General Inormation



Official Languages

German, French, Italian and Romansh


Swiss Franc (CHF)


There are approximately 8.2 million people living in Switzerland, of which 24 per cent are foreign nationals. 66 per cent of the foreign population come from the EU, predominantly from Italy (15% of foreigners), Germany (15%) and Portugal (13%). 15 per cent come from various non-European states. Switzerland is a multilingual country. There are four official national languages: German, French, Italian and Romansh. 64 per cent of the population primarily speak (Swiss-)German, 23 per cent French, 8 per cent Italian and 0.5 per cent Romansh. English, Portuguese, Albanian (approximately 3 to 5 per cent of the population) and various other languages are also spoken in Switzerland. Many people state that they have two main languages.

Political System

Switzerland is a federal state: state power is shared between the federal government, the cantons and the communes. The cantons and communes have broad scope in carrying out their responsibilities. Federalism makes it possible for Switzerland to exist as one entity – in spite of four linguistic cultures and varying regional characteristics.

The Confederation is made up of 26 cantons, which are also known as ’states’. Each canton has its own parliament, government, courts and constitution.

State Powers

  • The Executive:

    The Federal Council is Switzerland’s government. On 9 December 2015 the United Federal Assembly (joint session of National Council and Council of States) elected 5 men and 2 women to the Federal Council for a four-year term of office. Each member of the Federal Council heads a government department.  The president is elected for a one-year term of office and is regarded during that time as ‘Primus inter pares’, or first among equals.

    The Federal Council takes decisions as a collegial body: the members seek consensus to win majority support for their policies. They are also expected to defend the position of the Federal Council, even if it is contrary to their personal view or that of their party (principle of collegiality).

  • The Legislative:

    Switzerland’s Parliament or legislature consists of two chambers, which although they have equal powers are very different in their own way: the people’s representatives sit in the National Council, the large chamber, and the representatives of the cantons sit in the Council of States, the small chamber. When sitting together in joint session, they constitute the United Federal Assembly. The 246 members of Parliament represent the interests of the different language communities, political parties, world views and regions in Switzerland. Parliament elections take place in autumn every four years.

    The National Council and the Council of States generally sit separately, but they also handle certain items of business in joint session, for instance when electing the members of the Federal Council and federal court judges.

    the Federal Assembly is the highest authority in the Swiss Confederation subject to the rights of the People and the cantons. This is an aspect peculiar to Switzerland.

  • The Judiciary:

    The Federal Supreme Court is the highest judicial authority in Switzerland. It rules in the final instance on all appeals against decisions of the highest cantonal courts, the Federal Criminal Court, the Federal Administrative Court and the Federal Patent Court. The court ensures that Swiss federal law is correctly applied in individual cases and that the rights of citizens enshrined in the constitution are protected.

    The 38 Federal Supreme Court judges are elected by the United Federal Assembly (National Council and Council of States) on the recommendation of the parliamentary Judiciary Committee. Federal Supreme Court judges are elected for a six-year term of office with no restriction on how many times they may be re-elected. There is, however, an upper age limit of 68.


Direct federal tax and VAT are the Confederation’s main sources of receipts. The power of the Confederation to levy these taxes applies for a limited period and must be renewed by the People and the cantons. The current financial system will remain valid until 2020. Direct federal tax is levied on the income of individuals (maximum of 11.5 per cent), and on the profits of companies (8.5 per cent).

The Source: The Swiss Confederation: Brief Guide 2016 which can be viewed in English on the following link: ..\..\..\..\..\Desktop\BUKU_2016_EN_Internet.pdf

Value added tax

A VAT rate of 8% applies to most goods and services.

A reduced rate of 2.5% applies to certain everyday consumer goods such as foodstuffs, non-alcoholic beverages, books, newspapers, magazines, medicines, but also to tickets for sports and cultural events.Only overnight stays at a hotel (incl. breakfast) are taxed at a special rate of 3.8%.

VAT tax can be refunded when leaving Switzerland at the office of Tax Refund at the  if the value of the goods exceeds CHF 300. The following conditions should be met:

  • To be a permanent resident in Switzerland and you are in possession of Schengen Visa.
  • The minimum purchase value per sales transaction is CHF 300 including VAT.
  • Tax Free Form filled ( Ask the shop staff for the TFF when paying for your purchases) Present the your Tax Free Form and the original receipt to Customs (make sure the goods are sealed and sealed)
  • If you were leaving Switzerland by train let the train station stuff  stamp the Tax Free Form (date of departure and destination should be mentioned) then send it by post to the Refund Office.

When leaving Switzerland (before Check-in) present your Tax Free Form and the original receipt to Customs for export validation. Make sure the goods are sealed and unused. Allow enough time at the Airport for the export validation process before your flight depart.