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9 Things You Need to Know if You are Moving from the UK to Switzerland

Switzerland is not part of the EU but it is part of the Schengen Area. This means that it’s simpler for someone from the UK to move to Switzerland versus a non-European. However, there are still important things to consider before the Brexit transition period ends.

If a UK national is preparing to move to Switzerland, there are necessary steps they will need to sort out first. For example, if a UK expat lives in Switzerland for less than three months, they can access the healthcare system with their European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).  If an expat plans to stay over this period, they will need to join the Swiss healthcare scheme–which is private.

Whether it is applying for the right residence permit, opening a bank account, or figuring out the tax system in Switzerland, there is plenty you will need to learn when moving to this country. For example, expats may be eligible for certain tax deductions, if they are in the country as highly skilled workers or executive employees. However, you are more likely to land a job, if you speak one of the four official languages on top of English.

1. Do You Need a Swiss Visa and Work Permit?  

If you are a UK national, you do not require a work permit to work in Switzerland legally. Your employer will be responsible for registering your employment through the government’s online portal or with the local canton authorities before you begin working.

As you are planning on moving abroad for longer than three months, you will require a long-term work authorization that will be noted in your residence permit. To obtain your residence permit, you will also need to register with the Residents Registration Office within two weeks of arrival.

 2. What You Should do Before Brexit?

a. Register as a Swiss Resident

If you are relocating long-term to Switzerland from the UK, you will need to apply for a residence permit. No matter whether you are an EU/EFTA national or not, everyone who remains in Switzerland for more than 90 days needs to have a residence and work permit. If you intend to stay in the country even after Brexit is finalized, you will have to apply for Permit C, which allows you to stay in Switzerland for ten years.

Read more about which work and residency permit applies to your situation in our detailed Switzerland guide.

b. Register for Swiss Healthcare

Healthcare in Switzerland is not public; however, it is mandatory to be insured. This means you will need to take out compulsory health insurance with a Swiss company no later than 90 days after you arrive in the country. Many insurers offer a basic package to guarantee every resident can afford insurance.

Keep in mind, that after you register as a permanent Swiss resident, you will no longer be allowed to use your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) linked to the UK to access healthcare in Switzerland. You will be issued a new EHIC card linked to your Swiss health insurance.

Find more information on Swiss healthcare in our full guide.

3. How to Move Your Belongings to Switzerland

Even with Brexit looming over your head, moving your household items to Switzerland should be fairly straightforward. Although EU/EFTA nationals are not subject to many customs regulations for Switzerland, you should still prepare for any unforeseen hiccups along the way.

It cannot hurt to prepare the following documentation beforehand in case you will be asked about it at Swiss customs:

  • employment contract
  • rental lease
  • an itemized list of goods you are importing
  • confirmation of departure notice from the previous country

If you need help finding a suitable moving company, contact us. We offer a free quote and connect you to the most reliable moving professionals around.

4. How to find a home in Switzerland? 

To rent in Switzerland, you will need to be a legal resident. Competition for housing in popular cities such as Geneva, Zurich, Lausanne, or Basel is fierce, so you should come prepared with the right documentation. This may include a reference letter from your employer. Be aware, that expats tend to pay more on rent and will also take more time to find a place. Once you do, be prepared to sign a long lease contract, as this is the norm.

Nearly half of the housing market in Switzerland is made of rentals. Renting is popular, which is also reflected in the high prices. Across the country, the minimum housing rent rarely drops below 1,000 CHF (1,020 USD) per month. Geneva is the most expensive city to rent in. A one-bedroom apartment costs around 2,000 CHF (2,400 USD) per month. In Zurich, the second most expensive city in terms of housing, rent for a one-bedroom apartment will set you back 1,800 CHF (2,500 USD) per month.

If you need help finding a home in Switzerland, do not hesitate to contact our home finding experts at InterNations GO! We provide you with information on the current housing market and a list of properties tailored to your individual needs.

5. Does Your UK Driver’s License Work in Switzerland?

Although your UK driver’s license is valid in Switzerland for 12 months after registering as a resident, you should consider exchanging it for a Swiss one anyway. This will make things much easier for you after the Brexit transition period ends on December 31st, 2020. You can exchange your license at the local cantonal authority.

For information on driving in Switzerland, read our detailed guide.

6. What About Taxes and Finances in Switzerland?

Any expat wanting to live long-term in Switzerland will have to pay income tax in the country. That means, 40% of your salary is taxed. Lucky for you, Switzerland has a double taxation agreement with the UK to ensure UK nationals do not pay tax on one income in both countries.

As Switzerland has a different currency than the UK, you should consider opening a Swiss bank account. Most employers even request you have one. Otherwise, you will have to pay a lot of fees for international money transfers.

Find out how to open a Swiss bank account in our full guide.

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7. How High is the Cost of Living in Switzerland Compared to the UK?  

The cost of living in Switzerland fluctuates from canton to canton. Overall, expect the cost to be high, especially when it comes to accommodation and healthcare. With the latter being private, health expenses can become a burden. As far as the housing market goes, it is dominated by rentals, driving prices up every year. The most expensive cities are Geneva, Zurich, and Basel. A single person household will pay on average 3,000 CHF (3,300 USD) in any of these three cities. A four-person household can expect monthly expenses to be as high as 8,500 CHF (9,300 USD).

According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Switzerland has the second-highest salaries in Europe, coming just after Luxembourg. Although wages are high, the cost of living is too. So, when you negotiate your salary, take into account living costs.

As a foreigner in Switzerland, you will most likely be employed in a sector facing a skilled worker shortage. This includes management and public service sectors, healthcare, tax and legal sector, IT and engineering, and teaching. While a manager can earn up to 15,000 CHF (16,300 USD) per month, a teacher earns on average around 7,000 CHF (7,600 USD).

Read more on the cost of living and salaries in Switzerland in our detailed guide.

8. Are There Job Opportunities for Foreigners?

Switzerland is a very popular expat destination, especially for highly skilled career expats. Most foreigners living in any of the Swiss cantons probably work in upper management and senior-level positions. The number of expats establishing a life here will rise in the next years. As the working class is aging, the country will face a skilled worker shortage by 2030.

If you have skills in any of these fields, you can consider yourself lucky:

  • engineering;
  • IT;
  • hospitality industry;
  • financial services;
  • pharmaceuticals.

9. Do You Need to Learn French, German, or Italian?

Switzerland has four official languages none of which are English. You will find employment even if you speak only English. However, your chances of getting a job are much higher if you can add German, Italian, French, and/or Romansh to your repertoire.

Do you want to relocate? If you have never moved abroad, the process will be overwhelming, and if you have, you know the burden that lies ahead. Whatever stage you are at, InterNations GO! can help you with a complete set of relocation services, such as home finding, school search, visa solutions, and even pet relocation. Our expert expat team is ready to get your relocation going, so why not jump-start your move abroad and contact us today? Best to start early!

Updated on: September 11, 2020

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