“You Have 2 Months to Leave”: The Harsh Reality for Immigrant Entrepreneurs

December 1, 2014

10:00 am

Alexander Temerev‘s Swiss visa expired in May, and he’s still awaiting a decision on his most recent work visa application. He and his family can stay in Switzerland until then – but if it’s rejected, they have two months to leave the country, their apartment, and their friends.

“I live here legally, I own a company here, and it creates quite a lot of stress when I get the rejection notice – I really hope it won’t happen this time,” says Temerev. “Even if I wanted to quit Switzerland, it would take at least half a year (maybe more) to close everything and move on.”

Temerev has been living on and off there since 2005, subject to the vagaries of Swiss visa officials. He lives near Lausanne, where he can see lakes and the Alps from his window, and his daughter was born six months ago. Switzerland is ideal for finding customers for EntryForex, his currency trading startup, and he has a local bank account. If his Swiss visa application gets rejected, he’s not sure what he would do.

But it wouldn’t be the first time. Temerev moved to Switzerland after getting a software job in a Swiss company. He loved the country so much that he stayed there as a consultant afterward, and made his first application for a B Permit in 2009. As a non-EU citizen (from Russia), Temerev has to reapply every year and only a certain quota of B Permits are available. 

That was about the time when Temerev met his wife, and she came over to Switzerland to live with him. But two years later, in 2011, he was rejected for the first time. They were forced to leave and chose to move to Italy, where his wife had to find a new post-doctoral position. Temerev was rejected again in 2012, and this time he decided to get a job at a Swiss company so they could move back. (He didn’t really want to get a job, but “I’m not complaining,” he says.) Getting a Swiss visa is much easier as an employee, and Temerev and his family have been living there ever since.

Temerev founded EntryForex in 2010 and launched it earlier this year, which is also when his daughter was born. As he awaits his sixth or seventh visa decision – you can only apply for permanent residence after 10 years – Temerev is also waiting for some comprehensive small business reform that’s expected within a year or so.

“I understand that people in the government are really worried about the availability of jobs and that people are taking jobs from the locals, but we’re supposed to create jobs,” he says. “It would be in everyone’s best interest to make these things easier.”

In the meantime, he still has to deal with laws that don’t really fit startups and a thick stack of paperwork every month. “We are not called entrepreneurs for nothing, so we have to solve these kinds of problems,” he says.


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Kira M. Newman is a Tech Cocktail writer interested in the harsh reality of entrepreneurship, work-life balance, and psychology. She is the founder of The Year of Happy and has been traveling around the world interviewing entrepreneurs in Asia, Europe, and North America since 2011. Follow her @kiramnewman or contact kira@tech.co.

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