds or other collaterals (e.g. bank guarantees). The source of the funds is not of relevance. The decisive criterion is whether the funds are available to the applicant.

Significant cantonal differences

The cantons have large discretion when assessing whether funds are "sufficient". Our experience has shown that the requirements for financial resources vary a lot among the different cantons. One reason for this is the application of different calculation bases. Some cantons deem the required financial means to be sufficient if they allow the applicant to live unemployed for his or her expected remaining years of life. Other cantons calculate the required minimum of financial means for the period of, for instance, just a couple of years.

Furthermore, there are cantons that allow to rely on future events (e.g. real estate sales and other incoming future funds) when assessing the permit applications, and others that will not rely on such future events but rather need proof of liquid funds available at the time of the assessment.

If you are looking for residence in Switzerland, our Vischer Immigration team will be glad to readily support and advise you in all aspects concerning your application process.

Authors: Urs Haegi, Biljana Vasic

Topics: ImmigrationFree movement of personsResidency in Switzerland

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