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Moving to Switzerland
A Comprehensive Guide on Relocating to Switzerland
Our guide will advise you on all requirements to move to Switzerland. We cover a broad range of topics, such as how to find accommodation in the competitive Swiss housing market, why you need a university degree in order to obtain a work permit, and how to fill out the eye exam required for the Swiss driver’s license. Whether you are moving for work, family, or to immerse yourself in one its four official languages, we list every step you need follow to move to the alpine country.
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If you are wondering how to move to Switzerland, you are not alone. Nearly 2 million foreigners already make up the country’s population of around 7 million residents. Interestingly, most of Switzerland’s senior level management positions are held by expats.
While the benefits of moving to Switzerland—such as high salaries and an excellent education system—outweigh the cons, like the high cost of living, the requirements are not simple. So, how hard is it to move to Switzerland? To begin with, to obtain a work visa you must have a university degree as well as several years of professional work experience. Most long-term visas also require a certain level of proficiency in German, French, or Italian (dependent on the region in Switzerland where you want to live). Otherwise, you will be required to enroll in a language course upon your arrival.
The main things you need to know when moving to Switzerland also vary depending on the canton you move to. Switzerland is made of 26 cantons (member states of the Swiss Confederation), and much of the laws apply at the cantonal level. This means that factors such as education, healthcare costs, and even cultural norms vary canton-by-canton.
Whether you are moving abroad for the first time or relocated multiple times before, the process raises many questions. Our complete guide to relocation will ease your doubts along the way, from the initial preparations to how to negotiate a relocation package, we help you GO! prepared with the key answers.
If you meet the requirements, the process of moving to Switzerland is fairly simple. The greatest hassle you will face is filling out all of the paperwork required to transfer your goods from one home to another. Be aware that you must have owned everything for at least six months prior to your move, and you cannot bring excessive quantities of agricultural goods.
You may want to look into temporary storage, if you are moving your household goods to Switzerland, The competition for housing in Switzerland is tough and some cities have a housing shortage. For this reason, expats moving to Switzerland may have no other choice than to stay in temporary accommodation until they find a permanent place. This could take anywhere from one month to half a year, so getting a unit to store your household goods is a practical option. To avoid waiting so long, contact our Home-finding team. They will help you identify the best neighborhood for you and shortlist the properties that match your needs and wants.
Moving with your pets to Switzerland is also relatively worry-free. Just like with your household goods, you will need to provide a good amount of paperwork, including an import permit for cats and dogs. Rodents, rabbits, and most aquatic animals will only require a health certificate. If you own an animal deemed “exotic,” such as a turtle, you will need to verify that it is not protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
As long as you have the correct documentation, your pet will not need to be quarantined. Dogs and cats must be microchipped and vaccinated against rabies. If you are from a country considered by the EU as of high-risk for rabies, then your pet should have been vaccinated for at least 30 days before your arrival to Switzerland.
The vaccinations required for you and your family to move to Switzerland are standard. There is even a chance that you may already have many of the shots needed.Read Guide
If you plan to stay in Switzerland for longer than 90 days, you will need to know how to get a Swiss visa and work permit. Swiss visa types vary depending on whether you are an EU/EFTA citizen or not. For some visa types, there may even be quotas in place for how many can be distributed every year. Unless you are applying for permanent residency, Swiss visa costs are relatively low.
The Swiss visa application process is simple, although the requirements for a Swiss work visa can seem stringent. For example, in order to qualify for a Swiss work permit, you not only need to have a university degree, but also several years of work experience. Applying for a self-employment visa is also tough as it requires approval at both the federal and cantonal level.
When applying for any Swiss visa, you may be asked to show proof of enrollment in one of three languages: French, German, or Italian. Be aware that when you renew your visa, you will need to prove knowledge and continual study of that language.Read Guide
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Finding accommodation in Switzerland may be one of the hardest tasks during an expat’s relocation process. So, how do expats rent a house in Switzerland? The process is standard and typically involves looking online yourself or hiring a real estate agent. However, you should take note that housing in Switzerland is scarce and competitive. As much as 60% of the market is dominated by rentals, and some cities have reported housing shortages in recent years.
Average house prices are high across the country, but prices vary significantly from canton to canton. For example, the average monthly rent for one-bedroom home in Geneva is around 2,000 CHF (2,200 USD), while the same type of house will be 1,300 CHF (1,450 USD) in Glarus, Switzerland’s cheapest canton. The cost of utilities in Switzerland can also vary by canton, and the most surprising expense expats will face is having to pay a licensing fee in order to stream TV shows or listen to the radio in your car.
Although you do not have to be a permanent resident to buy a house in Switzerland, as a foreigner you need a residency permit in order to open your options. Without a permit, you will only be able to buy a property strictly for residential purposes, and you will be limited to how large the property can be.Read Guide
Switzerland’s healthcare system and health insurance are continually ranked as some of the best in the world. This is because Switzerland’s healthcare system is supported by private health insurance, which every Swiss resident is legally required to buy into. Even newborn babies must have their own health insurance plan before they turn three months old. Thus, healthcare in Switzerland is expensive but of very high quality.
How do expats find a doctor in Switzerland? One possibility is to use the Swiss Medical Association search engine. Here, you will find over 30,000 doctors and specialists in Switzerland. You will be able to search by name, region, specialty or language. Moreover, if you plan to have a baby there, rest assured that it is safe to give birth in Switzerland because the standard of care is so high.
As healthcare coverage through a private insurance provider is mandatory, the terms and conditions for basic healthcare are identical regardless of the company you choose. Insurance companies are also not allowed to deny anyone due to pre-existing conditions.Read Guide
You will be pleased to know that opening a bank account in Switzerland is easy. Some of the best banks in Switzerland are also the top banks in the world. Non-residents who need to open a bank account should aim to start the process before their arrival in Switzerland. Otherwise, you may find yourself in a frustrating situation. Why? Because you will need a permanent address in order to open a Swiss bank account and need a Swiss bank account in order to sign a permanent lease.
If you’re starting a new life there, you will be interested to know how you will be taxed in Switzerland. Newcomers will be happy to learn that the tax is fairly low, especially when compared to neighboring European countries. To give you an idea, generally, the maximum you can pay on income tax is 13%; however, in Geneva tax is higher. Bear in mind that rates vary depending on where you live in Switzerland.Read Guide
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Students only attend private or international schools in Switzerland if they wish to receive a particular type of education. Although they can be pricey, the country has some of the world’s top international schools. Education standards are so high that some of the best schools are public schools, and well over half of the Swiss population sends their students to state institutions.
On the whole, Switzerland’s education system is of very high caliber. This is attributed to the fact that each canton has control over its own school system , and therefore can shape its curriculum based on the needs of its particular set of students.
Although many expats want to work in Switzerland, they should be aware that requirements are high. You will not only need to have a higher education diploma, but also several years of work experience.
If you want to know how to get a job in Switzerland, you will need to apply in whatever language the job vacancy was posted. Self-employment in Switzerland is possible, but you will require special permission from the cantonal authorities. The annual average Swiss salary is high (around 125,000 CHF (140,000 USD)) and the business culture is formal. Expats and locals alike are able to benefit from Switzerland’s social securityscheme.Read Guide
Living in Switzerland has pros and cons. Overall the quality of life is excellent, but like many popular expat destinations, the cost of living in Switzerland is high. Part of the reason for its high cost is that housing is limited, and therefore prices are steep. This level of expense extends to both the major Swiss cities and the surrounding countryside areas. If you want to know more about the Cost of Living, you can find that out in our article.
Driving in Switzerland will not be a stressful experience. You will be pleased to know that you may drive in Switzerland on a foreign license for up to a year, as long you already have one year of driving experience. US and Canadian citizens, however, may need an official document stating when their license was issued. If driving is not for you, rest assured as the public transportation is both effective and expansive.Read Guide