This federal act restricts the acquisition of property in Switzerland by persons who live abroad in order to prevent the excessive ownership of Swiss territory by foreign non-residents (see Art. 1 ANRA). To this end, acquisition is generally subject to authorisation by the competent cantonal authority.
Foreign non-resident natural persons are in most cases foreign nationals who are resident abroad (see Art. 5 ANRA). However, the term also covers foreign nationals who are resident in Switzerland but who are neither nationals of a member state of the European Union (EU) or the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) nor hold a valid settlement permit (C permit). Foreign non-residents also include, in particular, citizens of the United Kingdom who only became lawfully resident in Switzerland on or after 1 January 2021. In addition to natural persons, Article 5 ANRA also applies to legal entities and businesses without legal personality that are capable of owning assets (e.g. general or limited partnerships) whose registered office is officially or de facto located abroad or which have their registered office in Switzerland but are controlled by foreign non-residents (see Art. 5 para. 1 lets b-d and Art. 6 ANRA).
ANRA lists all the grounds for authorisation (see Art. 3 in conjunction with Arts 8 and 9 ANRA). If any of these grounds applies in an individual case and if all the requirements for authorisation in the relevant case are met, there is a right to authorisation. Apart from the special federal grounds for authorisation that are aimed at banks, insurance companies and pension funds, the following grounds for authorisation are of particular importance for natural persons with foreign nationality who are resident abroad:
3.1 Named heirs: An heir or legatee named in a will who is not a statutory heir (who does not require authorisation, see Art. 7 let. a ANRA ) and who cannot claim any other grounds for authorisation is generally granted authorisation on condition that he or she sells the property within two years (Art. 8 para. 2 ANRA).
3.2 Holiday homes / Accommodation unit in an aparthotel: Under certain conditions, a natural person living abroad may be granted authorisation to acquire a holiday home or an accommodation unit in an aparthotel (Art. 9 paras 2 and 3 and Art. 10 ANRA). The acquirer must be personally free to use the holiday home for the claimed purpose at all times, i.e. they may not rent it out permanently. However, the holiday home may be rented out periodically, but not for an entire year. Accommodation units in aparthotels must be made available to the hotel business for hotel-type operations, especially during the high season (Art. 10 let. b ANRA). This also applies to an accommodation unit acquired by a person who does not require authorisation if a corresponding condition applies to the unit, because such conditions are property-related, (Art. 7 para. 2 Ordinance on the Acquisition of Immovable Property by Foreign Non-Residents (ANRO)). Holiday homes and accommodation units in aparthotels may only be acquired directly by natural persons in their own name; indirect acquisition through a company is not possible (Art. 8 ANRA).
Authorisation for non-resident foreign nationals to acquire holiday accommodation must be provided for by law in the respective canton and the accommodation must be in a location designated as a tourist resort by the canton. At present, it is possible to obtain authorisation of this kind in the following cantons: Appenzell Ausserrhoden, Bern, Fribourg, Glarus, Graubünden, Jura, Lucerne, Neuchâtel, Nidwalden, Obwalden, St Gallen, Schaffhausen (only for accommodation units in aparthotels), Schwyz, Ticino, Uri, Vaud and Valais.
The number of cases that each canton can authorise for this purpose are subject to annual quotas. These are determined by the Federal Council (Art. 11 ANRA). The annual cantonal quotas for authorisation can be found in Annex 1 of ANRO.
3.3 Second homes: A natural person resident abroad may be granted authorisation to acquire a second home in a place to which they have exceptionally close ties that are worthy of protection (Art. 9 para. 1 let. c ANRA). This ground for authorisation must be specified in the law that applies in the canton concerned. At present, it is possible to obtain authorisation of this kind in the following cantons: Appenzell Ausserrhoden, Basel-Stadt, Fribourg, Graubünden, Jura, Lucerne, Neuchâtel, St Gallen, Solothurn, Ticino, Uri, Vaud, Valais and Zurich.
ANRA provides for a number of exemptions from the authorisation requirement, which are of major importance in practice. The following exceptions should be mentioned in particular:
4.1. Property serves as a permanent establishment
If the property is used for an economic or commercial purpose, i.e. as a permanent establishment for a trading, manufacturing or other form of commercial operation, for a skilled trades business or for the practice of a liberal profession, an acquirer from abroad does not require authorisation (Art. 2 para. 2 lit. a ANRA). This exception includes factory buildings, offices, shopping centres, shops, restaurants, workshops and doctors' surgeries. It does not matter whether the property is used by the acquirer's business or is rented to a third party for the exercise of a business activity.
On the other hand, there is no business activity if residential property is constructed, rented out or traded (Art. 3 ANRO). Hotel accommodation, on the other hand, is considered a business premises and can generally be acquired or constructed without authorisation.
4.2 Family relationships
If a non-resident natural person inherits a property in Switzerland, they do not require authorisation - provided they are one of the statutory heirs as defined by Swiss law. The same applies if the acquirer is related to the transferor in the ascending or descending line or is married to or lives in a registered partnership with the transferor (Art. 7 lets a and b ANRA).
4.3 Cross-border commuters
Natural persons who are not resident in Switzerland but who work in Switzerland may acquire property in the region of their place of work in Switzerland without authorisation. However, this only applies to persons who are nationals of an EU or EFTA member state (Art. 7 let. j para. 1 ANRA) or, under special conditions, to United Kingdom nationals (Art. 7 let. j para. 2 ANRA).
Enforcement of ANRA is primarily the responsibility of the canton in which the property is located (see Art. 15 ANRA). Unless the competent land register office is able to rule out the need for authorisation after a summary examination, it will refer the acquirer to the cantonal authorisation authority (Art. 18 para. 1 ANRA). The cantonal authorisation authority therefore decides whether the property acquisition in question is permitted under the statutory provisions. If it approves the acquisition, i.e. grants authorisation, it is then up to the cantonal authority with rights of appeal and secondarily the Federal Office of Justice (FOJ) to decide whether an appeal should be filed against the decision of the cantonal authorisation authority.
If the cantonal authority with a right of appeal decides not to appeal (and thus effectively accepts the decision of the cantonal authorisation authority), it notifies the Federal Office of Justice (FOJ) of the case (Art. 17 para. 3 ANRA). The FOJ thus receives case files that two cantonal authorities have already examined for conformity with ANRA. The FOJ examines whether the decision of the authorisation authority is in accordance with federal law or whether an appeal should be filed against it. By doing this, the FOJ aims to ensure the uniform enforcement of ANRA throughout Switzerland.
ANRA gives the Federal Council the special power to exempt the acquisition of a property from the authorisation requirement in specific cases if the acquisition is in Switzerland's national interest (Art. 7 let. h ANRA). Only important and overriding public interests of national importance that involve safeguarding or promoting Switzerland's political, economic, scientific, social or cultural interests are considered to be in the national interest (administrative practice of the federal authorities VPB 68.12, E. 3).
In certain cases, the Federal Council has exempted the acquisition of real estate by international sports organisations from the authorisation requirement under Article 7 letter h ANRA. The focus here was on the major political, cultural and economic significance of globally active associations being based in Switzerland (see VPB 68.12). The Federal Council has also confirmed that a national interest exists in relation to a holiday resort (Andermatt) (see also press releases below). The Federal Council's decision in such cases is final and no appeal can be filed against it.
Verwaltungspraxis der Bundesbehörden VPB 68.12
(This document is not available in English)
Press releases (These documents are not available in English)
Ferienanlage in Andermatt kann vollumfänglich realisiert werden; Bundesrat heisst Gesuch aus staatspolitischem Interesse gut
Erfolgreiche Verwirklichung der Ferienanlage in Andermatt ermöglichen - Bundesrat heisst ergänzendes Gesuch gut
Bundesrat verlängert die Befreiung von der Bewilligungspflicht für das "Tourismusprojekt Andermatt" bis Ende 2040
Further information (which is not legally binding) is provided in the following factsheet:
Last modification 29.11.2023