Considering moving to Switzerland?
Switzerland is a very unique country, not only amongst other European countries, but other countries worldwide.
Known globally for its cheese, chocolate, watches, banking system, strong economy, the Alps, political neutrality, globalization, and the fact that it has 4 official languages despite being such a small country.
You’d quickly find that Switzerland would be a wonderful place for you and your family to call home.
This is why, in this post, I’m going to walk you through the important things you need to know about moving to Switzerland along with the fastest way to move to Switzerland, either as a single person or with your family.
Let’s dive in,
Switzerland is a pretty small country located between West Central and South Europe. It borders Germany, Liechtenstein, Austria, Italy, and France.
Home to approximately 8.5 million people, the federation is made up of 26 cantons, each of these cantons has a certain level of autonomy, and they compete against each other in various ways like infrastructure, living standards, and more.
This contributes to making Switzerland a very competitive country.
As I mentioned earlier, Switzerland has four official languages, they are; German, French, Italian, and Romansh.
Switzerland has no official capital in order to maintain the equality of the cantons, however, the widely accepted capital is Bern.
People tend to assume the capital to be Zurich, but Zurich is only the largest city by population in Switzerland.
In reality, there is no officially endorsed capital of Switzerland.
Pros Of Living In Switzerland
A strong economy and High wages
Switzerland is known for its high cost of living, but it compensates for this with generous salaries for its people. If your goal is to work here, then you’re covered.
It might surprise you to know that there is no nationwide minimum wage in Switzerland, however, several of the 26 cantons have passed their minimum wage requirements.
Geneva has the world’s highest minimum wage of CHF23.14 per hour which results in about CHF 4,000 monthly. Before you get excited, also bear in mind that Geneva is one of the most expensive cities to live in, so beware of splurging and shopping sprees.
Topnotch Education System
Switzerland attracts hundreds of international students every year because of its world-class education system.
You may have heard of ETH Zurich – Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, this school was ranked 6th worldwide in 2020 making it the best university in all of Continental Europe.
ETH Zurich ranks even higher at 4th place when it comes to engineering and technology.
Cool fact: Albert Einstein studied at this school.
EPFL in Laussane is another world-class university recognized globally.
Switzerland has placed a very high priority on public transportation in the country, making sure there is a public transport connection to every tiny village.
And you never have to worry about your train not coming on time, as Switzerland can compete with Japan when it comes to punctuality.
Swiss trains are one of the most convenient and reliable around the world.
It’s safe to say that you can survive just fine in Switzerland without owning a car.
Proximity To Other European Countries
Every European country is within close travel distance of Switzerland, so if you’re feeling spontaneous, you could easily schedule a trip to explore other European countries without worrying about traveling for hours.
Compared to other OECD countries, taxes paid in Switzerland are quite low. For instance, in 2017, a childless single individual in Switzerland was expected to pay 17% of their gross income as tax, whereas it was 25% in other OECD countries.
Although, the amount of tax you pay varies from canton to canton with the French-speaking parts of Switzerland paying higher taxes than others.
Switzerland is greatly influenced by German, French, and Italian cultures making Swiss culture very diverse. Switzerland is home to many notable contributors to literature, art, architecture, sciences, and music.
Nature is very accessible in Switzerland, and there are many outdoor activities one can do. Ranging from winter sports in winter months to hiking and mountain biking in summer.
Cons Of Living In Switzerland
Winters in Switzerland are long, cold, and grey. Cities like Zurich are constantly covered by fog during the winter which can be quite depressing.
However, summers are nice and there are lots of fun activities to do.
While this is one of the strengths of the country, the level of autonomy each canton has can be a bit of a disadvantage.
The school system is not standardized which means, the study duration and pathways available to students vary a bit between cantons.
Cantons don’t even share some holidays!
You’ll definitely find a small village within every few kilometers in Switzerland, so if you’re not used to very populated areas, you should keep this in mind.
Health care insurance and child care support are very expensive in Switzerland.
The process of moving to Switzerland varies for every country. If your country belongs to the EU/EFTA or the Schengen area, the process is quite simple and straightforward, and there are no quota restrictions.
But if you’re a non-EU/EFTA citizen, then the regulations are quite strict, and there are annual quota restrictions applicable here.
Relocating To Switzerland For EU/EFTA/Schengen countries
Although Switzerland is not a member of the EU, it enjoys a lot of its benefits due to its participation in the EFTA (European Free Trade Association).
Hence, the Freedom of Movement Act allows EU/EFTA citizens to move to Switzerland freely and enjoy all benefits regarding work, residence, and treatment.
The EFTA consists of Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein.
Also, Switzerland belongs to the Schengen area which consists of 27 countries, which allows citizens of these countries to move to Switzerland freely.
EU/EFTA, Schengen, and US and Canada citizens do not require a visa to visit Switzerland for a maximum of 90 days during which they are not allowed to work.
In order to stay longer than 90 days, one would have to apply for a resident permit in Switzerland.
There are no restrictions on how many EU/EFTA/Schengen citizens can immigrate and obtain a resident permit in Switzerland.
Relocating To Switzerland For Non-EU/EFTA/Schengen Citizens
If you’re a non-EU/EFTA/Schengen Citizen, you’ll need to apply for a visa before you can visit Switzerland.
And since the Swiss government is trying to limit the amount of resident and work permits granted to non-EU/EFTA/Schengen Citizens every year, you would most likely need to apply for a Swiss long-stay (national) visa to be granted access into the country in the first place.
Let’s look at the steps to fully immigrate to Switzerland as a non-EU/EFTA/Schengen citizen:
Step 1: Apply for a Swiss long-stay visa
The common reasons people move to Switzerland are for work, study, or joining a family member/spouse already living in the country.
Depending on your situation, there are four different kinds of visas you can apply for:
The Switzerland Work Visa: This is for immigrants who wish to work as employees in Switzerland. Note that you need to first secure a contract with a Swiss employer before you can apply for this visa.
If your goal is to work in Switzerland, then you need to make Google your best friend, as you can find various websites where you can search and apply for jobs in Switzerland
The Switzerland Student Visa: Just like the name implies, this visa is for international students who have secured admission to a Swiss educational institution. Note that you would need to provide your Certificate of enrollment from your school in order to apply.
You can search Google to find schools and programs you can take in Switzerland, and also search for scholarship programs to help reduce the financial burden on you.
It’s also good to note that your ability to bring your family with you as a student depends on whether you’re an EU/EFTA citizen or not.
International students who are EU/EFTA citizens with a Swiss residence permit are allowed to bring certain family members into the country.
If you’re from other countries, you’re not allowed to bring in your family members while you’re studying as you’re typically given a temporary resident permit (Permit B).
The option is only open to those with a settlement permit (Permit C).
The Switzerland Family Reunion Visa: This visa is for foreigners who want to join a family member (spouse or parent) who is a permanent resident or citizen of Switzerland.
The Swiss Retirement Visa: This visa is open to retired foreigners who have enough money to support themselves while living in Switzerland.
Make sure to check the Swiss immigration website for more information on the conditions, requirements, and regulations surrounding these visas.
Step 2: Get A Swiss Residence Permit
Anyone who wishes to relocate to Switzerland must apply for a residence permit, both EU/EFTA citizens and non-citizens.
This can be done at the canton immigration office of your canton as they are responsible for granting residence and work permits.
You should apply for this within 14 days of landing in Switzerland.
There are two kinds of residence permits that can be offered, the duration and renewability of these permits vary again depending on your nationality.
This is a short-term residence permit valid for up to one year but can be renewed for up to 24 months maximum. Immigrants who apply to work at a specific job or company are given these permits.
This is known as the Temporary residence permit, valid for up to five years for EU/EFTA citizens and one year for non-EU/EFTA citizens, and can be renewed as needed.
This permit is temporary because after living in the country for 10 consecutive years, an immigrant can apply for a Swiss Permanent Residence Permit (Permit C).
Step 3: Apply for Swiss Permanent Residence Or Citizenship
If you’re an EU/EFTA citizen, you can apply for permanent residence after living in the country for 5 consecutive years.
Whereas for citizens of other countries, you have to live in the country for 10 consecutive years.
If you have blood ties with Switzerland, either by birth or marriage, you can apply earlier.
As a requirement, you must be able to prove that you’ve been completely integrated into the Swiss culture and can speak the official language of your canton as well as other language requirements.
You must also prove that you have a clean criminal record with the Swiss police, proof that you have no debt at any place you’ve lived in the country, a record of employment, and proof that you have not received any social benefits.
- Swiss permanent residence and citizenship offer a lot of similar benefits such as:
- Freedom to work for whoever you like and change jobs as you please
- Ability to buy property without restriction
- Freedom to own a business
- Social assistance and welfare benefits
- Freedom to live in any canton of your choice
Relocating to Switzerland either as a single or with family opens you up to a standard quality of life filled with stunning landscapes and cultural richness.
If you’ve always dreamed of relocating to Switzerland, this guide will bring you one step closer to making your dreams a reality.
I hope you found this article helpful, let me know what other topics you’ll be interested in down in the comment section.
I wish you the very best
Until next time.