Switzerland, or more precisely the Swiss Confederation, is a federal state composed of 26 cantons. Each canton has its own parliament and government. Three languages are spoken in Switzerland: German, French and Italian. Since Switzerland is not part of the EU, it is not easy even for European citizens to move to Switzerland.
German is the most widely spoken language and is spoken in 19 cantons (65% of the population). French is spoken in the western part of the country in 4 cantons (22% of the population). In three cantons (Bern, Fribourg and Valais), both French and German are spoken. Italian is spoken in the canton of Ticino (8% of the population). There are also other linguistic minorities.
Switzerland is about the size of the Netherlands. It has 8 million inhabitants, its capital is Bern and its currency is the Swiss franc. It is not part of the EU, but there are agreements with the European Union to facilitate the free movement of European citizens. About 1.8 million immigrants currently live in Switzerland (23% of the population).
Moving to Switzerland
Non-EU citizens may or may not need a visa for a stay of less than 90 days, depending on their nationality.
On the government website you can find all information about visas.
Moving to Switzerland is quite easy for European citizens. You only need your ID and you can stay and work up to 90 days a year. Just need to communicate that you have found a job before you start.
The situation is different if you intend to work permanently. In this case, you must apply for a residence permit. There are different types of permits, depending on their duration. You can find all the information on the website of SEM (State Secretariat for Migration).
Once you have found a job and before you start working, you must go with to the migration office of the canton with:
- your ID or passport
- a photo
- a copy of the rental contract or another document that officially certifies your accommodation
- an employment contract or a document certifying your financial means for living (if you aren’t working)
- I also recommend that you bring your criminal record. You don’t need it here, but it’ll be useful for other procedures
You receive a residence permit that is valid for between one and five years, depending on the duration of the employment contract. Cross-border commuters must also apply for a residence permit.
After five years of residence in Switzerland, it is usually possible to apply for a permanent residence permit.
Swiss residence permits
Let us take a brief look at the different types of Swiss residence permits:
The type B permit is issued to all EU citizens who wish to live in Switzerland:
- as an employee
- as a pensioner
- as self-employed persons
- as persons who have an income or sufficient means to support themselves
Type C permit, after 5 years of working in Switzerland you can apply for an unlimited type C permit.
Type G permit is issued to EU citizens who work in Switzerland without taking up residence here (cross-border commuters). You must return to your country at least once a week.Type L permit is issued to people who will stay in Switzerland for a certain period of time. Students, workers with temporary contracts, people who are undergoing medical treatment, etc.
Moving to Switzerland useful resources
- Living in Switzerland, a guide
- Government website, information about living and working in Switzerland
- CH.CH, all information about your move to Switzerland
- Living and working in Switzerland, useful guide
Move to Switzerland and search for accommodation
Once you are in Switzerland, the first thing you need to do is look for accommodation. You can first stay in a B&B or a hostel, and once you have found a job, you can look for permanent accommodation. If you have found a seasonal job (less than 90 days) and do not have a residence permit, no one will rent you an flat, at most you will find a room in a shared flat.
Real estate websites
- Homegate, website for rental
- Newhome, popular rental website
- Wgzimmer, rooms for rent
- Anibis, classifieds website
Remember that most apartments are managed by real estate agencies to which the owners have entrusted the management of the property. If you decide to use an agency, you should know that you will have to pay a registration fee and an amount equal to one month’s rent when you sign the contract.
A one-room flat can cost €1,000 per month in the Italian canton and €1,500 / €2,000 per month in the German canton. To rent a flat you need a residence permit, an employment contract and often a solvency certificate, (certifying that you have always paid the rent), and a certificate that you have no debts or insolvencies. I recommend that you bring these certificates from your country.
When signing the contract, you will have to pay a deposit, the amount of which can be equal to one or three months’ rent, and take out home insurance. Despite the high prices, it is not easy to find accommodation and the search can take a long time.
Move to Switzerland health insurance
Since there is no public health care system, it is necessary to purchase health insurance within three months of your arrival in Switzerland. Unfortunately, private health insurance is a big minus, because despite the high premiums (about 300/500 € per month), you have a spending limit after which you have to pay. Also, if you have a chronic illness, you are only entitled to basic insurance, not additional insurance for your chronic illness.
If you want to buy insurance, avoid brokers and use an official agency of the company. Do not just pay attention to saving money. Saving today means high costs tomorrow, and since you hardly know what you are buying, you risk unpleasant situations (in health care, inadequate coverage can cost you a lot).
Remember that not only is it compulsory to buy health insurance, but you also have to pay pension, accident and unemployment insurance, which are deducted directly from your salary.
Moving to Switzerland Cost of living
The cost of living is in line with the standard of living: very high. Living in Switzerland is among the most expensive in the world, especially in cities like Geneva, Zurich, Basel and Lausanne. So consider your salary and compare it to the cost of living before deciding on a possible move
In addition to the expenses for health insurance, there are the very high rental costs and the expenses for your living expenses. A person living alone has total expenses that can easily reach €3,000 per month or more, depending on the region.
In Switzerland, life costs on average two to three times as much as in Italy or Spain, but the salary is three to four times as high (with due exceptions regarding work, canton, city, etc.). In Switzerland, the minimum salary (gross) is around €4,000, and the salary of a skilled worker can easily reach €8,000 / €10,000 (gross).
Consider, for example, that a cook without a diploma earns on average 3,500 € net per month. So before you move, carefully consider your income and what standard of living you could afford in Switzerland.
Given the high cost of living, I recommend moving to Switzerland with at least €5,000 unless you have already found a job with housing.