Swiss Investors May Lose Access to US-Domiciled ETFs in 2022

By Baptiste Wicht | Updated: | Investing, Switzerland

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

Update 2022: Nothing happened in 2022 and likely nothing will happen

Update 2021: It seems now likely that we will be able to keep investing in U.S. ETFs in 2022.

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 are going to see what 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 decided to implement this earlier, effectively cutting Swiss Investors from the best ETFs available. I have now switched to Interactive Brokers.

In this article, we are going to see why this is happening. And we are also going to 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 am not going to go into details about the law.

I am only going to focus on the part that is the problem now. These regulations enforce that all funds provide a so-called Key Investor Document (KID). This document must give some 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 am not going to 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 state 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 decided to start implementing them early for reasons of their own. 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 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”. DEGIRO did a lousy job handling the situation, in my opinion.

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 are still using DEGIRO, you can switch to another broker. This will give you until 2022 at least to use U.S. ETF.

It is what I did. And I currently can invest in U.S. ETF. It is really worth changing brokers just for this reason.

However, as the two Swiss laws become applicable to all brokers in 2022, that could be the end of it. After that point, I may have to find another solution anyway. Interactive Brokers already stopped offering these ETFs to European investors last year, per the law. So, I think they will follow the law in 2022 and stop offering these to Swiss investors.

Solution 2: Change funds?

Another solution is to comply with the new dumb law and switch to European-domiciled funds. We are not going to 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 more 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 post, I have talked especially about retail investors. It is because both the European laws and Swiss laws are considering 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.


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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?

Baptiste Wicht is the author behind In 2017, he realized that he was falling into the trap of lifestyle inflation. He decided to cut on 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.

149 thoughts on “Swiss Investors May Lose Access to US-Domiciled ETFs in 2022”

  1. Bonjours,

    J’ai ouvert un compte IB au début de cette année, je devrais attendre et ne pas encore acheter d’ETFs américain le temps de savoir ce qui va se passer ?

    Ou bien en acheter directement ?

    Ou encore commencer avec des ETFs européen ?

    1. Please comment in English on English articles.

      No, there is no need to wait. For now, it seems nothing has changed. A part of the law has been postponed to 2023 but it’s not clear whether this concerns IB or not.
      For now, I am still buying US ETFs and will continue until I can’t.

  2. Considering the recent postponement of the EU transition from UCITS KIIDs to PRIIP KIDs, the Federal Council has decided to also extend the FinSA transition period of the same length – 12 month. The decision has been taken “to ensure equal treatment, but also to avoid a disproportionate burden on issuers of financial instruments and to avoid confusing investors.”

    ‍What does this extension imply?

    This means that the obligation to prepare a FinSA KID (or an equivalent PRIIP KID) for all relevant financial instruments will only be mandatory starting from January 1st, 2023.

    1. I am not entirely sure this is directly related since there are many parts to these regulations. However, it seems that we can still buy US ETFs in IB. It could still be the case in 2023 as well.

    1. Hi Charles,

      The proposal itself is going to enter into action in January.
      What we don’t know yet is it that will impact IB, a foreign broker, or not. I have heard very contradicting things about that.

  3. Hello TPS,

    Thanks for the interesting article. I currently live in Switzerland. If I would open an IB account and buy US ETFs (suppose we will still be able to do that in 2022), do you know what happens if I would move to Europe in a few years? Would I be forced to sell the US ETF, or would I be able to transfer it and keep it in Europe?


    1. Hi Jona,

      The same happened in Europe in 2020 and brokers let the users keep their shares. You just can’t buy more shares. So, you will not be forced to sell ETs if that happens for us.
      I don’t get the question about transferring?

      1. Hi Baptiste,

        Thanks for your reply!
        To move country, I read somewhere that depending on the country, you need to first the Swiss account and then open a new account in your country in Europe. Therefore, I was wondering whether it would be possible to transfer the bought US ETFs from the Swiss account to the European account, or whether I would need to sell them when closing the Swiss account.

        1. Hi JB,

          Are you talking about IB? On IB, you should be able to keep your account when moving country, even though your account may be transferred to another IB entity.
          About bank accounts in Switzerland, this is indeed complicated since most will not let you keep your account after you move out.

  4. Dear Baptiste,
    Thank you for your hard work and the great articles!

    I am looking into opening an account with IB and have been in touch with their Customer Support. Unfortunately, today I received written confirmation, that retail (!) investors from Switzerland will not be able to buy US ETFs as of 2022 anymore.

    Reason being, and I cite IB here:
    “Swiss residents will not have access to trade US ETFs via IBKR as the account will be opened under IB-UK entity. At this moment we do not have any update if Swiss residents can change or open their account under other entities apart from UK. If there are any changes it will be updated on our website.”

    It will still be possible if you opt-out of client protection and become a “professional investor” for regulatory purposes, but as you said, that is only an option for select few.

    Let’s hope they will find a solution for this and sorry to be the bearer of such grim news…

    All the best,

    1. Hi,

      Thanks for sharing this.
      Even though this seems like grim news, I would not worry too much at this point. IB support has been known to not know much about this. But it’s true that this does not sound good.

      Let’s wait one more month.

  5. Hi Poor Swiss,
    thank you for this article – this is really bad news… I’m living in Switzerland too and shifted from DeGiro to IB last year for the same reasons.

    Does this mean we can no longer buy US ETFs via IB from January 2022 onwards, but we can still keep on holding current US ETFs in our portfolio (and keep receiving distributions?).

    I have several covered call US ETFs with a 10% yield which I really don’t wanna lose. To my knowledge, there are no comparable European ETFs, let alone on par alternatives for great dividend ETFs such as SCHD, VYM or DIVO.

    Or are we forced to sell our US ETFs in our IB accounts in January?

    Beste Grüsse,

    1. Hi,

      As indicated at the top of the article: “Update 2021: It seems now likely that we will be able to keep investing in U.S. ETFs in 2022.”
      This is unlikely to happen, that’s what most people think. But I could not get the point of view of a lawyer on that.

      If this ever happens, we would not have been forced to sell, only stopped from buying more.

      1. Hey,
        thank you! If we´re at least not forced to sell, I´d pack as much as possible into these high-yielding ETFs until the end of 2021 and then leave the investments as they are.

        Have you ever thought about opening an account with Charles Schwab? I thought about that, but there no direct money transfer possible from a European bank over to a US bank.

        Cheers, Chri

        1. Hi Chri,

          I never thought about Charles Schwab because IB does not have any disadvantages for me. Is there any advantage for Charles Schwab?
          Without a CH bank account, I would never use a broker.

      1. Hi Mr. PoorSwiss, thanks for all your advice!

        I’m a bit confused by your comment above, in combination with the “Update 2021” posted in the Article. You say that it seems now likely that we “will be able to keep investing in U.S. ETFs in 2022, at least with some brokers.” So will we in Switzerland be able to buy new US ETF in 2022 on InteractiveBrokers?


  6. There’s another alternative – use an American, Canadian or international broker. Some of them accept European customers and the PRIIPS regulations don’t apply because they don’t operate from Europe.

  7. Thanks for your reply. So, do you think that if the law comes full applicable in Switzerland during 2022 as well as in the EEA, its going to be more expensive for Swiss residents to buy EEA ETSs with I.B., since we will still have to pay more commissions for buying? I ask because I have never bought any EEA ETFs from Switzerland, but I supposes, its going to be more expensive to buy for Swiss than for EEA residents. I can see bigger commissions in I.B if you want to buy for example EEA /LSE funds… have you experienced that?
    Also, buying the ETFs in Ireland cuts you the possibility to get 15% in dividends claim back. Is that right?
    Thank you in advance for your reply and for sharing the nice article about the Swiss taxes! To understand all this changes it’s a kind of nightmare, specially after switching to a new broker account. :( Have a good day.

    1. It’s going to be more expensive than buying U.S. ETFs for sure. It’s about 10 times more expensive to buy an EU ETF than a U.S. ETF.
      However, the main issue is the TER of these ETFs and the lost of dividends because U.S. ETFs are more tax-efficient for Swiss investors.

      Yes, that’s correct, an Ireland ETF will not let you reclaim the 15% of U.S. dividends that will be taken by the IRS.

      1. Thanks again, I meant, if its going to be more expensive for Swiss residents to buy EEA products, like ETSs with I.B., compared to EEA residents themselves, buying within the EEA space…
        Do you, as a Suiss resident have more commissions than EEA residents in ETFs?
        What do you think will be the best option to switch from EEA to Switzerland with a small wallet, without falling due to commissions, PER, dividends cuts, etc…
        Thank you very much for your guidance…
        I am trying to figure out how to do it in the best manner.

        1. At least at IB, it’s the same price for EEA investors and Swiss investors and this should be the same for most international brokers.

          I do not think moving from EEA to Switzerland has many differences for your broker as long as your broker allows you to move.

  8. Hey PoorSwiss. Your site and information is accurate and great to read. Im totally agree with the fact that this new law forces us to invest in European markets. I have same problem in the E.U, with I.B.,(unable to buy US ETFS) but recently moving to Switzerland to start a new job. My question for you is, after having bought the ETFs during 2021 in I.B., will you still be able to keep all of them or in 2022 you are going to be forced to sell your positions. An idea of this? Also, how do you declare dividends in the Swiss annual income statement? As per I know, there is no tax on the capital gains… Please feed back…
    Thank you so much for your help. I hope you may become a professional player one day :)

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