expat network

Moving to Switzerland: The insider’s guide – Part Two

moving to switzerland
This is Part Two of a series of extracts from an article by Byron Mühlberg of Monito originally published on Monito.com.  Written by someone who just moved to the country this guide helps people get a better picture of what they can reasonably expect along the way as they prepare for, embark upon and embrace their move to Switzerland.


Part 2: The need-to-knows

Once you know you’ll indeed be moving to Switzerland, there’s a lengthy checklist of things that you will need to get on top of from an administrative point of view. After all, moving countries always presents some degree of hassle, and Switzerland is certainly no different in this regard!

Below, you’ll find a list of what you’ll need to see squared off before getting settled in Switzerland:

moving to switzerland


Swiss visas and permits

As with moving to any country, a legal stamp of approval will be necessary before living in Switzerland, and those who embark on the journey will be met with a pile of paperwork before they’re allowed to start working, take out health insurance, or open a bank account in Switzerland.

Regardless of which country you’re coming from, staying in Switzerland for more than three months will require you to obtain a permit. These permits are given out by Switzerland’s regional administrations — known as ‘cantons’ — as opposed to by the national government itself. It’s the cantons who decide how many foreign nationals are allowed to live and work in their region, with the national government being the final authority in this procedure.

If you’re eligible for one of the Swiss residence permits (see below), you will be required to register in your local municipality within 14 days of your arrival. For students arriving on a visa, on the other hand, these documents will need to be in order before you leave for Switzerland, and they can be obtained from the Swiss representation in your home country.

Take a look at how the Swiss break up their permits and visas:

  • I’m from the EU/EFTA
  • I’m from another country


I have… I need a…
… a Swiss job contract for three to twelve months Permit L
… a stable and consistent self-employed career Permit B
… a job in Switzerland while living across the border Permit B
… a job or a relative working in Switzerland as a foreign representative Permit G
… admission to a Swiss university Visa


For the latest and most accurate information concerning permits and entry into Switzerland, we recommend that you double-check the overview on the Swiss government’s official website.

While the documents you’ll need will vary slightly from canton to canton, you will generally need to show the following things to the authorities once you’ve arrived in Switzerland:

  • A scan of a valid passport;
  • Proof of residencein Switzerland;
  • A signed employment contract, or the necessary documentation concerning self-employment;
  • A completed arrival form;
  • One or more passport-sized photographs.

moving to switzerland



Be ready to deal with the Swiss government in a very offline manner! Especially if you come from places such as Estonia, Spain, Denmark, Finland or Latvia — or any country where public services are highly-digitized — you’ll likely notice a big difference in Switzerland. There, most official business is still carried out in-person or over the post!


Navigating the hurdles

Depending on your individual circumstances, you may be confronted with something of an administrative “catch 22” during your arrival in Switzerland:

On the one hand, in order to obtain your residence permit, you’ll need to provide the authorities with a permanent address in Switzerland. However, unless you’re planning to move in with a legal resident, you’ll likely not yet have a permanent address in Switzerland. This can cause a tricky situation because, in order to rent an apartment from a rental agency, you’ll need to provide your residence permit.

In order to get around this hurdle, we recommend that you explore your options for temporarily moving in with somebody who’d be prepared to host you and sign an official document that confirms you’re indeed staying on their premises. This could be a personal relation of yours, or it could be the owner of an Airbnb, hotel or another form of accommodation who’s happy in advance to help you out with your paperwork.

You can find these documents on the relevant website of the municipality to which you’re moving. Once signed, you can then submit this document in lieu of a proof of residence.

Once you have filed all of your paperwork to the municipal authorities, you should receive confirmation within two weeks that your residence has been approved. This will allow you to proceed to the steps ahead:


The next steps

Step 01 – Open a bank account

Opening a local bank account is mandatory for receiving your salary from an employer in Switzerland.

A country with a rich banking tradition, you’ll be spoilt for choice when looking to open an account in Switzerland. National banks such as UBS, Credit Suisse, PostFinance and Raiffeisen are potential options, although the latter doesn’t offer service in English. Cantonal banks, such as ZKB (Zürich Cantonal Bank) or BCGE (Banque Cantonale de Genève) are another option, although their services are geographically restricted to the cantons in which they operate.

Another option is to look into Switzerland’s small but growing neobank industry. These banks, chief among which is Neon, offer extremely low fees, making them a great choice for savvy expats.


Step 02 – Take out health insurance

You will be required to take out health insurance within three months of having moved to Switzerland.

While the country does indeed possess Europe’s highest-quality healthcare system according to Health Consumer Powerhouse’s 2018 rankings, Switzerland’s premiums are fairly high. You can expect to be paying anywhere from around CHF 200 per month at the absolute minimum. Depending on how much you wish to save on your premiums, you may be restricted to a certain doctor or to calling a telephone service as your first port of call.

Take a look at this calculator (in French) to get a better idea of what you may end up paying for your health insurance in Switzerland.


Last step – Get your road life sorted

If you’re a driver who owns a vehicle and is moving to Switzerland, you’ll need have it cleared through customs and registered. In addition, you’ll need to take out automobile insurance, and to convert your driver’s license to a Swiss version.

The cutoff time to register your vehicle will either be one month or one year, depending on how old the vehicle is. Converting your driver’s license to a Swiss driver’s license will likely be a smooth process if your license is from the EU/EFTA. In this case, you can simply make an exchange, so long as you do so within one year of having arrived in Switzerland. For all countries outside of the EU/EFTA, you will be required to pass either a practical test, or both a practical test and a theory test, in order to make the same exchange.

Take a look at the official explanations concerning driving licenses and vehicles in Switzerland.