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Settling Down in Geneva

Moving to Geneva, Switzerland’s most global city, is an exciting experience for most expats. Our InterNations Guide, will help you find essential information on visas, residence permits, and accommodation, as well as other important advice for your relocation to Geneva.

Identity Cards with a Chip

Residence permits are issued in the form of paper identity cards to EU and Schengen nationals. Following EU regulations, third-state nationals receive the new biometric chip identity card as of 2011.

All biometric data is stored on an invisible chip in the card and will be deleted from the system five years after the owner of the card has left Switzerland for good. The data consists of two fingerprints and one passport-style photograph.

Residential Areas — Where to Live?

Generally speaking, the Swiss are not a nation of home-owners in the same way as, for example, the British are. Many Swiss live in rented accommodation, especially in Geneva, where expats and other temporary residents make up a large part of the population.

Finding accommodation in Geneva can be a little difficult and rents are extortionately high by most standards. For this reason, many expats working in Geneva look for accommodation in the neighboring French towns of Annemasse, Ferney-Voltaire, Saint-Genis-Pouilly, or Saint-Julien-en-Genevais. As these French towns across the border belong to the Geneva metropolitan area, most of them benefit from good train connections to the city.

Geneva City — The Search for Accommodation

If you are looking for accommodation in Geneva city, the best place to start your search is the internet. The site has many listings for Switzerland as a whole but also in Geneva, which combine offers from several estate agents. Alternatively, check local newspapers or contact the local administration of the community where you would like to live for an up-to-date list of available rental property.

Due to the city’s compact size and good public transport facilities, there aren’t necessarily any areas in Geneva where expats prefer to live. Instead, expats tend to search for accommodation all across the city, as commutes tend to be short and easy.

The Process of Renting Accommodation

Landlords or estate agents may ask to see a valid residence permit when renting to foreigners. The deposit for a flat usually amounts to three months’ rent. The money is kept in a special account and returned to the tenant (plus interest) upon termination of the contract — provided they did not inflict any damage to the property.

Most apartments are rented unfurnished for a fixed period of at least one year. However, tenants can usually terminate their contract earlier if they find someone suitable to take over their tenancy.

Flats should come with their individual basement and access to some sort of launderette, which can be used by all tenants of the building. It usually contains coin-operated washing machines, a dryer, and sometimes a separate room to hang up your clothes.

Do you have more questions about Housing and Accommodation in Switzerland? You can read more about renting in Switzerland in our comprehensive Country Guide.


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