When you first move with your family to Switzerland from abroad, there are several things you need to do before looking for a job, and, once that is done, looking for a house. Every expat has to go through the following administrative issues before settling into their new lives in the alpine nation.
Types of visa for Switzerland
If you need to visit Switzerland for work or for a holiday, you may need to apply for a visa. Visas are required to visit Switzerland from a selection of non-European countries. Although many nations have signed visa agreements with Switzerland, there are still some that require a visa for visiting, doing business or studying. Find out whether you need to apply for one by seeing our guide to visas for Switzerland.
One of the first things you need to do before settling into the Swiss lifestyle and daily life is to go through registration. This is to make sure that your local council (Gemeinde) knows that you are living in their area and can charge the appropriate amount of tax in your tax return. This is also the first step in applying for a residence permit.
Swiss residence permit
In order to live in Switzerland permanently, beyond the 90 days allowed by a visa, you will need to apply for a Swiss residence permit. Every member of your household needs to apply for a permit, including children. This will allow you to live in Switzerland for a longer period of time, as well as start renting permanent accommodation. More advanced permits, such as settlement permits will also allow you to buy a house.
One of the things that Switzerland is known for is the proficiency and reputation of its banking system. Swiss banks deliver a high level of service and efficiency for all banking clients. If you plan to make Switzerland your home for the future or wish to store your capital in a competitive investment, you will need a Swiss bank account.
Retirement & Pensions in Switzerland
The official age of retirement in Switzerland is 65 years old for men and 64 for women (the retirement age for women will be raised to 65 in 2025). Up until that age, the Swiss system requires you to invest regular amounts of your salary into a first, second or third-pillar pension fund. To find out how to maximise your retirement funds, as well as private pension plans, you can check out the guide to retirement and pensions in Switzerland.
Social security number
In order to access social security in Switzerland, every resident is given a social security number (AHV). This number is given automatically by your health insurance and is used as a reference number for a large range of services provided by the government, including pensions and support services like unemployment benefits.
Once you have obtained a long-term residence permit, you can consider applying for Swiss citizenship. The process of naturalisation and integration to be accepted as a citizen is highly stringent, including naturalisation tests, language certifications, and an acceptance process determined by your local Gemeinde. If you have been accepted as a citizen, you will be able to access all the benefits of citizenship.
If you have passed the citizenship test and have been confirmed as a full citizen, you will be given access to a Swiss passport. This passport is often ranked as one of the best in the world, allowing for free, or visa-free access to over a hundred countries across the world. If you are applying for a passport for the first time or are renewing your old passport, it is important that you know what the key steps are to receive one.
When you come to a new country, expats tend to face a long and intricate process of moving financial assets from your old country of residence to your new home. With the Swiss system of taxation requiring you declare all forms of income through your tax return, alongside a labyrinth of tax deductions; To expats with multiple income sources, this can be overwhelming. In order to simplify your accounts, Switzerland has a network of English-speaking tax advisors, to help you with your finances.
Lawyers and legal services
If you have a legal issue that needs resolving, from a workplace conflict to divorce or separation, there are a large array of lawyers who will be able to resolve your case. If you need advice on residency permits, visa, taxation, or any other bureaucratic process, our selection of expat-friendly lawyers are available to assist you.
If you need to change addresses in Switzerland, be it to move into a larger house or closer to a school, you can use our selection of qualified relocation agents. If you are moving to Switzerland for the first time or are moving to a new county (canton), relocation services will be available to make the transition easier. Many international companies give expats these services as part of a work contract, as they are a stress-free way to deal with all the official issues listed above.