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November 14, 2021

Before you start your business, you need to consider a number of things. Firstly, you need to be clear about whether you have a successful business idea and secondly, you need to choose the right legal form for your business in Switzerland.


For foreigners who want to start a business in Switzerland, an important factor is that they must also be a resident of Switzerland or have a legal entity or partner who is a resident of Switzerland. Read more about Swiss visas and permits as well as Swiss work permits and their conditions.


Before you start, find out if there is any interest in buying your products or services. Find out who your competitors are and whether the market can support your business. You can also check the Swiss Trade Register to see what company names are available.


Research whether your idea is really viable. This involves gathering, analyzing and evaluating information that will help you formulate your business goals.


Some questions you should ask yourself are:


What product/service will you offer?

Is your idea feasible?

How will you protect your idea?

Is there a market for your product/service?

What skills do you need?

Who are your competitors?

What will you do differently in the marketplace?

Do you have the financial resources?


1. one-owner business or sole proprietorship.

This is the most common type of company after the normal corporation. It is best suited for sole proprietors of a business or other freelancers, such as freelancers, small businesses, and sole proprietors who work on their own account. As a rule, these are companies run by a single person, who must be resident in Switzerland.


There is unlimited liability and the individual's name must appear in the company name. Registration with the Chamber of Commerce is mandatory if the annual turnover exceeds CHF 100,000.


2 General partnership

Offene Handelsgesellschaft

A general partnership is an association of persons who operate a commercial enterprise; it is similar to a sole proprietorship, but with more than one person involved. In this category, two or more persons jointly operate a business. No limited liability capital is required, all partners must be resident in Switzerland and the company must have a Swiss address. The name of one of the partners must appear in the business name of the company.


All partners have unlimited liability, and registration with the Chamber of Commerce and the Commercial Register is mandatory. The general partnership is not a registered company and therefore has no legal personality, although it can sue and be sued under the name of the company. Once the partnership is registered, you must keep full accounts with profit and loss accounts.


3. limited partnership

The limited partnership is a much less common form of general partnership. In this form of partnership, the general partners have unlimited liability, while the limited partners can be liable up to a certain amount. Registration with the Chamber of Commerce is mandatory.


4. joint-stock company (AG/SA)

Aktiengesellschaft

This is the most common form of business where the corporation is an independent legal entity. A member of the board of directors or a director must be resident in Switzerland and have sole signatory power. This requirement can also be met if two members of the board of directors or two directors have collective signatory power and are resident in Switzerland.


Liability is limited to the value of the company's assets and equity must amount to at least CHF 100,000, of which CHF 50,000 must be fully paid up. The company must comply with the formal incorporation procedure. Processing of the registration usually takes between two and four weeks, after which the company is a legal entity.


5. limited liability company (GmbH/Sàrl)

Gesellschaft mit beschränkter Haftung

This form of company is also a legal entity and requires equity capital of at least CHF 20,000, of which CHF 10,000 must be fully paid up. At least one managing director who can sign on behalf of the company must be resident in Switzerland.


As a rule, all shareholders are jointly involved in the management and representation of the GmbH/Sàrl, but management can also be delegated to non-shareholders. This form of company is cheaper to set up than a public limited company, but - in contrast to the AG/SA - the partners are publicly registered in the commercial register. The shareholders are jointly liable for the debts of the company up to the amount of the share capital.


6. subsidiary

Tochtergesellschaft

A subsidiary is a legally independent company that is affiliated with a foreign company and functions more like a Swiss company than a branch. It may take the form of a joint stock company or a limited liability company.


7. branch

Zweigniederlassung

A branch is a legally dependent but financially independent part of a head office that operates outside its home country. In this form of company, the foreign parent company is liable and the branch pays taxes in Switzerland in the same way as a Swiss company. A Swiss resident with legal authority is required.

Do you have the idea of setting up your own company?


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