A Comprehensive Guide on Moving to Switzerland

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  • Andrey Vasilyev

    I was able to connect with other expats in Zurich who enjoy cycling as much as I do and organize weekly rides.

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.

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All You Need to Know About Relocating Your Household Goods and Pets

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 our complete guide on relocating to Switzerland

The Guide to Visa Types and Work Permit Requirements

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 our complete guide on visas & work permits

Everything You Need to Know About Finding a New Home

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 our complete guide on housing in Switzerland

Health Insurance and the Healthcare System in Switzerland Explained

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 our complete guide on insurance & healthcare in Switzerland

A Comprehensive Guide About Opening a Bank Account and Managing Your Taxes

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 our complete guide on banking & taxes in Switzerland

Connect with like-minded expatriates

Discover our welcoming community of expats! You’ll find many ways to network, socialize, and make new friends. Attend online and in-person events that bring global minds together.

See all upcoming events for expats in Switzerland

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