Ex-pat sewing classes in Europe - Possible?
January 18, 2010 9:39 PM   Subscribe

What type of international work will I be doing and how do I do it?

I have two students/clients who are in Zürich and Vienna respectively. They want me to come teach privately in the Summer of 2011.

I think I will need more than a tourist visa for this, but am not sure what to call what I need.

Here are the details I have now:
-Each client would be reserving the work-space we need in either city.
-Classes would be mainly for English-speaking ex-pats.
-6 students per class, maybe 8 classes total.
-Classes would run 10 weeks - maybe June - August.
-They would pay me directly, probably in US$ but maybe Euros.
-They would house me.
-I go home after 10 or 11 weeks.

So when I call the powers that be, how do I describe this? Does this kind of temporary private employment have a legal name?

(Other secondary questions -
Will it even be possible? Would it be better if a business brought me over? Can the LLC I run (and own) now function internationally? Do I need a lawyer to do this, or can I handle it myself?
I am more focused on what to call it than the other questions right now, but feel free to chime in if you have answers to these, too.)

I want to start planning this, but want to do it right and honestly. I guess I am looking for key words I can use to talk to the representative (and do my own research beforehand) so that they understand what I am trying to do and don't think that I want to set up shop permanently in either place or make money under the table while pretending to be only a tourist. I know I could slide by by doing it in cash on a regular visit, but have found honest, above-board business dealings are usually my best bet.

So - links? terms? thoughts?
posted by Tchad to Law & Government (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Are you either an EU citizEn or a Swiss citizen or both? That would make both endeavors easier.

Failing that do these clients of yours have any relevant knowledge about their respective country's relevant laws?
posted by dfriedman at 9:47 PM on January 18, 2010

Response by poster: Yes, that would have helped. Sorry.

I am a US citizen.

And no, they don't as it relates to this. They will sponsor me and fill the classes, but they are mostly Brits and Aussies working for (or spouses of those working for) global finance or IT companies.
posted by Tchad at 9:53 PM on January 18, 2010

It may also help to contact the US embassies in Switzerland and Austria (assuming you are a US citizen--your profile says you're in Chicago) and asking them for advice. Doubtless other Americans have wanted to operate businesses in both of these countries.
posted by dfriedman at 9:54 PM on January 18, 2010

Response by poster: Yes, I plan on doing that.

I am just wondering what to call this so I don't cause confusion when I do. Is it part-time labor? temporary technical work? Consulting? I want to be clear what I am doing before I call and start asking questions (perhaps like this one) that are unclear.
posted by Tchad at 10:09 PM on January 18, 2010

Best answer: The easiest way to do this is to set up a consulting company in the US. Your friends contract with you to do the whole class for one lump sum, they collect the fees, pay any expenses and then pay the remainder directly to your US company. They also pay your travel expenses. You in turn report the income and pay taxes in the US only.

I don't know about the visa issues because I have dual citizenship but, in general, getting paid this way sorts out a lot of the issues involved with working abroad.
posted by fshgrl at 12:08 AM on January 19, 2010

Best answer: I'm an American ex-pat who lives in London but has done business in Switzerland. Switzerland is pro-business to an extent unparalleled in many other nations and that will help will help you. A few points before I cite some source:

First of all, avoid the word "employment" in any of your dealings. You're not entering Switzerland for employment, you've got a US based company, and you are providing services to clients in Switzerland. The challenges presented by entering Switzerland for the purpose of employment is radically different than what you've asked here.
  • Each client would be reserving the work-space we need in either city. -- if not handled properly this will, of course, have to show up on your business accounts (i.e., who is paying for the space, and how much?). No reason for this to be mentioned to the bureaucrats
  • They would pay me directly, probably in US$ but maybe Euros. -- uhhh, red flag - why Euros? Switzerland uses The Swiss Franc. Regardless, since you're doing international work, agree a cross rate (Dollars, Euros, whatever) in your contract for whatever currency is in use.
  • They would house me. -- again, I suspect this would be taxable unless done on an informal basis i.e. friend helping out a friend. Keep this off the radar of the bureaucrats
Ok now on to specifics. The US Commercial Service is probably the best place to start in terms of gaining entry to Switzerland as a foreign company.

The Swiss American Chamber of Commerce would also be a great source of information.

A couple of good book for investing and setting up a business in Switzerland.

You're on the right path by using a US based LLC; I was with a vehicle based in Cayman with satellite offices in London and entering Switzerland was very, very easy compared to some other countries on the continent. Also getting information before you talk to a Solicitor is appropriate, but I suspect you might be able to do this on your own and with the guidance of the organisations listed above (as well as others they might point you to).

Finally, I'm assuming the scale of your business, as envisioned, is relatively modest; well someone might chime into this thread later advising you to ignore all the paperwork and just go. You really don't want to heed advise like that.

European nations can and do ban folks from future entry if caught working illegally. I can't speak to Switzerland but I know of more than one American who, caught working illegally here in England, are now banned from entry for up to ten years.

Set this up right and you'll have a very pleasant, memorable experience. Summer in Switzerland? Between the smell of chocolate and money you'll think you're in heaven!

Well, exaggerating slightly. Its a wonderful place.
posted by Mutant at 1:51 AM on January 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

The easiest way to do this is to set up a consulting company in the US.

Huh? The easiest way is to go there, do it, and get paid cash or by bank transfer to your US account. I have worked in a wide variety of international contexts for similar short term teaching gigs. If you are staying there under the limit for tourists from the US, be a tourist from the US.

If you want a less blatant lie, if you start in Vienna, then you are visiting Austria as a tourist before doing a course in Switzerland (or vice-versa).

Mutant might be right, but I suppose it is a trade off of your perceptions of risk vs. your love of unnecessary paperwork, bureaucracy, and fees.
posted by Meatbomb at 3:19 AM on January 19, 2010

Best answer: uhhh, red flag - why Euros?

Well, the poster mentioned Vienna and Zürich. One of those doesn't have the same currency as the other :)

Otherwise, what fshgrl and Mutant said, in principle. I'm not entirely up to date on EU regulations these days, but Switzerland is pretty picky on things like this (and there's a big anti-schwarzarbeit campaign going on here right now), and both you and your clients will probably need to do some basic paperwork if you're going to be here working for more than a week or so.

I'd start by skipping over to English Forum Switzerland (which is where all the english-speaking expats hang out) and post your question there as well; they'll will most likely be able to provide you with more specific information & tips.

You can also take a quick look at the Swiss Federal Office for Migration site; not everything is available in English, but a lot of it is.

The above is for Switzerland only; when digging into this, keep in mind that Vienna is EU and Zürich is Switzerland; there's been a lot of harmonization going on lately, but since you're not a citizen or have residency in either region, you don't necessarily benefit from all that.
posted by effbot at 4:31 AM on January 19, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks so much, guys! Especially Mutant and effbot for the links and advice - this is exactly what I was looking for.

I didn't mention it because I didn't think it germane, but I spent a good deal of time in Lugano in the late 90's, so I am familiar with the Swiss Franc and the South of Switzerland (and Swiss politics in general as it relates to the functioning of the country for citizens as well as the differences between Switzerland and the EU constitutionally), but I was a student and the colleges walked me through most of the red tape. Most of the steps I don't remember or are so outdated (as far as Vienna is concerned) with the EU having congealed that they would be hopelessly irrelevant anyway.

I can read both French and German pretty proficiently, so even the non-English links are welcome.

As far as flying under the radar goes, I am not itching to deal with bureaucrats, European or otherwise, but I do intend to go back to Lugano semi-permanently at some point and don't want to screw something up that will come back to haunt me in 5 or 10 years.

Thanks again, this will get me started. Hopefully we can have meetup or two in a year and a half to celebrate!
posted by Tchad at 10:57 AM on January 19, 2010

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