If you are planning to live in Switzerland or to stay for more than your visa allows, you will need to register (registrieren) yourself with the council (Gemeinde) and the migrations office (Migrationsamt). Regardless of your nationality, everyone who lives in Switzerland long-term has to register with their local council.
Registering at your local Swiss council
It is essential that you register with your local council within 14 days of moving to Switzerland and before your first day at work as cited in your work contract.
What are Swiss local councils (Gemeinde)?
Most Swiss cities, towns and villages will have a local council, and you must register with the one nearest to where you live. Local councils in Switzerland are responsible for a number of day-to-day matters, including collecting taxes, providing basic and emergency services, and managing pensions. People in Switzerland have a strong connection with their local councils as they also plan and run social events throughout the year and during the holidays.
Being registered is mandatory in order to apply for a residence permit. You also need to register to pay the right taxes for your local area in your tax return, as well as provide you with your social security number. It also allows the council to renew your residence permit when it expires and grant you unemployment benefits if you are looking for a job.
Where can I find my Swiss local council?
This tool can be used to find the closest place to register. Be sure to select “einwohneramt” along with your address.
Registering with a Swiss council without a permanent address
Even if you haven’t found a job or are still looking for a house, you still must register with the local council where you are living temporarily. Once you find a permanent place to live you must re-register at your new council by changing address.
How to register with the council
Registration with your council must always be done in person. If you are applying as a family, you all need to be present. You do not need to book an appointment with the council, but it is advised to always allow one to two hours to complete the process. Prices vary depending on location but are usually around 100 to 200 Swiss francs to register an EU / EEA or EFTA citizen and 300 to 400 for a non-EU / EEA or EFTA citizen.
Documents needed to register with Swiss councils
Document requirements vary from council to council, so it is advisable to check ahead to see what you will need to bring to your appointment. As a general guide, all members of your family must provide these documents:
- A valid ID or passport
- Birth certificate of any children (if applicable)
- Certificate of marriage or civil decree (if applicable)
- Proof of local residence in the form of a temporary accommodation booking or a rental contract
- Visa and police record from your home country along with their visa (non-EU / EEA / EFTA citizens only)
- Signed Swiss employment contract
Registering with a Swiss council without a work contract
If you have moved to Switzerland and are expecting to start a job later or are still looking for a job, you must inform your local council of this within 14 days of your arrival to Switzerland. EU and EEA citizens can come to Switzerland without a work contract, but must provide:
- A reason for coming to Switzerland.
- Proof that you can support yourself financially while you are looking for work.
- Where you expect to be applying for jobs and what those jobs are.
The Swiss council that you register with will also ask that you get at least basic health insurance within three months of your registration for all family members.
Non-EU / EEA and EFTA citizens, unfortunately, cannot come to live in Switzerland without a work contract, unless reuniting with a family member who has Swiss citizenship.
Registering with the migrations office
Once you have successfully registered with your local council, your documents will be sent to the cantonal migrations office (Migrationsamt).
What is a cantonal migrations office?
The cantonal migrations office handles all registration tasks after the council. In order to register for a residence permit, you will be asked to attend your local office to submit your biometric data (photograph and fingerprints) via post.
Where is my nearest cantonal migrations office?
There is typically one migrations office per canton and is usually found in the capital of your local county (canton).
Changing address in Switzerland and how to change council
If you change your address in Switzerland, you will need to re-register with your local council in your new town. If you have already secured a residence permit then you can do this freely and must simply inform your former council that you are moving and re-register with your new council. For this you will need:
- Your residence permit
- Proof of local residence
Your former council will then double-check whether the council is still owed any outstanding local taxes. Once this has been confirmed, you are free to re-register with your new council.
If you are moving to a different canton then you may have to attend the migration office of the canton that you are moving to.
If you are planning on leaving Switzerland, you must inform your council and hand in your residence permit. They will then check that there are not any outstanding local taxes to be paid before you leave.