Official contact details LAFE:
Commissione di sorveglianza per l'applicazione della LAFE del Cantone Ticino
c/o Ufficio dei Registri di Lugano
Via Bossi 2A
CH-6901 Lugano
telephone: 091 815 54 10

Types of Residence Permits:

NOTE: residence permits need to be processed at both the Federal and Cantonal levels. Provided basic conditions are met, they take about 3 months to process.

End 2015 there were 2.05M foreign residents in Switszerland (24.6% of population - in 1995 the percentage was 19.3%).

Interesting notes:

The "LAFE" or Lex Koller quota in 2005 was 1,400 units and actually 1393 properties were sold to foreign nationals. In 2009 the quota was 1,500 units. The quota is always distributed amongst the cantons. The quota ssigned to Ticino is currently 195.

The informal adjective "Lex Koller" that is used to refer to the law on the acquisition of property by foreigners refers to the former Federal Councillor Arnold Koller, who has attended the last major revision of this law.

 

Picture left: View from a property on the Gambarogno Riviera on the left shores of Lago Maggiore. The area begins at the foot of the Monte Ceneri. Also The Brissago Islands can be seen from this point, known for being the botanic garden of Canton Ticino.

Step 2 - Check "LAFE" Eligibility (what can you buy?)

The purchase of property in Switzerland is restricted by the "Federal Act on the Acquisition of Real Estate by Persons from Abroad", also known as the “Lex Koller” (originally called"Lex Friedrich"). It strongly recommended to find out right from the beginning if your are eligible to buying Swiss real estate.

Besides the federal law there are cantonal regulations, referred to as the "LAFE" (Commissione sulla Legge federale sull’acquisto di fondi da parte di persone all’estero)", that restrict the permission of persons from abroad of becoming the owner of a property in Switzerland. The "LAFE" is actually the Cantonal Law `executing` the "Lex Koller" Federal Law. When you purchase a property make sure you make it subject to "LAFE"approval. The procedure is complex and it recommended to take a local lawyer to handle it for you. Overall the "LAFE" approval process can take up to several months to complete. Only the following persons are not subject to the "LAFE":

An authorization to purchase a holiday home which is located in a tourist area, as defined by the Canton, and with a "net" living area of no more than 200 m2 (including kitchen, entrance, bathroom(s), in-door swimming pool, sauna, but excluding the cellar, any balconies and the staircase) and the total property being no more than 1'000 m2, is typically granted. Real estate (such as dwellings, private houses, city apartments, tenements, etc.) in "non tourist" locations are subject to a very stringent approval process, and in practice this approval is seldom granted if you are a non-resident.

Additionally a maximum of 1/3 of the gross square metres in each property may be sold to foreigners and the cadastral value of the acquired property must be at least CHF 300.000,-. This typically corresponds to a selling price of CHF 700.000,-.

Furthermore you should be aware that a quota system is applied to the number of holiday homes sold to foreigners each year. Once the specific quota is exceeded to may need to wait for an approval in the following year.

As part of the "LAFE" process, a foreign non-resident must highlight "exceptionally close links" to the location where you plan the acquisition. For example, the fact that you have spend your summer holidays in the location since your childhood is recognized by the canton as a valid reason for granting approval. Once the canton has granted approval, the federal approval is typically a formality.

Please take the "LAFE" approval very seriously. Details (in Italian, German and French) can be found in the following article by the Swiss Federal Office of Justice: "Acquisition of real estate by persons abroad"

Last but not least, owning a property in Switzerland does not automatically imply than you can become a permanent resident.

Latest News (13 November 2013): "Maintain the Lex Koller" by the Federal Justice and Police Department:

The Federal Council stopped all procedures to abolish the law considering the Lex Koller the only instrument that is able to dampen the demand for Swiss real estate.

In 2007 the Federal Council had opted for an abolition of the Lex Koller, because it was thought to positively impact the economy. To avoid negative effects in the holiday apartment building, spatial planning measures where being worked on simultaneously. In 2008, the Parliament rejected the abolition proposal asking the Federal Council to revise it.

Since then, the situation has changed considerably. The focus is not only on the problem of an excessive number second homes that barely get used. The interest in making investments in Switzerland has also sharply risen as a result of the financial crisis of 2008. The Federal Council is now concerned that by abolishing the Lex Koller, too much foreign capital would flow into the Swiss real estate market. In addition there is already an increased demand due to the growth of immigration of foreign nationals to Switzerland in recent years.

The Federal Council shares the opinion of Parliament, that the Lex Koller dampens the demand for Swiss real estate and prevents negative economic consequences. The Federal Council will continue to closely follow political and economic conditions and consider any necessary changes to the Lex Koller.

Latest News (26 July 2016): KPMG report that for UK nationals, as long as the UK has not formally left the EU, nothing changes with regards to a relocation to Switzerland. Once the Brexit takes place, from a Swiss perspective, UK nationals would be considered to be “third-country nationals” (assuming the UK does not join EFTA or bilaterally agree a different status with Switzerland). In any case the situation will change as UK nationals will no longer benefit from the same freedom of movement privileges as EU nationals.

Latest News (19 September 2016): The Financial Times reports that the February 2014 referendum in favour of immigration quotas has still not been implemented. Its implementation would clearly violate the principle of the free movement of people enshrined into the bilateral deal with the European Union.