Here’s a cheat sheet for your relocation to Switzerland. You’ll learn how to transfer your personal items and blend into Swiss culture, as well as how to handle registrations, obtain a license, get insured, and find a good moving company.
Most foreigners relocate to Switzerland for its high quality of life, outdoor activities, and interesting careers in spite of the country being quite costly to live in.
Your relocation to Switzerland warrants a lengthy checklist. You’ll need to coordinate plans for accommodation, immigration, childcare, insurance, and utilities. Other aspects must be managed right after your arrival to the country, such as mandatory registrations with local authorities, obtaining a tax and social security number, getting Swiss health insurance, and obtaining a TV license.
Transferring your possessions to Switzerland
Your household belongings, personal items, cars, motorbikes, and pets can be brought to the country, tax-free. You’ll need to prove that your new place of residence will be in Switzerland (students excepted). To send your possessions, such as your dishes, furniture, clothing, books, and the like, into the country duty-free, you’ll require a transfer of domicile. At the customs office’s entry point, you’ll have to show this proof of transfer of domicile, which can be an employment contract or rental agreement.
You will also need to show an inventory of your imported belongings, which you need to have owned for at least half a year before your arrival in Switzerland. Bring your possessions with you when you cross the border during normal opening hours at a commercial goods crossing point. If a moving company is delivering your possessions, ensure they have the proper paperwork before their arrival.
Marriage (wedding trousseaux)
Once you get married and move in with your Switzerland-based spouse, you can start importing your household items and personal possessions duty-free, like your car, pets, and wedding gifts, even if you are registered partners already. You can read more in: How to get married in Switzerland.
Importing plants to Switzerland
Not all plants are allowed in the country. If the plant value is more than the duty-free CHF 300 limit, you’ll need to declare it with Swiss customs. See the Federal Customs Administration’s website for more details.
Bringing animals into Switzerland
Do you intend to come to Switzerland with your pets? There are stern rules on transportation and health with regards to animal imports in Switzerland. Various regulations are applicable based on the risk of rabies in the animal’s originating country. Read more here.
Post-arrival registration and immigration
Just about every EFTA/EU resident can move to Switzerland as per the Freedom of Movement Act, but they must apply for a residence permit and register to work if they remain in the country for longer than 90 days per visit. Because of surges in immigration numbers, Switzerland invoked the safeguard clause in 2017 to enforce quotas for Bulgarian and Romanian residents.
Just about everyone requires a Visa to get into the country for a long-term visit (over 90 days). Most people apply for a Visa from outside of Switzerland, and approval is required for many things (cantonal and federal). You obtain a Swiss residence permit with a long-term Visa. It’s vital to organize sufficient time for processing, which can last between 90 and 270 days based on your circumstances and the embassy itself.
You’ll need to register with the Residents Registration Office within two weeks of your arrival in Switzerland. You’ll also need to visit the Cantonal Migration Offices to pick up your work/residence permit. For more details about immigration, check out Expatica’s Swiss Visas and Permits Guide.
Coming back to Switzerland
Every year, countless Swiss residents come home after living overseas for a while. By principle, they have to do the same things they did when emigrating; handle customs protocols, un-register from their home country, locate somewhere to stay, get a job, complete local authority registration, apply for social insurance, and other relevant steps.
Social security benefits and health insurance in Switzerland
Foreigners working or residing in Switzerland must apply for Swiss health insurance when they become residents, but there are some exceptions. Firstly, you must register with a health insurer and apply for Swiss social security contributions.
The exemptions differ based on the Swiss canton you transfer to. You are encouraged to begin the process early since you will need to prove that you have sufficient insurance, or that you qualify for the exemption. In either case, you have 90 days to get your affairs in order. After three months, the authorities will impose their own insurance on you. You need to be insured from the start of your residency, even if you have a 90-day window to obtain one.
EU (European Union) residents traveling for less than 90 days can use Swiss healthcare with their European Health Insurance Card. However, these people will also have to join the Swiss health insurance program after they become employed or registered citizens.
If you commute across borders (for instance, you live in France or Germany, but work in Switzerland), you can be insured in your choice of a country between the two. That said, this is a decision set in stone.
Unemployed and self-employed individuals will require accident insurance, too, along with unemployment and social security coverage. People in a higher income bracket will also require insurance with a pension institution; self-employed individuals are not obligated to do so, though.
Getting a Swiss bank account
Prior to your arrival in Switzerland, you are able to open an account with a Swiss financial institution. However, you’ll need to offer authenticated and thorough paperwork. Granted, online banks might provide you with alternative steps. For the most part, it’s much simpler to open a bank account in person when you get to Switzerland. In metropolitan cities, financial institutions generally have English-speaking representatives to help you with this process.
There are two types of banks: cantonal and national. The former is exclusive to canton citizens. As such, if you relocate from the canton, you might need to have your account transferred. If you relocate overseas, the bank will likely request the closure of the account. Regular banking services are also available at Swiss post offices.
Upon relocating to Switzerland, you’ll be considered a Swiss tax resident based on:
- the date you registered with the canton’s immigration office (see above);
- when you arrived in Switzerland if you’re remaining here ‘permanently’; or
- the date you obtain a resident permit.
Taxes are to be paid to your commune, canton, and the Swiss Federation. Taxes owing are determined by your global income and obtained via the canton; the processes and rates differ per canton.
Foreigners wedded to a Swiss resident, foreigners with a permanent residence permit or Swiss residents must file an annual Swiss tax return. A yearly tax return is also required if you work for a foreign employer or are self-employed.
Getting a job in Switzerland
With an outstanding quality of life, impressive Swiss salaries, amazing working conditions, and a low unemployment rate, Switzerland is a wonderful place to find work. While competition is high and there are quotas for outsiders from the EFTA/EU, there are plenty of Swiss jobs to pick from, particularly for skilled workers in technology and engineering, banking, IT, insurance, consulting, and pharmaceutical industries. Business analysts, financial analysts, and systems analysts are also highly demanded positions in Switzerland. Several global organizations and multinationals are based in Switzerland.
Most positions tend to be filled through connections. Being proactive with networking is essential when speculative applications are sent to employers.
Finding somewhere to live
Zurich, Geneva, and Berne are all great cities with their own appeal, but which one of them is suitable for you?
As much as 80% of residents in Zurich and Geneva, as well as about 60% of Switzerland residents, rent their homes rather than own them. As such, rental rates are costly, and in several metropolitan areas, demand is greater than supply. Check our Expat guide to Zurich, Switzerland.
EFTA/EU residents with permits, as well as non-EU C permit holders, are allowed to purchase property as their main residence in Switzerland with the same freedoms that Swiss citizens have; others have more limitations. Properties in demand can be difficult to obtain, but purchasing property in Switzerland is a worthwhile endeavor particularly with the assistance of a real estate agent. As the services of professionals differ, you are encouraged to obtain a couple of opinions prior to committing to a purchase.
Establishing communications and utilities
After you relocate to Switzerland, your fixed residence might be connected to communications and utility outlets. The regular utilities in Switzerland are comprised of water and electricity; because of high rates, gas is rarely used. Excluding electricity, water and heating tend to be part of the rental contracts for apartments, though houses don’t have that luxury. You must register for each supplier if you want these connections activated. For a television signal, even to watch with a satellite or mobile transmission, a Billag license must first be obtained.
Internet providers in Switzerland
Internet access and connectivity in Switzerland is strong, as the nation has the second greatest proportion of globally fixed broadband connections. You can find free Wi-Fi hotspots just about everywhere, as well as several kinds of connections to choose from, such as high-speed DSL, cable, and dial-up.
Internet prices in Switzerland differ based on the type of plan you’re interested in. Many internet providers here have package deals that include television and mobile devices. The most inexpensive internet deals in Switzerland each month will set you back about 50 or 60 CHF. 1GB is the quickest internet speed you can get, though it is costlier than other plans. For about 130 CHF each month, you can get a decent package deal.
To obtain a Swiss internet connection, get in touch with your provider and pick a package that accommodates your needs. You will have to show the provider your residence permit or similar proof of residence. It might take a few days for your connection to kick in, so you are encouraged to make plans with the internet provider a few weeks before your arrival. Your provider will send you a digital modem.
Obtaining a Swiss mobile number
There are numerous Swiss mobile phone providers, all of which offer various plans. Mobile phone contacts tend to last between one and two years. Many contracts come with free texts and calls, in addition to a mobile device (paid for in installments) upon signing up. Have a look at our comparison guide of Swiss mobile phone providers for more details on mobile phone rates in Switzerland. Find out more in our Cost of living in Switzerland guide.
You will require a Swiss residence and proof of address to sign up for a mobile phone provider in Switzerland. For about 20 CHF, non-residents can buy a Swiss pay-as-you-go SIM card. You’ll need to show the following to a Swiss mobile phone operator for a mobile contract:
- valid ID (e.g., work or residence permit)
- proof of address
- bank account details
- Swiss social security number
Linking to a Swiss phone number
Switzerland’s phone communications network contains a large number of phone lines per capita, more than any other country. There are several providers, the biggest one being Swisscom, who provide package deals comprised of the internet, phone, and TV, in addition to other services. Check our article on How to Call Switzerland from the UK and Swiss dialing.
To activate your phone in Switzerland, you must pay a one-time fee. The installation work will be conducted by an authorized contractor. This might take anywhere from a couple of days to several weeks, and as such, it’s worthwhile to plan for this sooner rather than later if you don’t have a phone connection. If you already have a connection, you’ll still need to get in touch with the phone provider and show them your details and ID (like your residence permit).
Phone prices in Switzerland will cost you about CHF 130 per month, which gets you the package of a mobile phone, landline, TV, and internet.
Taking part in the Swiss education
All 26 cantons regulate their own education system. Each system differs based on the child’s age, schedule, and curriculum. Required education in Switzerland can be as long as nine years and includes primary school (for kids up to 6 or 7 years old) and early secondary school (for kids up to 15 years old).
Kids are obligated to attend their local public school unless they attend private schools, which have their own rules. You’ll need to change schools if you relocate to another area. When children turn 16 years old, they can upgrade their education to upper secondary academic institutions (Maturitätsschulen) to prepare for vocational schools or colleges (Berufsfachschulen). It is there that students will obtain a role as a workplace apprentice as part of their continuing education. Get in touch with your canon’s educational authorities to enroll your youngster in a state school.
International and private schools
International and private schools in Switzerland might be more suitable if you’re only in the country for a set duration, or if your kids are older and are not fluent in the native language.
College in Switzerland
For the most part, students must hold the maturité/matura (the qualification to enter a Swiss college) or equivalent certificate that qualifies them for college (like the European Baccalaureate, the International Baccalaureate (IB), a US High School Diploma, or British A levels). For your originating country’s admission essentials, click here.
Those over the age of 18 can use their foreign driving license during their first year of relocation to Switzerland, in addition to an International Driver’s Permit/License if it isn’t in English, Italian, French, or German.
Before the year ends, you’ll require a Swiss license. Residents from the EEA/EU nations can trade their native country’s licenses for a Swiss one; others must pass a driving test within a 90 day period. A first aid course and theory test might also be part of the process, which comes with fees.
Best Swiss childcare
Switzerland childcare might not be as accessible as it is in our native country, and the ones that are available have extensive waitlists. It is in your best interest to book childcare well before your trip to Switzerland.
For children under 4, kindergarten and nursery are mandatory in several cantons, and there are no costs involved with schooling. To enroll your child in a kindergarten glass, apply to your local facility in writing.
Approximately 2,000 child centers (krippe/crèches, kindertagesstätte or KiTa) are privately funded and operated by the canton. Rates are contingent on how much you earn, and the hours required for childcare, though the rules differ per child center.
Maman du jour/child-minders/tagesmutter will provide childcare for longer durations, and your canton might also subsidize your costs. For registered childcare in your area, contact the Swiss childcare association.
Several places of business have internal daycare centers, some of which welcome children of non-company employees.
If your kids are young enough to attend primary school, you might also have to coordinate childcare during the school’s 120-minute lunch break. Although several educational facilities offer lunch and manage childcare, not all of them do. Get in touch with social services or local school authorities to learn more about this provision.
Necessary insurances in Switzerland
If you’re the owner of a property, you will require building insurance, which comes with fire insurance. Household insurance is not mandatory for tenants, but it is for landlords. Personal liability insurance can also be taken out if you are responsible for someone else’s damage or loss and must compensate them. All vehicles require third-party insurance coverage.
Selecting a language school
Having the ability to speak the official language of Switzerland will make simplify your integration. You can learn Italian, French, and German in Switzerland language schools. You can also take language courses at the Migros Club Social and similar educational institutions for adults.
Several educational institutions provide more intricate language courses for kids. Some cantons provide no-fee language courses for new arrivals to Switzerland. Speak to your local commune office for more information.
Swiss pensions and retirement
You’ll always see Switzerland at the top of the Natixis Global Retirement Index (GRI), as the country is a haven for retirees. Many expats come to Switzerland, so much so that the Swiss government implemented a Swiss retirement residency program. Retirees have a fairly open policy, but they must qualify for specific criteria based on their country of origin and the canton they plan to reside in.
You might qualify for a Swiss state pension if you’ve worked for 12 straight months in Switzerland and have contributed to the AHV (Swiss retirement program).