Ever since I moved to Switzerland which was 6 years back, I’ve been documenting my journey on this blog in all spheres. From the initial move to finding and renting an apartment and not to forget – the settling in the beautiful city of Basel. I’ve shared most of it with you guys. While all these topics are covered in detail on the blog in longer formats, I thought of making a quick checklist for all the expats who are planning their move to Switzerland and just want a consolidated step-by-step guide. So, here it goes. Read on as I share my ultimate checklist with you.
1. Do your research on moving to Switzerland
First things first, let’s get the most obvious thing out of the way. When you think of Switzerland, it is very common to be awestruck by the beauty and imagine all sorts of bollywood-like things (a bollywood junkie like me definitely did) but, you also need to factor-in the reality. If you want to build your life here, it is essential to take a closer look at everyday activities, expenses, necessities etc. This consists of everything from household groceries and travel costs, to seeing the bigger picture like getting resident permits and houses. Well, if you’re reading this article, I’m pretty sure you’re already on a research spree and my only tip would be to not skip on the nitty gritties of living in Switzerland.
If you’re used to public services being accessible digitally in your country, you need to prep yourself to deal with the Swiss government in a very offline manner. Even though digital options are available, here, most official business is still preferred to be carried out in-person or over the post!
2. Decide your Swiss city
Well, if you’re moving for work or with your spouse for their work (like I did), it is pretty obvious that you’d be staying in the same city that you’ve to work in. But do consider these things before you finalize the city you’d be moving to:
- Cost of living
- Language differences
- Quality of life
- Job opportunities
- Social life
- Population and demographics
3. Apply for a residence permit
In Switzerland, all foreign nationals who remain in Switzerland for more than three months or want to stay in the country for work, must obtain a Residence permit. You must apply for the residence permit within 14 days of having entered Switzerland.
Swiss Residence permits are issued by the Cantonal Migration Offices. A distinction is made between short-term residence permits (less than one year), annual residence permits (limited), and permanent residence permits. I’ve written all about residence permits on the blog. Check it out to get all the details
4. Move your belongings to Switzerland
I get it, transporting your valuable belongings across borders (across continents, in my case) can be overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. There are a lot of global relocation companies in the game which make the move seamless for expats like us. These global relocating companies are pretty experienced and familiar with personal and corporate relocations, so you don’t have to think twice about your belongings being misplaced to mishandled. They also provide storage options, which can be a great help if you don’t have a place to live in Switzerland yet.
Here are some relocation companies you can look at:
Please make sure to make your due research (like always) when selecting your relocation company. You can also check out the official website of Federal Office for Customs and Border Security for more details on relocation and customs documentation. Also, check out the ultimate relocation guide which was published by a professional organizer and a relocation agent on the blog.
5. Open a bank account
Opening a bank account in Switzerland is quite simple. If you’re planning your move, you should aim to start the bank account opening process before your arrival in Switzerland. Otherwise, things could become a bit chaotic. This is because you need to have a permanent address in order to open a Swiss bank account and you should have a Swiss bank account in order to sign a permanent lease. If the online option isn’t feasible or is taking time (which it does), you can get it done in-person at the bank.
Check out this article to know all the details and step by step to banking in Switzerland and opening a bank account in Switzerland.
6. Find a place to live in your preferred Swiss city
Let me tell you, finding a place that ticks all boxes IS NOT EASY. You require intense research to be able to ace it and find your perfect place. I’ve also had a little bit of a misfortune of changing apartments (time and again) – but with that also comes the experience of it all. I’ve lived in the beautiful cities of Basel and Vevey during this journey but have had to research the rental market scenes in other major cities of Switzerland as well. It wasn’t the sweetest of experiences but I wrote an article with a roundup of all my learnings and tips. Check it out here.
6. Take out health insurance
Post arriving in Switzerland, you have 90 days to take up a Swiss health insurance plan or apply for an exemption. It’s recommended to do your research and choose a provider that best suits your circumstances, health conditions and preferences. Just keep your proof of residence and details of your address handy.
To take out health insurance you need to be resident or have employment in Switzerland. If you are unable to get health insurance for yourself and your family in the three-month deadline, then your local authority will sign you up to a plan, which could mean that you pay higher premiums. Anyone in Switzerland without an insurance plan, other than those exempted, will not be able to access Swiss health services other than emergency treatment, for which they will receive a bill.
Checkout my article – A guide to Swiss Healthcare for Expats for more details.
7. Register with your local cantonal authority
Once you’ve moved into your new apartment, you must register with the residents’ registration office of your local authority within 14 days of your arrival in the country and before you start your job.
Make sure to keep the following documents handy:
– Valid ID card or passport for all family members arriving in Switzerland
– Passport photo of all family members
– Documents on marital status (marriage certificate, birth certificate for minors, etc.)
– Employment contract or proof that you’ve been admitted to a higher education institution
– Proof of mandatory basic health insurance with a Swiss insurer (can be submitted up to 3 months after date of arrival)
– Copy of Swiss tenancy agreement
8. Get your research hat on for Schools in Switzerland – if moving with kids
If you’re moving to Switzerland with your kids, then you need to plan out their schooling as well. The Swiss educational system includes private, public, international and boarding schools. Children in Switzerland have to attend school until the age of 15. After this, they can continue their education at upper secondary or vocational schools, and then go on to some of the top universities in the world located here in Switzerland.
Public education in Switzerland is managed at cantonal levels; this means that the requirements and options will depend on where you end up living. Many parents moving to Switzerland prefer to enroll their children in local private or international schools. These can often be a better alternative for older children, although be aware that these can be significantly more expensive than what you are used to. The right option for your children will typically depend on your own individual circumstances, so be sure to do your research ahead of time.
Read our special article on Schools in Switzerland and help chose the right path for your child.
9. Get your local travel sorted
If you already own a car and you’re planning to move it 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 car can take anywhere between 1 month to a year, depending on how old the car is. Converting your driver’s license to a Swiss driver’s license is generally a smooth process if your license is from the EU/EFTA and 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.
10. Sort-out the basics once your arrive
Apart from the major things during your move, you would of course need to pay attention to small but important details related to day to day living as well. These things can be figured out as you start living in Switzerland and go about your daily routine. Some of these can include:
- Applying for a landline telephone connection and/or an Internet connection for your new home. (Think Swisscom, Salt or Sunrise!)
- You have to pay a fee for TV and radio. Every household is automatically sent an invoice by Serafe, the company responsible for collecting the fee. You’ll find more information at serafe.ch.
- Online/ offline shopping for groceries and essentials. (Think Coop, Migros, Lidl, Aldi and Denner for groceries)
- Learning the local language. I recently got B1 certified in German, I promise to share my experience soon!
- Researching about the culture and getting used to it – the only way to do that is to build connections and meet more and more people. One way is through, Coffee with a Purpose, our latest initiative to connect like minded ladies 🙂
- Figuring out the Laundry system in Switzerland.
- Getting used to the garbage disposal system in Switzerland…and much more.
I hope you found this helpful. Be sure to keep this one handy for your move. 😉 You can also browse through our expat living section to find a lot of articles which will be helpful for an expat in Switzerland.
Stay tuned to more such expat living articles in our Expat living section.