Moving to Switzerland

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A comprehensive guide on relocating to Switzerland

Move to Switzerland and look forward to some of the highest wages and the best quality of life anywhere in the world. Perhaps because it’s such a desirable place, there are fairly stringent requirements for moving to Switzerland. We are here to help you understand them and complete all the necessary steps to move to Switzerland.

Switzerland is one of the most strikingly beautiful, clean, and wealthy countries you could hope to move to. Highly rated in terms of safety and security, quality of life, and earning potential, this unique land has some benefits and as well as many challenges for expats.

Not just blessed with a wealth of stunning landscapes, it’s also a place of great cultural and linguistic diversity. One of the oldest countries in the world, Switzerland’s long-standing autonomy has preserved local differences and, more recently, made it very wealthy and attractive internationally.

Being a small, rich, and beautiful place to move to, Switzerland is a very popular destination and is increasingly tightening up on immigration quotas and processes. If you want to know more about moving to Switzerland, then read on. We have all the information you need to understand this very diverse and internationally orientated country.



Depending on where you’re coming from, the process of moving to Switzerland may be easy. Many expats coming from Europe just pack up their car and drive in, perhaps sending a few boxes with a delivery service on the side. If you are coming from further afield or if you need a full moving service, then make sure you shop around. Prices for shipping goods to Switzerland vary considerably and may be best sourced from non-Swiss providers. InterNations GO! is here to assist you with your shipping needs.

Generally, the restrictions on what you can bring with you are not prohibitive. You can bring all items classified as personal possessions duty-free. To qualify, personal possessions must have been owned for at least six months prior to entry. A full inventory is required as part of the paperwork. If you are shipping household goods to Switzerland beware that some foodstuffs are subject to tighter restrictions than you might expect. The Swiss like to discourage their citizens from popping into cheaper neighboring countries for their weekly grocery shopping, and there is a long list of food and drinks that you can bring into Switzerland only in small quantities.

If you have a pet and have ever wondered how much it’s worth, a move to Switzerland is a good time to find out. The Swiss charge VAT (value added tax) of 8% on all pets entering the territory. In addition to this entry tax, there are likely to be a range of other expenses relating to moving to Switzerland with your pet. All vaccinations will need to be up to date, including an implanted microchip identifying your pet as rabies-free.

If you are arranging your move on your own, make sure that you understand the full process of moving to Switzerland. Our relocation guide is a great place to start.

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Visas & Work Permits

Wondering how to get a Swiss work permit? Ponder no further. Our guide to the Swiss visa requirements will answer all your questions.

Lots of people want to move to Switzerland. It is an attractive and wealthy place. The Swiss know this and are increasingly talking about tightening the regulations around different Swiss visa types. The Swiss process for residency application takes place in your canton and is specific to that locality. If you wish to move to another canton during your stay, you will need to work out how to get a visa there as well.

You need to get yourself a residency permit if you are staying in the country for longer than three months or plan on working there. These Swiss visa requirements apply also for EU citizens, although, if you have an EU passport, the rules and regulations are easier to navigate.

If you are granted residency, it is pretty easy to then bring members of your immediate family into the country. Sometimes even grandparents can reside with you on the basis of your successful application.

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When you are planning your move to Switzerland, accommodation is likely to be top of your concerns. Most of the moving process is just administration, but finding housing in Switzerland takes grit, determination, and luck. It’s not just that accommodation costs are expensive, it’s that availability is scarce.

Networking and making good connections are the best tactics to successfully find a place to rent in Switzerland. On the open market the average rent is high and there is a lot of scarcity, especially in the major cities and centers of commerce. Most people in Switzerland rent long term. It’s not uncommon for people to rent the same flat for their entire lives, without thinking of purchasing it. In fact, people are moving less and less as the rental market gets tighter. Finding a new place is hard and can mean a massive leap in rent.

In this climate, buying might be a cleverer alternative. Average house prices are also high in Switzerland, but there are lots of different types of houses to choose from and ownership by non-citizens is allowed. Read our full guide on how to buy a house in Switzerland for expats.

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What level of cover do I want? How many times am I likely to get sick this year? Which insurance provider is the best for me? Welcome to the complexities of the healthcare system and health insurance in Switzerland.

Health insurance is taken out with a private provider. There are many to choose from as well as a myriad of policy types and options. The good news is that Switzerland’s healthcare system is thought to be very good and life expectancy is among the longest in the world.

Our guide will help you to navigate the complexities of a healthcare system where there are a lot of personal choices to make, as well as making sure you know how to find a doctor and Switzerland’s best hospitals.

Giving birth in Switzerland is also well catered for with extensive midwifery and newborn services. For example, mothers are routinely kept in the hospital for five days after the birth. Maternity leave allowances are less generous, with women being guaranteed less than 100 days of leave.

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Banks & Taxes

Opening a bank account in Switzerland is easy and should be top of your to-do list when you move to the country. There are lots of banks to choose from, with at least four major national banks as well as small canton-based institutions. Bear in mind that even the best bank accounts charge administration fees, as well as fees for different transactions. If you come from a country where consumer banking is a free service, this can be a bit of a shock.

In general, Swiss tax rates are low but they vary a bit depending on where you are living. This is because income tax is levied at a local as well as at a national level and tax rates vary, canton to canton. Before you move, it’s also a good idea to work out how Switzerland’s unusual wealth tax system might affect you. Read our full guide to Swiss taxes to find out more.

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Switzerland is a little country that punches above its size in many areas. The country has an education system that is very well regarded. The public schools are generally good quality, there are 44+ international schools in Switzerland, and 12 universities. The latter is especially well known for their quality and international outlook.

The problems you might face with the school system in Switzerland stem mainly from the devolved nature of the administration. Each canton is responsible for its own education and tuition is offered in one of the three or even four official languages. Find out which are the best schools, what they teach, and in which language, with our full explanation on the complexities of the Swiss education system.

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Switzerland has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the world and enough jobs to maintain this while attracting a lot of expat labor. Many who come for work end up staying, and it is estimated about a quarter of the population is foreign-born.

No wonder. Average salaries in Switzerland are among the highest in Europe, it has low taxes and an internationally orientated business culture. What’s more, the lifestyle and countryside are second to none. Expats work at all levels of the Swiss economy, but demand in skilled sectors, such as engineering, pharmaceutical, and financial, is especially high. Make sure that you give yourself the best chance of success with our guide on job search.

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Country Facts

Is it expensive to live in Switzerland? You can bet your cuckoo clock it is. Switzerland has become one of the most expensive places to live in the world. Whether it’s rent, food, going out, or transportation, you will find that the cost of living, especially in the urban centers, is extremely high.

This is probably less of a problem if you are planning to live and work in Switzerland, as average wages are also very high and taxes are low. What’s more, the quality of life is worth paying for. Based on the annual InterNations expat insider survey, Switzerland is consistently rated amongst the best places to live.

Get some tips on how to cut costs, as well as a full introduction to all the benefits of living in this very special land with our full list of country facts.

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InterNations GO!
by InterNations GO!
03 December 2018
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