Download this e-book and optimize your finances and save money by using the best financial services available in Switzerland!
The best financial services for your money!

Download this e-book and optimize your finances and save money by using the best financial services available in Switzerland!

Download The FREE e-book

Swiss Investors May Lose Access to US-Domiciled ETFs in 2023

Baptiste Wicht | Updated: |

(Disclosure: Some of the links below may be affiliate links)

Update 2023: We still can buy US ETFs with IB.

Since the beginning of 2019, Swiss investors cannot buy Exchanged Traded Funds (ETFs) domiciled in the United States from my previous broker, DEGIRO. This event is bad news for Swiss investors.

This problem is due to new regulations that will come into play. These regulations have already affected all European investors since 2018. But Switzerland was not affected before. We will see what has changed. These issues are based on several European and Swiss laws. These laws are sad news for European investors and Swiss investors. I am not a legal expert at all. So this is only my interpretation of these laws. If I am wrong or I missed something, please let me know!

Normally, this should only come into effect in January 2022. But DEGIRO implemented this earlier, cutting Swiss Investors from the best ETFs available. I have now switched to Interactive Brokers.

In this article, we see why this is happening. And we will also see what are the different options for us. There are several possible solutions to this issue. But none of them is perfect, as we will see.

PRIIPs Regulation for European investors

It all started in January 2018, when PRIIPs regulations entered into effect. PRIIPS is a part of the bigger Markets in Financial Instruments Directive (MiFID) II law. PRIIPs or Packaged Retail and Insurance-based Investment Products is a regulation that is supposed to protect investors. I will not go into details about the law.

I will only focus on the part that is the problem now. These regulations enforce that all funds provide a Key Investor Document (KID). This document must give information about the funds and some standardized advice and recommendations to investors. Supposedly, it was made to ensure that all investors have access to all the necessary information to invest in these funds.

When this law came into force, U.S. fund providers did not provide any KID documents. And therefore, brokers stopped offering them to their European customers. For these fund providers, where most clients are from the U.S., providing these documents is not a priority. Doing so is too costly for little advantage. For instance, Vanguard already stated that they would not comply with these regulations. That means that for European customers, the only option is to use European ETFs.

Forcing people to invest in European Funds is what the European Union wanted. This law has nothing to do about protecting investors. It is only a strategy by European fund providers to force European investors to invest in their sub-par funds instead of better U.S. funds. Instead of providing better funds, they forced people to use their funds. Forcing people to invest in their funds is sad. This law is supposed to protect investors. But it is doing them a disservice by forcing them to invest in inferior products and reducing their investment options.

PRIIPs regulations are enforced to people from the European Economic Area (EEA). And Switzerland is not part of the EEA. Therefore, Swiss investors were not affected by this problem last year.

So why am I talking about this issue? DEGIRO just stopped offering these ETFs to its Swiss customers. I can still sell my positions. But I cannot buy any more of these ETFs. It is because of a new set of Swiss laws that will soon come into force. Let’s take a look at these Swiss laws now.

FinIA/FinSA for Swiss investors

Swiss and EU laws for investors
Swiss and EU laws for investors, Source:

In 2018, the Swiss government voted two new laws: the Financial Services Act (FinSA) and the Financial Institutions Act (FinIA). Once again, I will not go into details about these laws. They are more or less a copy of the European laws for Swiss investors. They also enforce each fund to offer a Key Investor Documented (KID) to all Swiss investors. So, they cause the same issue to Swiss investors that PRIIPS caused to European investors.

Once again, I have the same perspective on this law as I have on the other one. It is just a crude attempt to force people to invest in bad funds and block the U.S. funds instead of improving European funds.

This new set of laws will enter into force on January 1, 2020. However, several of the items will take longer to be active. From my understanding, only in 2022 will we lose access to U.S. ETF.

From January 2022, Swiss investors will not be able to invest in non-compliant ETFs and funds. So, Swiss investors will only be able to invest in Swiss and European funds.

And there are several interpretations of the law. I have not been able to find a good source of information that would clearly note whether we will or will not lose access to our great U.S. ETFs. But we should be safe until at least 2022.

That is still giving us until 2022, no? Yes, it should indeed give us several years before these regulations come into force for us. So why did DEGIRO already enforce this? It seems that DEGIRO started implementing them early for their reasons. Supposedly, they said that they believe this will protect the investors.

I think they are doing that to simplify their systems to have the same set of offers for all Europeans. I think this is a bad move on their side. There has been no communication whatsoever about this. One morning, my products were closed with the message “Product is closed for the client”. In my opinion, DEGIRO could have handled the situation better.

So what can we do? I see a few solutions to this problem. Let’s examine each of them.

Solution 1: Change broker? Temporary!

If you want access to US ETFs, you must use one broker that allows it. It is what I did by switching from DEGIRO to IB. And I currently can invest in U.S. ETF. It is worth changing brokers just for this reason.

Interactive Brokers already stopped offering these ETFs to European investors, per the law.

This may happen to Swiss investors if we get new regulations. At this point, we will need to find a new solution.

Solution 2: Change funds?

Another solution is to comply with the new dumb law and switch to European-domiciled funds. We will not lose access to U.S. stock market indexes, only U.S. funds. There are equivalent European tracking the same indexes. However, this is not a very good solution. European funds are more expensive and smaller. And there is less choice for funds around.

For instance, the fund that I will miss is Vanguard Total World (VT). This fund replicates the performance of the entire world market. It manages around 17 billion dollars of stocks. And it has a Total Expense Ratio (TER) of 0.10%. It is made of more than 8000 different stocks. VT is a great ETF.

On the European side, there is no full world ETF, at least not in the acceptable TER range. The closer they get is with Developed World ETF. But that still means it is necessary to own several ETFs instead of a single one.

If I had to choose one European Developed World ETF, I would probably go with iShares Core MSCI World UCITS ETF. It has around 1600 stocks in 23 developed countries and manages more than 14 billion dollars. It has a TER of 0.20%. That is twice as expensive for an inferior fund. It is not bad, of course. But it pales in comparison to VT.

If I were to switch to the European equivalent of VT, I would probably have to hold two funds. And they would be more expensive than VT. So, I am not convinced by this solution. Another thing that shows that these laws are not doing anything good for the investors.

To learn more, you can check out the entire ETF Portfolio with European Funds I would have used.

Solution 3: Use several funds?

The next solution I am thinking of is to use European funds but not use a World fund. It is possible to replicate the performance of a world fund by holding several region funds. Of course, it is still better to own the world fund if there is a good option. But in Europe, there is no great option of a world fund.

The Vanguard Total World (VT) ETF is composed of stocks from these regions:

  1. North America: 58.40%
  2. Europe: 18.60%
  3. Pacific: 13.30%
  4. Emerging Markets: 9.40%
  5. Middle East: 0.20%
  6. Other: 0.10%

We can safely ignore the last two ones and still replicate the world market fund’s performance accurately. That means we would need to hold four funds. You need one U.S. ETF, one Europe ETF, one Pacific ETF, and one Emerging Markets ETF. If you want to have better accuracy, you could also add Canada that is usually included in North America. Or you could find a North American ETF. But I did not find a good one.

It is not a great solution, but this would still beat a world ETF from a European provider. It would be a better TER. You can find U.S. ETF around 0.07% in Europe. And since the U.S. is about 55% of the VT ETF, this would bring down the global TER.

The problem is that you have four funds instead of one. I think that simplicity should be preferred in a portfolio. It may make rebalancing a bit more complicated as some funds may underperform or outperform the others. And you may have to change the allocations if there is a shift in the world’s economy. But I still think it beats having a 0.20% TER fund.

Solution 4: Be a professional investor

Level of protection of Swiss investors by FinIA/FinSA
Level of protection of Swiss investors by FinIA/FinSA, Source:

You may have noticed that in this article, I have talked especially about retail investors. It is because both the European laws and Swiss laws consider different professional investors and retail investors.

They only apply to retail investors. So, if you are a professional investor, you can still use the good old U.S. funds! I am not a professional investor, and I doubt that you are either. However, there is a kind of loophole in the Swiss version of the law. It states that certain high net worth individuals may choose to opt-out of the law and be treated as professional investors. There is also this loophole in the European version of the law. But the conditions are slightly different.

In the law, a high net worth individual is described as one that:

  • Either declare that they understand the risks of the investment under their qualification and have at least 500’000 CHF.
  • Or dispose of at least two million CHF.

We can see that there is a loophole for the rich. The European Union does not want to hurt the rich that are in the European Union. Another stupid part of this law. I am far from filling these conditions yet. But it is not rare in the personal finance community to see people with more than 500’000 CHF. They could apply to opt-out and be considered professionals investors.

Now, I do not know how difficult it will be to opt-out. And I do not know if this will make you qualified as a professional investor for taxes. In which case, capital gains will be taxed. That is something to consider. But it could be a very good option for people who already have a high net worth. It is something I may do in a few years.


Why can’t European invest in U.S. ETFs anymore?

Since 2018, PRIIPS regulations disallow European investors to invest in U.S. Funds. These regulations only allow investment in funds with a Key Investor Document (KID). And U.S. funds and ETFs do not provide this KID.

What are the PRIIPS regulations?

Packaged Retail and Insurance-based Investment Products are regulations to protect European investors. It prevents them from investing in funds without a Key Investor Document (KID). In practice, this prevents European investors to invest in U.S. Funds. The need for KID is part of the biggest set of laws called the Markets in Financial Instruments Directive (MiFID).

What are the FinIA/FinSA laws?

The Financial Services Acct (FinSA) and the Financial Institutions Act (FinIA) are the Swiss equivalents of the MiFID laws from the European Union. These laws will enter into effect in January 2020, but will only affect foreign brokers in 2022. And effectively, they should prevent Swiss investors to invest in U.S. funds.


The best broker
Interactive Brokers
No custody fees

The broker you need to buy stocks and ETFs reliably and at extremely affordable prices. Trade U.S. stocks for as little as 0.5 USD!

  • Extremely affordable
  • Wide range of investing instruments
Invest your money Read My Review

The possible future loss of the U.S. ETFs is sad news for European and Swiss investors. The best alternative is to invest in European funds. But they are more expensive. And there is also less choice.

I think that the people who crafted this law did not care about Swiss investors but only about European fund providers. There is no doubt that this will profit European funds. Maybe in the future, it will increase their quality and price. But I am not very confident about that. It is a local lockdown of the market. Instead of protecting the customer, they are locking him into inferior choices.

Because of the poor handling of this law by DEGIRO, DEGIRO users already lost access to U.S. ETFs, several years in advance. I lost confidence in DEGIRO. It is why I switched to Interactive Brokers.

With this, I can still invest in good U.S. funds until at least 2022. After January 2022, I will still hold these funds and invest in the European equivalents for the future.

If you are still using DEGIRO and want access to U.S. ETFs as a Swiss Investor, I recommend switching to Interactive Brokers.

To see an ETF Portfolio without any U.S. ETF, take a look at my European ETF Portfolio.

If you are considering U.S. ETFs, you may want to read about the U.S. estate tax.

What about you? What your strategy be when we do not have access to U.S. funds anymore?

The best financial services for your money!

Download this e-book and optimize your finances and save money by using the best financial services available in Switzerland!

Download The FREE e-book
Photo of Baptiste Wicht

Baptiste Wicht started in 2017. He realized that he was falling into the trap of lifestyle inflation. He decided to cut his expenses and increase his income. This blog is relating his story and findings. In 2019, he is saving more than 50% of his income. He made it a goal to reach Financial Independence. You can send Mr. The Poor Swiss a message here.

Recommended reading

193 thoughts on “Swiss Investors May Lose Access to US-Domiciled ETFs in 2023”

  1. I opened recently a IB account, but still investing with Swissquote. mainly US ETF (VT)

    Do I understand correctly: At the moment, as a swiss resident, I won’t be able to purchase anyway US ETF (like VT / Vanguard Total), so it means – right now – Swissquote is actually the best option as a swiss resident?

    1. That’s not correct. We can buy US ETFs via IB at the moment. Not sure until when we can still do.

      1. Ok, so what is the comment of Baptiste at the top of this article?

        Ok, I’m just asking following: If there is a rather high probability that this will be not possible anymore in the course of 2023, I won’t start to dig into IB. I just created an account that I’m through the hurdle. I had now time to dig into it and saw suddenly, it might be not worthwhile to look into it.

        This is why I’m asking… so at the moment it works, but it’s unlikely that it will work for long?

      2. That comment above the post reflects a brief period in May when this wasn’t possible.

        Nobody can tell you anything about probabilites with any certainty, because there seems to be some confusion even on the part of professional service providers.

        For now, the communication from IBKR is that excluding Swiss residents from US ETF in May happened in error and has been corrected. Nobody really knows any more than that.

  2. Today I’ve got the option to buy US ETFs back, along with a message from IBKR that it was a ‘technical issue’.

    However, with Swiss FinSA and FinIA legislation, I’m not confident this will last.

      1. I asked the customer service whether they have any idea by when we might lose the possibility to buy US ETFs. He couldn’t tell me (which I expected). I assume it will be at some point this year.

      2. Hi Baptiste,
        Thank you for updating! There is quite some contradicting information floating around and insecurity even on the side of professional service providers like IBKR.

        Interestingly, even though the transition period granted by the Federal Council lapsed on 31.12.2022, we still have (again) access to US ETFs. Actually – based on my interpretation of the applicable law (FinSA) – I would assume this should remain to be the case in the future as well.

        Mainly for one very specific reason, that seems to be an evergreen when comparing (in my opinion more sensible and thoughtful) Swiss legislation with the EU legislation that usually is restrictive, prohibitive and in parts completely detached from real life application – end of rant, back to topic ;).

        In our specific case, Art. 59 (2) FinSA allows for “documents […] that are equivalent to the key information document” to be used instead of a KID. Vanguard and other providers of US ETFs and other financial products do actually prepare such documentation already. In Vanguard’s case it is the “Summary Prospectus”, that is published on their website.

        By preparing and publishing such document, they are compliant with the Swiss requirements under FinSA. Not so much with the EU PRIIPS regulation, however, as it is very specific in its requirements on how a KID and its contents have to look like and almost seems to be worded specifically to make US documents obsolete.

        Swiss legislation follows a “substance over form” approach here, and the Summary Prospectus and similar documents already in existence should suffice for FinSA purposes.

        Now the only black box is, how legal and compliance departments at brokers such as IBKR interpret Swiss law. Or what information – if any – they receive from big issuers of affected securities, such as Vanguard, on this issue.

        But again, the fact that the transition period lapsed, and Vanguard ETFs are still available at IBKR for Swiss investors is a good sign, in my view. Maybe someone actually took the time to look into the matter and came to the right conclusions.

        Let’s stay positive and on track!


      3. Hi, TZR,

        I agree that the fact that we still have access to them after the transition period is a good sign.
        I am not sure about your interpretation. I agree that other forms of a KID should be allowed, but they should still be translated, which is not the case for Vanguard US ETFs, no?
        I would say the main reason is that IB is an execution-only broker. They do not recommend ETFs, therefore, it should not have to comply.

  3. Thank you for sharing Baptiste! Since this morning I am in the same situation. This happened immediately after I updated the non professional trader/investor form with IBKR.
    We are partially screwed!

  4. Hi everyone,
    I could still buy US ETFs in the past couple of days but I just checked my IB account now and what I see is that all US ETFs have a red tag “NT” superscripted. Hovering over it, the following message is displayed:

    “This product required a KID (key info document) in a language approved for your country. Retain clients can trade packaged retail products only if an appropriate KID is available. More information available under a cited link.”

    Key info documents must be provided in the language of the country of residence. However, clients of IBKR have agreed to receive communications in English, and therefore if a KID or KIID is available in English all EEA and UK clients can trade the product regardless of their country of residence.

    In cases where a KID or KIID is not available in English, IBKR additionally supports the German, French and Dutch languages as follows:
    German: The product can be traded by residents of Germany, Austria, Belgium, Luxembourg and Liechtenstein.
    French: The product can be traded by residents of France, Belgium and Luxembourg.
    Dutch: The product can be traded by residents of the Netherlands and Belgium.

    As you can see, Switzerland is not an EEA member (which means KID not available in English) and is also missing on this list of countries where a German or French KID is available…

    I don’t know what that means for us.

    Have a nice weekend,

      1. It seems this is now the day that we feared would come. I just wish I’d have bought even more of various covered call ETFs and other ETFs, even on margin. Such a shame. We have to reckon this will be a permanent block, but I’m wondering if there is anything we investors can do.

      2. As investors, there is very little we can do. We could try to lobby the CH / EU to stop their stupid laws in favor of bad funds. We could try to lobby IB to have an entity in Switzerland so that they could still sell these ETFs. But both of these actions have very low probability of doing anything.

      3. Hi Baptiste,
        I got an answer from the IB customer service, and it seems we’re dealing with a temporal technical issue here. Our ETFs might be tradeable again soon.

        Here’s what they wrote:
        “The warnings, order cancellations or rejections for instruments without Key Information Documents (KIDs) are related to a temporary technical issue on our side which will be resolved soon. We are sorry for any inconvenience.

        We have started to make products without KIDs subject to the European Union’s PRIIPs regulation available again to our clients resided in Switzerland. Temporarily restricted products should be automatically available for you again as soon as the update is rolled over for your account. The rollover process has started and is currently ongoing, no further actions are needed from your side.

        As the update will be fully implemented, as a Swiss resident you will be able to place opening orders for products (e.g. ETFs) without KIDs again. You will be also able to resubmit your canceled orders if you would like to.

        We ask for your for your patience until the process is completed.”

    1. I noticed the same issue yesterday evening (NT sign showing up next to all US ETFs, unable to buy at all, only sell) and filed a support ticket asking them what was up.

      This morning, I noticed this got reverted on my account at least. I could buy US ETFs again. So it might indeed just be a glitch, as others indicated.

  5. From today I noticed that I am unable to buy any US etfs using ibkr, even though I am based in Switzerland.
    I had no problem buying or selling for the past year, until today.
    I am wondering if this changed now for everyone at ibkr

    1. Unfortunately, it seems this impact many people. I did not get a confirmation, but this is what somebody got from IB:

      There is a technical issue for residents of Switzerland where they are not able to buy ETFs due to PRIIPs regulation which is applicable to resident of EU. Our programmers are working on the fix to resolve thi issue. cannot give you the estimate timeframe but it should be fixed soon.

      So, it should be back soon hopefully.

      1. I don’t think it is a bug, but a decision :-(
        Since this morning I see this message for VT:

        “This product requires a KID in a language approved for your country. Retail clients can trade packaged retail products only if an appropriate KID is available.”

        The “Buy” button is disabled.

    2. I am having the same problem! Really afraid I will lose access to US Etfs– virtually the only way a US citizen can build wealth in Switzerland. Fingers crossed it’s a technical issue only…

      1. What was the error message you received? Is it “insufficient settled cash”? I’ve had more than enough cash but for some reason I could not buy more than a few ETFs today.

      2. Hi,

        Until yesterday I could still buy US ETFs, but checking today, there’s a “NT” tag on all US ETFs in my portfolio.
        It’s further stated that the KID (key info document) is not available in local language (and Switzerland not being part of the EEA, where the English version of the KID has been adopted).

        I don’t know what this means for us and sent my questions to IB customer service.
        But I fear now the time has come that we lost our ability to buy US ETFs – which would be such a shame.

        Kind regards,

Leave a Reply

Your comment may not appear instantly since it has to go through moderation. Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *