Thinking About Moving to Switzerland and Becoming an Expat? Here’s What You Should Know

Posted Country Guides / July 19, 2021
Kate Holland

A true grunge and rock music fan born in Seattle, Kate has moved across the country and started writing about her experience.

You are not alone when you dream about moving to Switzerland. In the mountainous European country with 8.5 million residents, a surprising number of two million people are indeed foreign. But keep in mind that the requirements for moving internationally and settling there are not at all simple.

The Swiss Confederation is a federal republic that consists of 26 cantons, with Bern as its capital, referred to as “the federal city” by residents. Other notable cities are Zürich, Basel, and Geneva, and they are home to many international organizations, such as the UN’s second-largest office and the headquarters of FIFA. These cities also have the main Swiss international airports in them. Since it occupies the crossroads of Romanic and Germanic Europe, it has four cultural and linguistic regions: German, Italian, French, and Romansh. It means most people that plan on moving to Switzerland from the US will need some tips for learning a new language.

Moving to Switzerland Will Require a Visa, While Short-Term Stay Does Not

Americans can freely stay up to 90 days without any visas, and it’s considered short-term. However, if you wish to move to Switzerland from the USA, you’ll need to follow the usual procedures and acquire all the necessary documents needed to travel abroad. The Swiss long-stay visas you should apply for at their embassy or consulate responsible for the state you live in are also known as the national or D-visas.

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Can I Move to Switzerland? How to Immigrate to Switzerland in These Simple Steps

Is it difficult to move to Switzerland? We’ll start answering this question by explaining the main steps you should take to move here and start living in another country, such as the Swiss Confederation. Whatever drives you to move to this beautiful European nation, the initial step is to apply for a long-stay visa, and after you receive it, you may enter its borders. The next step is to register with labor market authorities and at the cantonal immigration. After that, you may apply for permanent residence. Before you initiate the process of immigration to Switzerland, you can watch the video below and hear some insight about the top reasons to become a resident.

There Are Different Types of Visa. Which One Should I Apply for if I Want to Move to Switzerland From the USA?

Our reasons behind relocating across the world vary. Perhaps you’re relocating to another country for love, or you want to advance in your career, but your international moving may also be driven by the wish to study abroad. The reasons for hiring an international moving company to move to the Swiss Confederation will define the type of visa you should apply for:

  • The Swiss Family Reunification Visas – This is granted to Americans who wish to join a family member, such as a partner, spouse, or parent who is a resident, and it can be temporary or permanent.
  • Work Visa – If you’ve managed to get a job in Europe as an American in this place, you may be eligible to apply.
  • The Swiss Study Visas – This is granted to US citizens who wish to move to another country to join an educational institution and study in the Swiss Confederation. However, to be eligible for it, you must already be enrolled in an educational institution.

So, to answer the question “Can US citizens move to Switzerland” – yes, they can, under these conditions and terms.

Can I Immigrate to Switzerland From the US, and Where Should I Apply?

There are two ways you can apply before moving overseas to settle in a nation that produces the most chocolate in the world – by drop-off or mail-in. A drop-off means you can bring your documents in person to the embassy or consulate responsible for the state you live in. You should have an appointment beforehand, and also visit their reception between 9 am and noon. Mail-in means you can mail the completed application.

How to Move to Switzerland and Stay? Living in the Swiss Confederation Requires a Residence Permit

Before you consider how to move to Switzerland with an overseas shipping company and start compiling your relocating abroad checklist, it would be helpful to learn about residence permits. You are bound to register at the cantonal immigration office within 14 days of entering the country’s territory to receive the permit. The permit L is for short-term residence, and it’s valid for a year, while it can be renewed only once. The B permit is for initial or temporary residence, valid for a year, and the main difference is that it can be renewed annually.

A permanent residence status will not be received on your first entry because you need to live here for about five years (in most cases, it will be ten years) to be able to apply for residence. And you’ll need ten years of continuous residence to apply for becoming a citizen.

If an Immigration to Switzerland Is in Your Plans, Get To Know the Cities

You may choose between different types of cities based on your preferences and overall lifestyle. While Lucerne and Bern are surrounded by the stunning outdoors, Geneva and Zürich offer a truly cosmopolitan feel. Those who decided not to overpack when relocating abroad and are looking for luxurious shopping areas while surrounded by a plethora of dining and entertainment options should turn their view toward Zürich. Geneva is the country’s most multicultural city, where you will probably more easily find expat communities and overcome adjusting to a new country with less effort.

Know What to Expect When It Comes to the Cost of Living Before Employing an Overseas Moving Company

Before you invest in packing services so your belongings can be safe while shipping overseas, you should inform yourself about the average cost of living in the nation you strive to settle in. When it comes to housing costs here, the rent alone is around 2,000 CHF (2,150 USD) for a one-bedroom apartment, and the price per square meter for an apartment in the city center is $12,090. When the living costs of 1,500 CHF (1,600 USD) per month are added, you get the picture of how expensive it is to live here. But on the other hand, if you plan on working in Europe as an American, your wage will more than easily cover it. The average salaries are among the highest in Europe, ranging from 6,500 CHF (7,000 USD) per month to 9,500 CHF (10,300 USD.)

People Living Here Must Be Covered By Health Insurance

Although many health systems have been put to the test during the corona pandemic, the general standard of healthcare you receive in this nation is very high. Health insurance prices vary depending on the canton you are located in, but every resident must be covered, from the youngest to the oldest. The healthcare is private, and your projected budget for health insurance should be at least 300 CHF (320 USD) per month to cover it.

And The Schools Offer High-Quality Education

The public school standard is high quality, on par with private schools, while being free. However, if your child isn’t learning a language abroad yet, keep in mind that schools are taught in predominantly spoken languages in that canton. You may have to consider paying for private education with an annual cost of up to $80,000.

When it comes to universities, you should know that the public university fees are also low, with the yearly tuition average costs being under 2,000 CHF ($2,200.)

Make Sure You Get Informed About the Double Tax Treaty When Moving to Switzerland From the US

This is one of the countries with double taxation treaties with over 80 other nations, and the US is among them. The main effect is that non-residents, who hail from treaty countries, may be taxed at a reduced rate and even exempt from the taxes on certain parts of income they receive from sources within the country of origin. You can add this to the list of relocation questions to ask the employer if you’ve managed to land a job and your reason to move is work-related.

So, How’s the Weather? Be Prepared Before International Moving Company Arrives

The weather is such that you can easily imagine this place as the best European country to live in. The climate is moderate, and there is no excessive heat, humidity, nor cold. The daytime temperature varies from 65° – 82° F (or 18 to 28 °C as locals would say) from July to August, while the wintertime range is -2 to 7 °C (28° – 45° F.) The Alps form a sort of separation between different types of weather, and the climate is very changeable.

Get Informed About Public Transportation Before Moving Overseas

While you may want to keep the convenience of owning a car, and that’s why you’ll invest in overseas vehicle shipping, you should know that the public transport here has a reliable and extensive network. The most popular way of travel here is by train, because of its efficiency as well as punctuality. You can get a yearly unlimited-trip travel pass that will work countrywide and is valid for all types of transport. It costs 3,860 CHF ($4,150.) You can also get single tickets and monthly passes.

If you still want to keep your car, any expat would enjoy driving here, and you may do it on a foreign license for up to a year. However, US citizens may have to own an official document stating when their license was issued.

You Can Live Among Many Mesmerizing Tourist Attractions After Moving Abroad

It’s hard to beat this place when it comes to magnificent scenery and outdoor activities. If you choose to live overseas and aim for this part of Europe, the world-class resorts will be at your feet, and you can go hiking, biking, and climbing, but also paragliding and skiing at all times. When it comes to astonishing things to do, you can make a train journey to Jungfraujoch, or the “Top of Europe,” with a scientific observatory and an observation terrace at 11,332 feet. The Great Aletsch Glacier, the longest glacier in Europe, begins at Jungfraujoch and is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Make sure you don’t leave your warmer clothes packed in storage units, so you can enjoy the outside life as much as you can.

Is It Worth Moving to Switzerland? Know the Facts Before Planning on Shipping Overseas

Where to start – with some of Europe’s bluest lakes? Or valleys flowering with Alpine herbs and blossoms, surrounded by spectacular mountain views? This is one of the countries that won’t disappoint you, whether you enjoy winters or summers, and the scenery outruns any culture shock you might feel. Not to say you may freely consider it one of the best places to live abroad with family for anyone that plans on relocating with kids, so get the documents and other things you need, and head on to apply and start your life here.


What Is the Cost of Living in Switzerland?

Switzerland is known for having one of the highest costs of living in the world. Prices for goods and services, such as groceries, housing, and transportation, can be significantly higher than in many other countries. However, the high costs are often offset by the country’s high salaries and quality of life. The cost of living can also vary depending on where you live within Switzerland, with cities like Geneva and Zurich generally being more expensive than smaller towns or rural areas. Overall, while living in Switzerland can be costly, it also offers many benefits and a high standard of living.

What Are the Best Cities to Live in Switzerland?

Switzerland is home to several cities that offer a high quality of life, excellent job opportunities, and stunning natural surroundings. Zurich, Geneva, and Basel are often ranked among the top cities in the country to live in, with Zurich being particularly popular for its thriving economy, excellent transportation, and high standard of living. Geneva is known for its international character, with many organizations like the United Nations and Red Cross having a presence in the city. Basel is known for its beautiful Old Town, vibrant cultural scene, and position as a hub for the pharmaceutical and chemical industries. Other cities like Bern, Lausanne, and Lugano also offer their own unique charms and amenities, making Switzerland a great place to live no matter your preferences.

What Is the Public Transportation System Like in Switzerland?

Switzerland is known for having one of the most efficient and reliable public transportation systems in the world. The system includes a combination of trains, buses, trams, and boats, and covers nearly every corner of the country. Trains are particularly popular, with many people commuting to work or traveling between cities by train. The network is extensive and punctual, with trains running frequently and on time. In addition, the system is well-integrated, with different modes of transportation often connecting seamlessly to make travel easy and convenient. While fares can be expensive, particularly for long-distance travel or if you don’t have a SwissPass, the high quality of the system makes it a popular choice among locals and tourists alike.

How Is the Job Market in Switzerland?

The job market in Switzerland is generally considered to be strong, with a low unemployment rate and a high standard of living. The country is home to several multinational companies, particularly in the banking, pharmaceutical, and technology industries, which offer a wide range of job opportunities. The average salary in Switzerland is also relatively high, although this is balanced by the high cost of living.

While the job market is competitive, particularly for positions that require specialized skills, the country’s strong economy and stable political environment make it an attractive destination for job seekers from around the world. Additionally, Switzerland has a high standard of employee protections and benefits, including paid time off, healthcare, and retirement savings, which further contributes to its appeal as a place to work.

What Are the Best Schools in Switzerland?

Switzerland is home to several prestigious schools, including some of the world’s leading universities and boarding schools. The country is particularly well-known for its hospitality and tourism schools, which attract students from around the world. One of the most famous schools in Switzerland is the International School of Geneva, which offers an International Baccalaureate program and has a diverse student body.

Other top schools include the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, which is one of the world’s leading engineering schools, and the University of Zurich, which is consistently ranked among the top universities in Europe. Swiss boarding schools, such as Institut auf dem Rosenberg and Le Rosey, are also renowned for their academic rigor and focus on extracurricular activities like sports and the arts.

What Are Some of the Best Things to Do in Switzerland?

Switzerland is known for its stunning natural beauty, rich cultural heritage, and wide range of outdoor activities. Some of the best things to do in Switzerland include exploring its many picturesque towns and cities, such as Geneva, Zurich, and Lucerne, all of which offer a mix of history, architecture, and cultural attractions. The country is also home to several world-class ski resorts, such as Zermatt and Verbier, as well as hiking trails, cycling routes, and scenic train rides, like the Glacier Express.

In addition, Switzerland is renowned for its fine dining and chocolate, so trying local specialties is a must-do. Other popular activities include visiting the Swiss National Park, taking a boat ride on Lake Geneva or Lake Zurich, and exploring the many museums and galleries throughout the country. Whether you’re an outdoor enthusiast, a history buff, or simply looking to relax and take in the stunning scenery, Switzerland offers something for everyone.

What Is the Weather Like in Switzerland?

Switzerland has a temperate climate with distinct seasons, although the weather can vary depending on the region and altitude. In general, summers are warm and pleasant, with average temperatures ranging from 20°C to 25°C. However, it can be cooler in the mountains and hotter in the valleys. Winters are cold and snowy, particularly in the higher elevations, with average temperatures ranging from -2°C to 7°C. Rainfall is spread throughout the year, although some regions receive more rain in the summer months. Spring and autumn are typically mild and offer a mix of sunny and rainy days.

Is Switzerland a Safe Place to Live?

Switzerland is generally considered to be a safe and peaceful country to live in. The crime rate is relatively low, and the country is known for its political stability and low levels of corruption. Swiss cities are generally very safe, with low levels of violent crime, although petty crime, such as pickpocketing, can occur in busy tourist areas. Switzerland also has a highly efficient healthcare system and excellent emergency services, which contribute to its overall safety. However, as with any country, it’s important to take basic precautions to ensure your safety, such as being aware of your surroundings and not leaving valuables unattended.

How Diverse Is the Population of Switzerland?

Switzerland is a relatively diverse country, with a population that includes people from a variety of ethnic, linguistic, and cultural backgrounds. The largest ethnic groups are Swiss nationals, who make up around two-thirds of the population, and people of European origin, particularly from Italy, Germany, and France. Switzerland is also home to significant populations of immigrants from other parts of the world, including Portugal, the Balkans, and Turkey, as well as refugees and asylum seekers from various countries. The country has four official languages – German, French, Italian, and Romansh – and many people are multilingual, particularly in urban areas. Overall, Switzerland’s diverse population contributes to its rich cultural heritage and vibrant social fabric.

How Do I Find Housing in Switzerland?

Finding housing in Switzerland can be a competitive and challenging process, particularly in cities with high demand, such as Zurich and Geneva. One option is to work with a real estate agent who specializes in the Swiss market, as they can provide advice and assistance in finding suitable properties. Online platforms, such as Homegate and ImmobilienScout24, also offer listings of available properties across the country.

Renting is the most common form of housing in Switzerland, and many landlords require a range of documentation, such as proof of employment and income, before agreeing to rent a property. It’s important to start the search early and to be prepared to move quickly on suitable properties, as the market can be competitive. Additionally, rents and deposits can be expensive, particularly in cities, so it’s important to budget accordingly.

What Are the Best Places to Eat in Switzerland?

Switzerland is known for its excellent food culture, with a wide range of local and international cuisines available across the country. Some of the best places to eat in Switzerland include traditional Swiss restaurants, which offer dishes like cheese fondue, raclette, and rösti, as well as upscale fine dining establishments, which showcase the best of Swiss and European cuisine. In addition, Switzerland is renowned for its chocolate, so trying local chocolate shops and patisseries is a must.

The country is also home to several Michelin-starred restaurants, including Cheval Blanc in Basel, which has three Michelin stars, and Schloss Schauenstein in Fürstenau, which has three stars as well. Other popular dining destinations include the cities of Zurich and Geneva, which offer a wide range of restaurants and cafes, as well as the picturesque towns and villages throughout the country, which often have their own local specialties and charming dining spots.

What Are the Best Ways to Get Around in Switzerland?

Switzerland has a highly efficient and extensive public transportation system, which includes trains, buses, trams, and boats, and covers nearly every corner of the country. Trains are particularly popular, with many people commuting to work or traveling between cities by train. The network is extensive and punctual, with trains running frequently and on time. In addition, the system is well-integrated, with different modes of transportation often connecting seamlessly to make travel easy and convenient.

Taxis and ride-sharing services like Uber are also available, although they can be expensive. If you prefer to drive, renting a car is an option, although it’s worth noting that parking can be difficult and expensive in cities. Cycling is also a popular way to get around, with many cities and towns having bike lanes and rental services available.

What Is the Nightlife Like in Switzerland?

Switzerland has a diverse and vibrant nightlife scene, with a wide range of options available for night owls. Many cities and towns have a variety of bars, clubs, and music venues, which cater to different tastes and interests. Zurich and Geneva are particularly popular for their nightlife, with a mix of high-end clubs, cozy bars, and live music venues. Other cities like Basel, Bern, and Lausanne also offer their own unique scenes, with options ranging from underground clubs to rooftop bars.

However, it’s worth noting that nightlife in Switzerland can be expensive, particularly in cities, with drinks and cover charges often costing more than in other countries. Additionally, Swiss laws prohibit smoking indoors, which can be a surprise for those used to smoking in bars and clubs in other countries.

How Do I Make Friends in Switzerland?

One way to meet people is through shared interests and hobbies, such as joining a sports club or attending cultural events. Another option is to attend language exchange events or join a language school to practice speaking with locals. Social media and online platforms can also be helpful in connecting with like-minded individuals or expat communities. It’s also worth reaching out to colleagues and acquaintances, as many Swiss people value strong professional and personal networks. Additionally, volunteering or participating in local community events can be a great way to meet new people and give back to the community. Ultimately, building friendships in Switzerland, as in any new environment, requires being open, friendly, and willing to step out of your comfort zone.

What Are the Best Parks and Outdoor Spaces in Switzerland?

Switzerland is renowned for its stunning natural scenery and outdoor activities, and there are many parks and outdoor spaces throughout the country that offer a chance to enjoy the beautiful surroundings. Some of the best parks and outdoor spaces in Switzerland include the Swiss National Park, which is home to a wide range of wildlife and hiking trails, and Lake Geneva, which offers opportunities for boating, swimming, and relaxing on the lakeshore. The Engadine Valley, located in the eastern part of Switzerland, is also a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts, with its mountain ranges, glaciers, and alpine meadows. Other popular parks and outdoor spaces include the Lauterbrunnen Valley, which is known for its scenic waterfalls and hiking trails, and the Rhine Falls, which is the largest waterfall in Europe.

How Do I Get Involved in the Local Community in Switzerland?

Getting involved in the local community is a great way to experience Swiss culture, meet new people, and give back to the community. One way to get involved is to participate in local events, such as festivals, fairs, and cultural celebrations, which often provide opportunities to meet locals and learn about Swiss traditions. Volunteering is also a great way to get involved and make a difference, with many organizations and non-profits seeking volunteers for a variety of causes. Language schools and conversation groups can also be helpful in meeting locals and practicing language skills. Finally, joining clubs or associations that match your interests or hobbies can be a great way to meet like-minded individuals and become more connected to the community.

What Are the Top Museums to Visit in Switzerland?

Switzerland has a rich cultural heritage, and there are many museums throughout the country that showcase its history, art, and science. Some of the top museums to visit in Switzerland include the Swiss National Museum in Zurich, which offers an extensive collection of Swiss art and artifacts, and the Olympic Museum in Lausanne, which showcases the history of the Olympic Games.

The Kunsthaus Zurich, which is one of the largest art museums in Switzerland, features works by Swiss and European artists from the Middle Ages to the present day. Other popular museums include the Museum of Fine Arts in Bern, the Museum of Art and History in Geneva, and the Vitra Design Museum in Basel. Finally, the CERN Particle Physics Laboratory in Geneva offers tours and exhibitions that provide a fascinating glimpse into the cutting-edge research being conducted there.

How Can I Learn Swiss German, French or Italian Before Moving to Switzerland?

One option is to enroll in language classes at a local school or university, which can provide structured learning and opportunities for practice and feedback. Online language courses and language learning apps like Duolingo and Babbel can also be helpful ways to build vocabulary and grammar skills at your own pace.

Additionally, language exchange programs, where you practice speaking with native speakers of the language you’re learning, can be a great way to build confidence and improve conversational skills. Finally, watching Swiss TV shows or movies, listening to Swiss radio, and reading Swiss newspapers or books can help you become more familiar with the language and culture before your move. Ultimately, the key to learning a new language is consistent practice and a willingness to make mistakes and learn from them.

What Are the Healthcare Options in Switzerland?

Switzerland has a highly efficient and comprehensive healthcare system, which is based on mandatory health insurance for all residents. The country is home to many world-class hospitals and medical facilities, and healthcare is generally of a high standard. Under the Swiss healthcare system, individuals can choose from a range of insurance plans offered by private insurance companies and are free to choose their own doctors and healthcare providers.

Basic healthcare services are covered under mandatory health insurance, although additional coverage can be purchased for more specialized treatments or elective procedures. While healthcare in Switzerland can be expensive, particularly for those without insurance, the country has a range of measures in place to ensure that everyone has access to basic medical care, regardless of their ability to pay.

What Are the Most Important Things to Remember When Moving to Switzerland?

Moving to Switzerland can be an exciting and rewarding experience, but it’s important to be prepared for the challenges of adjusting to a new country and culture. Some of the most important things to remember when moving to Switzerland include obtaining the necessary visas and permits, finding suitable housing, and opening a bank account. Additionally, it’s important to learn about the local culture and customs, including language, social etiquette, and local laws and regulations. Being open-minded and adaptable, and willing to try new things and meet new people, can also be helpful in making a successful transition. Finally, it’s important to be aware of the high cost of living in Switzerland and to budget accordingly.

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