11 Things to Know before Moving from the US to Switzerland

Switzerland lies in the heart of Europe and is famous for its stunning natural beauty, delicious chocolate, and the Swiss Alps. Americans move to Switzerland because of the high quality of life, the employment opportunities, the education system, and the excellent healthcare system. Before you get to enjoy the benefits of living in Switzerland, there are several things you need to prepare! Here are some of the most important things to know before moving from the US to Switzerland.  

1. First Steps on Planning a Move to Switzerland

Many people want to immigrate to Switzerland because of the high quality of life. Due to high immigration demands, Switzerland has recently limited the number of immigrants allowed in the country per year. As an American you can move to Switzerland if you’re applying for an immigrant visa or a non immigrant visa. It is only after you have set foot in Switzerland on a visa that you can then begin applying for permanent residency. 

Long Stay-Visas in Switzerland

Work Visa in Switzerland

To work in Switzerland you must:

  1. Find/have a job in Switzerland.
  2. Complete the Swiss work visa document at your nearest Swiss embassy in the US. All visa applications are by appointment only.
  3. Your employer then applies for your residence permit within 3 months of living and working in Switzerland. 

*For more information on Switzerland’s work visa requirements click here.  

Family Reunion Visa in Switzerland

To join your family or spouse in Switzerland you must:

  1. Have a spouse or an immediate family member who is a legal Swiss resident/citizen. Some situations require the family member to have been living in Switzerland for 10 consecutives years.
  2. Complete the Swiss family reunion visa documents at your nearest Swiss embassy in the US. All visa applications are by appointment only.
  3. Have a letter from your family member/spouse indicating they will support you financially. 

*For more information on Switzerland’s family reunion visa requirements click here

Student Visa in Switzerland

To study in Switzerland you must:

  1. Be accepted in one of Switzerland’s educational institutions.
  2. Complete the Swiss student visa document at your nearest Swiss embassy in the US. All visa applications are by appointment only.
  3. Register for a residence permit within 14 days of your arrival in Switzerland at your nearest Residents Registration Office.

*For more information on Switzerland’s student visa requirements click here

2. What should I look for in an International Moving Company?

You can easily move your things from the US to Switzerland by plane or boat, but make sure the moving company you decide on is reliable. So when opting for an international moving company, here’s what you should look for:

  • Insurance is included (ask what’s included)
  • Rates are not extravagant (compare with other companies)
  • They have many Google reviews that are over 4 stars.
  • Customer service and transparency is their priority. 

3. Car shipping to Switzerland

Unless they have significant emotional attachment to their car, most Americans choose to leave their cars behind when moving to Switzerland due to the elevated shipping and import fees and the long vehicle inspection process. If you must absolutely ship your car to Switzerland, here are the steps to follow:

  • Get various quotes from the best car shipping companies. A trusted car shipping company will have insurance, good reviews, and will make customer service their priority.
  • Choose the port of departure.
  • Choose the port destination.
  • Prepare the car by cleaning it and emptying the tank to ⅛ full or you may have to pay a fee upon arrival.

*Ask your chosen car shipping company for additional requirements.

The cost of shipping your car to Switzerland depends on several factors that include what distance and the means of transport. The average cost of car shipping to Switzerland from the US ranges between $2,000-$4,300 per car, by boat.

4. First steps upon arrival in Switzerland

Register with the Swiss authorities

Once you arrive in Switzerland, you will have only 14 days to register at your local Residents Registration Office to obtain your residence permit. Be sure to get familiar with your canton (it’s the way the country is divided like states in the US).

Healthcare in Switzerland

Healthcare in Switzerland has a particular way of functioning. Like in the US, Switzerland’s healthcare is not free and is managed by private insurance companies. The Swiss government does have some agency on the healthcare system as they forbid any doctor from refusing a patient. Within 3 months of receiving your residence permit in Switzerland, it is compulsory to purchase private health insurance.

Driver's license in Switzerland

If you are moving to Switzerland from the US and are over 18 you can drive in Switzerland with your American driver’s licence for up to one year. As an American, you won’t have to pass a theory driving test after a year, but you still have to pass a practical driving test. After passing the practical test visit your local canton traffic office to exchange your American driver’s licence for a Swiss one. 

Bank Account in Switzerland

If you are an American  looking to move to Switzerland long-term, opening a bank account is a great way to keep your money safe and even start some investments. To open a bank a account you will need to go in person and expect 10 days for its activation. To open a bank account you will need, your passport, proof of address, and your visa. Switzerland has National banks of which the most popular one’s are:

Switzerland also has cantonal banks that are different in each canton. 

5. Taking the Train in Switzerland

Switzerland has one of the safest, highest quality, and most used railway systems in Europe. Traveling by train in Switzerland is super efficient due to their clock-face scheduling meaning that you can count of train’s passing regularly. To purchase a ticket, find your local train station, and find train schedules, visit the SBB’s (Swiss Federal Railway) website

6. Best Places to Live in Switzerland

While it is very expensive to live in Switzerland, Moving there from the US, will be the experience of a lifetime, especially with the delicious chocolate and beautiful scenery! The best places to live in Switzerland if you’re coming from the US are Bern, Lugano, and Zurich based on safety, the spoken English language, entertainment, and employment opportunities.  

7. Housing and Renting in Switzerland

How to find a house or apartment in Switzerland

Finding a house or apartment to live in Switzerland isn’t always easy due to the high housing costs. We highly recommend you know what you’re looking for before you arrive in Switzerland so that upon your arrival, you can quickly get settled in. Homegate, Immo Scout 24, and Comparis are all websites that can help you find a house or apartment in Switzerland.

8. Utilities in Switzerland

Electricity is considered to be cheap in Switzerland compared to the cost of other living expenses. The most popular electricity companies are Alpiq, Axpo Switzerland, Azienda Elettrica Ticinese, Etrion, and Repower. If you are renting, in most cases, electricity and water will be included in your monthly rent. To find the water supplier in your area, click here.

Cell phone and internet in Switzerland

Most people in Switzerland opt for prepaid Sim card plans when it comes to their cell phone. In Switzerland cell phone minutes and data are provided through Sim cards. Make sure your American phone is unlocked prior to arriving in Switzerland so you can simply insert a Swiss Sim card and immediately start using your phone from there. Sim card features often include data, calls, and texting. You’ll first have to purchase a Sim card for a couple of dollars and you can then expect to pay $48 USD per month for 3GB of data with unlimited calls and texting. The main Swiss cell phone providers are Swisscom, Sunrise, VTX, Salt (Orange) and Aldi Mobile.

With many free internet hotspots across Switzerland, you may not even need internet at home. In case you do, know that internet in Switzerland is considerably fast and is similar to the American pricing for internet. On average an unlimited internet plan with 50 Mbps will cost you $48 USD per month. The top residential internet providers in Switzerland are SinCOM Switzerland, Sunrise Communications AG, Swisscom and UPC Cablecom.

9. The Essential Insurance Coverage in Switzerland

Health Insurance in Switzerland

Switzerland does not have a free healthcare system. Switzerland’s healthcare managed by private insurance companies. The Swiss government does have some agency on the healthcare system as they forbid any doctor from refusing a patient. Within 3 months of receiving your residence permit in Switzerland, it is compulsory to purchase private health insurance. The best private health insurance companies in Switzerland include Helsana, KPT, Sanitas and Swica.

Home Insurance in Switzerland

Basic building and fire insurance (home insurance) is mandatory in Switzerland. The best home insurance companies in Switzerland include Zurich, Axa, and Helvetia

Car Insurance in Switzerland

Car insurance in Switzerland is mandatory. Basic car insurance is the minimum car insurance you must purchase in Switzerland. Basic car insurance will cover damage to other cars during a crash. The best car insurance companies in Switzerland are smile.direct, ELVIA, Generali and Dextra.

Life Insurance in Switzerland

In Switzerland, employers often include life insurance as a benefit. While life insurance in Switzerland is not mandatory, it is a must to ensure your financials are taken care of in case of any unexpected events. The best life insurance companies in Switzerland are Allianz, Axa and Zurich.

10. Cost of living in Switzerland

The average cost of living in Switzerland is $3600 USD per month in a mid sized city. The cost of each individual expense is listed below.  

Cost of living per month for a couple in a mid-sized city such as Bern.

Expense

USD$

Rent for one- or two-bedroom apartment 

$1600

Utilities (gas, water, electricity, phone, internet)

$360

Groceries

$480

Entertainment (eating out & other)

$360

Insurance and Healthcare

$440

Other (transportation, material goods)

$360

11. Grocery Stores in Switzerland

Grocery stores in Switzerland are found at every corner of the street. The main grocery stores in Switzerland are Alnatura, COOP, Migros, Spar, and Volg. If you want to order groceries online you can shop at Farmy.
Most grocery stores only accept Swiss Francs so make sure to exchange your Euros beforehand.

What to Expect from your New Life in Switzerland?

In Switzerland you can expect a beautiful scenery along with various different languages. Expect taking the train to go pretty much everywhere and don’t expect to be going anywhere on Sunday! Want to know more about moving from the US to Europe? Check out our article on the Things to Know before Moving from the US to Europe.

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