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What You Need to Know When You’re Moving to Lugano

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Relocating to Lugano

Moving to Lugano as an expat is a decision that puts you in the company of many people just like you. In fact, in 2013, 30.8% of Luganese residents were foreign nationals. Therefore, moving to Lugano should not be too difficult, as there will be many who can sympathize with your experiences.

You will also get the chance to practice Italian after your move, as the city is located in Switzerland’s Ticino canton, which borders Italy. The majority of the population speaks Italian, with German being the second most popular language, followed by Serbo-Croatian.

Visa Requirements for Lugano

Moving to Lugano involves negotiating Swiss red tape, of which there is — unfortunately — quite a lot. Your first task is to decide how long you will live in the city. After this, your visa will depend on whether or not you are an EU/EFTA national, and whether or not you will be gainfully employed in Lugano.

Entering without a Visa

If you are moving to Lugano with no intention of being gainfully employed, plan to stay for less than three months, and are a member of a country with which Switzerland has signed an agreement (please check here), you can enter Lugano without a visa.

All you need for this time period is a valid passport and a travel insurance policy, with a minimum worth of 30,000 CHF.

Schengen Visas

In Switzerland, a Schengen visa is referred to as a Category C visa. You are eligible for this if you are moving to Lugano for a maximum of 90 days, and you are not an EU/EFTA national. You can apply at your nearest Swiss representation.

If you are moving to Lugano for a longer period of time, you will need to apply for a Category D visa.

Work and Residence Permits

If you intend to work after moving to Lugano, then you will need a work permit. Most long-term visas (Category D) are only issued along with a work permit. Everyone needs to obtain this work permit, though procedures are different for non-EU/EFTA nationals.

Work Permits for Third Country Nationals

If you are not an EU/EFTA national, then you can only apply for your work permit after you have a visa. First, you must already have a job offer in Lugano. Your employer will then apply for your work permit, and prove that there was no suitable Swiss or EU/EFTA candidate available to fill your position.

To allow your employer to carry out the application process for you, you will need to supply them with your CV, diploma, references, etc. Once your permit has been approved, the Ticino canton will then transfer it to the Swiss mission, where you can collect it with your visa.

Work Permits for EU/EFTA Nationals

If you are an EU/EFTA national, you can move to Lugano once you have your job offer. Once you are there, you have three months to obtain a work permit. Go to the local migration office (the Ticino website is only available in Italian) at Via Lugano 4, 6501 Bellinzona.

Make sure you bring a valid ID, employment contract and rental contract with you. You should be issued your work permit on the spot. If your employment contract is for at least one year, you will receive a work permit valid for up to five years.

Residence Permits

Residence permits are usually issued alongside work permits, and can be applied for at the same time. There are three main varieties of residence permits available:

  • L permit: for 3-12 months
  • B permit: for 12 months or more
  • C permit: for 5 years or more

Please note that as of 1 June 2013, the federal government has temporarily introduced annual quotas for type B residence permits for new employment candidates from the EU-17 member states.

To obtain a residence certificate, you have to register with the municipal authorities within 14 days of your arrival. This is mandatory, regardless of your country of origin. Bring your passport, rental contract, work/residence permit, employment contract and passport photos to your local registry office. EU/EFTA nationals obtain their residence permit upon registration.

You can find more information on visas, work permits, and residence permits in our Visas and Administration guide and also on the State Secretariat for Migration.

Housing in Lugano

Lugano is a haven for celebrities who covet property overlooking the beautiful panorama of lake and mountains. However, given that Lugano is one of Switzerland’s largest cities, you should be able to find accommodation more suitable for normal residents without too much trouble.

Where to Live — It All Depends on Your Budget

It is more straightforward to point out the areas to avoid in Lugano, if you do not have an extensive budget. Lugano’s most desired neighborhoods are usually those offering close views of either Mount Brè or Mount San Salvatore. Therefore, the slopes of these mountains usually offer the most stunning — and most expensive — homes.

Avoid the south-facing residential areas of Castagnola, Montagnola, and Ruvigliana. Instead, try to aim for areas within Lugano itself. This will give you better access to public transportation, and to the conveniences of daily life. Massagno is particularly popular amongst newcomers to the city.

The Big Question: Rent or Buy?

It is an interesting fact that more than 60% of the Swiss population rents, rather than buys, their property. This makes your accommodation arrangements more flexible, and many people change apartments several times during their stay in Lugano, especially as leases tend to be for a period of one year.

This has not made rental rates in Switzerland any higher than in other European countries. In Lugano, however, the overall value of property is high, given the city’s standing as a popular tourist destination. Apartments are usually rented unfurnished, and the price will exclude both maintenance and utility costs.

If you are an expat living in Lugano, and wish to buy property instead of renting it, you must have a residence permit. If you are an EU/EFTA national, this can be residence permit B (lasting 12 months or more). However, if you are a national from a country not included within the EU, you will need to have residence permit C (lasting five years or more) in order to buy property.

Searching for Property

It is tempting to use a real estate agent to look for your ideal property in Lugano. They certainly have the advantage of breaking down the language barrier: as an expat, you might not be able to converse with the landowner. However, real estate agents are known to be expensive, especially in Lugano. Therefore, consider using a relocation company, a much cheaper option.

Alternatively, you can choose to search for your property in Lugano yourself. Of course, this will save you the cost of using an estate agent, but it comes with some negatives. Even if property searching sites might be in English, the Swiss owners will most likely only speak Italian, or possibly German. You should be confident in your language skills before attempting this.

There is also the problem of viewing. It is difficult to buy or rent a property without taking a look at it yourself. In Lugano, it is often necessary to meet the landowner before applying to buy or rent a property. You will therefore need to visit Lugano prior to moving to the city in order to accomplish this.

The following are some useful English-language websites for searching for property in Lugano:

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