How to move to Switzerland

Make the most of your money for the move

How to move to Switzerland


Guide on emigrating to Switzerland

8 minute read

Switzerland has much to offer expats in search of a better life abroad. With its beautiful landscapes, low crime rates and high quality of living, Switzerland has attracted expats from all over the world: it consistently ranks first place in HSBC’s Expat Explorer Surveys, proving that there is far more to the country than cuckoo clocks and skiing.

For those looking to start a new life in Switzerland, there are various visa and work permit requirements that will need to be met. Let’s look at what is involved in emigrating to Switzerland.

Do I need a visa for Switzerland?

EU citizens are entitled to enter Switzerland for up to 90 days without a visa. Longer stays require a visa, and those seeking employment will also need a work permit. Citizens of EU countries have 14 days following their arrival in Switzerland to register at their local municipality and apply for a residency permit, and they are required to do so prior to their first working day.

UK nationals do not require a visa to enter Switzerland for short stays (up to 90 days); they are advised to use the ‘ALL PASSPORTS’ lane at passport control, irrespective of their residence status. However, many non-EU nationals who reside in the UK still need to acquire a Schengen visa in order to travel to Switzerland; whilst the UK is not a member of Schengen, British citizens still have the right to travel across Europe without a visa for a maximum of 90 days.

Citizens from the USA, Canada and Australia are also not required to apply for an entry visa for short stays.

Which visa should I apply for?

If you are considering moving to Switzerland for extended periods, you will be required to apply for one of the following types of visas:

  1. An L short-term residence permit. This has a validity period of one year.
  2. A B residence permit. This can be obtained through a work contract, and it has a duration of more than 12 months. It tends to be granted to non-EU nationals for one year and to EU nationals for five years.

A C permit allows for an indefinite stay, and it must be renewed every five years. C permits are issued to foreign nationals after they have resided in Switzerland for five or ten years.

Does Switzerland have a points-based immigration system like Australia?

Whilst there is no formal points-based system in place, there are various requirements that are in place for those seeking permanent residence.

Those seeking permanent residence, i.e. a C permit, after five years of uninterrupted residency are required to meet an oral language level of B1 and a written language level of A1 in the official language used in their Swiss place of residence. Those applying after ten years need to achieve a higher level of fluency - an oral language level of A2 and a written language level of A1 is what is required.

How can I apply for my Switzerland visa?

Only short-term visa applications (up to 90 days, Schengen visas, etc.) can be submitted online. As has been established, UK citizens do not require a visa to enter Switzerland. UK citizens may need to make an application for a long-term visa, however, and they must file these directly with the responsible Swiss representation.

Find out more about the visas that you need to apply for with Switzerland’s online visa system.

How to open a bank account in Switzerland

Whilst some banks, like Raiffeisen and Bank Cler, allow residents who are not citizens of Switzerland to open bank accounts with them online, lots of Swiss banks will require you to visit a branch office to open an account with them.

There are also limitations based on the type of your resident permit. You can open an account at most banks in Switzerland with either a B (long-term) or C (permanent residence) permit, but an L (short-term) permit is unlikely to be sufficient.

If you’re looking to open a Swiss bank account, you will require the following

  • A valid passport
  • Proof of residence inside or outside of Switzerland
  • Verification of your source of income

One alternative option is to open an international payments account with Moneycorp. This makes the task of exchanging foreign currency and setting up regular overseas payments far easier.

What is the currency used in Switzerland?

The currency used in Switzerland is the Swiss franc (CHF). It is considered a ‘safe haven’ currency in times of financial crisis, owing to the fact that it is not subject to the same levels of volatility as other major currencies.

If you wish to emigrate to Switzerland from the UK, you can track the GBP to CHF rate with our currency chart. In addition, you can set up a rate alert, so that we can inform you by SMS or email if the rate reaches your desired level before you make an international payment.

Foreign currency exchange for moving to Switzerland

Those planning on moving to Switzerland from the UK on a permanent basis will need to transfer money between a Swiss and UK bank accounts on a number of occasions.

Whether you wish to buy a house or transfer your pension over to yourself, sending money to Switzerland from the UK is an essential part of emigrating. With some UK high-street banks charging up to £30 in transaction fees per transfer, making these international payments regularly could cost a considerable amount.

That’s why, as a team of foreign currency exchange specialists, we are dedicated to saving you time and money on the overseas payments that you make. We offer low transfer fees and competitive exchange rates when you exchange from GBP to CHF.

What are the best ways to move one’s belongings to Switzerland?

Air freight is the quickest way to transport your belongings to Switzerland. Hiring an overseas removal company that offers air freight services is, therefore, a great solution for those looking to move as quickly as possible; for those moving to Switzerland from the UK, it would take 1-2 days for your possessions to be flown directly to a Swiss airport from one in the UK.

This is also the most expensive, however. One would also need to take account of the fact that the UK and Switzerland are relatively close; ask yourself if it would really be worth opting for air freight when it would take just three days for shipping freight to make the same journey. The average cost of a 40ft shipping container for removals to Switzerland is £967. Should you choose to pay for air freight, you would need to pay at least double this rate.

How to move your pets to Switzerland

If you’d like to fly your pet into Switzerland, you will need to apply for an import permit form from the country’s Federal Veterinary Office. This will need to be filled out and submitted 21 days prior to your date of entry into Switzerland.

You are also required to have your dogs and cats implanted with microchips; the standard ISO 11784 and 11785 models are recognised in Switzerland. Your pets will need to have received the initial rabies vaccination at least three weeks before you are due to arrive in Switzerland.

Find out more about health insurance in Switzerland

All persons are required to take out a basic health insurance policy within three months of arriving in Switzerland. If you miss this registration deadline, you will also be charged a premium surcharge if there is no good reason for this delay, so you are well advised to register on time.

80-90% of your medical costs are covered by these insurance policies, with the exception of the first CHF 300 that you pay in annual treatment costs and hospital fees. Your coverage will include accidents, cancer screenings, dental care, eye care and mental healthcare.

How to apply for an international driving license in Switzerland

British citizens who are in possession of a photocard driving license that was issued in the UK do not require an international driving permit (IDP) to drive in Switzerland. However, if you have lived in Switzerland for more than 12 months, you will be required to hold a Swiss driving licence and will need to exchange your licence for a Swiss one.

You can do this at your local traffic office in the canton of which you are a resident. You will be able to book an appointment to exchange your driver’s licence via an online portal maintained by your local traffic office. The cost of exchanging a licence ranges from CHF 80-140. You will require:

  • Personal ID, e.g. a passport
  • Your original foreign driving licence
  • A completed eye test
  • Two passport size photographs
  • Proof of a residence permit or long-term visa

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