Moving to-do list: Things to consider before leaving Switzerland
Planning on leaving Switzerland? Unfortunately, it’s not going to be as simple as driving to the nearest airport and getting the first plane out of here. Moving abroad is a long, and often complicated process. However, there are a few things you can start sorting out before you leave to make the moving-out process less stressful.
What to do before leaving Switzerland: a to-do list
From getting your mail forwarded to cancelling your internet contract and gym subscription, there are plenty of things to consider when leaving Switzerland. Check out our list to make sure you don’t miss anything important!
Terminating your employment contract
One of the most common reasons people move to another country is for work. If you are being sent to work in another country by your current employer then, of course, there is no reason to end your work contract before you leave.
However, if you are leaving Switzerland to start work at a new company, you’ll need to terminate your contract at your old job. The amount of notice that has to be given before leaving your job varies from company to company, but will be stipulated in your contract. It is a good idea to familiarise yourself with how much notice you have to give before leaving to avoid any delays or problems when moving to your new home.
Get your mail forwarded
Moving abroad can be a particularly testing process, made all the more frustrating by unexpectedly difficult tasks like cancelling your gym membership. Well, you’ll be no doubt relieved to find out that getting your post forwarded from Switzerland is a relatively easy process.
Anyone changing their address in Switzerland can authorise the Swiss Postal service to forward mail to their new address, even if they are moving abroad. For a flat price, Swiss Post will forward any mail to your new address and can even help notify businesses, insurance companies and banks of your change of address. Find out more by visiting the official website.
Sort out your energy contracts (if you pay them)
In Switzerland, basic home utilities are included as part of the overall rent in most rental contracts. This means that, if you rent your home in Switzerland, you will automatically stop paying for any basic utilities included in the rent when you terminate your rental contract. However, have a quick think about any other utilities you might have paid for, such as car parking or cleaning and make sure you terminate any related contracts or direct debits before leaving your house.
If you own the house you have been living in, and you are selling it before moving to another country, then you will have to cancel any contracts you have with Swiss energy companies. Since electricity and water are typically handled by local or cantonal energy companies, you can often cancel both at the same time.
Cancel your TV / Internet subscription
Internet subscriptions are often coupled with TV subscriptions and landlines, the terms of which are usually stipulated in a formal contract between the provider and yourself. It is generally recommended to keep your subscription until the contract ends to avoid any extra charges or transfer fees. However, if you have to cancel your internet / TV subscriptions before the contract has expired, you can find information regarding notice periods in your contract.
Stop paying for the Swiss TV licence (if you have a direct debit)
Anyone who owns and uses a TV or radio (including car radios) has to pay for a Swiss television licence. If you pay this through a direct debit or standing order, instead of manual monthly or annual payments, then this should be cancelled before you leave.
Cancel your mobile or landline contract
Similarly to internet subscriptions, contracts for mobile phones in Switzerland are usually binding for a designated period of time. Check your contract’s terms and conditions for information regarding notice periods and early cancellation fees. Landline contracts also often lock customers in for a certain period and can be difficult to cancel, due to them often being included in internet and TV packages. If you have a landline, check with your provider about how to cancel your contract.
Check your benefits and insurance
It might not have occurred to you, but it is very important to cancel any social security you receive. Benefits can be cancelled online and it is probably best to look into this early on in the moving process to avoid having to pay back certain benefits.
You should also look into cancelling any insurance policies that will not be valid after you move to your new country. As Swiss health insurance is compulsory for all residents, it is very likely that you will have to cancel your policy if you do not plan to return to Switzerland. If you are employed full-time in Switzerland, and therefore have accident and occupational diseases insurance, this cover will end when your work contract is terminated.
Make sure to cancel any private insurance you have as well. This could be home insurance, personal liability insurance or legal protection insurance that is not valid outside Switzerland.
(Try) to cancel your gym membership
A notoriously difficult and oftentimes painstaking process: cancelling your gym membership. Gyms often lock you in for minimum contract terms and have strict rules when it comes to notice periods for terminations. Contact your gym early to notify them of your move and your proposed cancellation date, and be prepared to show copies of any related documents to prove you aren’t just trying to leave the gym!
Terminate your rental contract
If you are renting in Switzerland, terminating your rental contract can be a little bit more difficult than in other countries. This is because some Swiss cantons have specific move-in dates, which means your contract could define specific points in the year you’re allowed to move out. You can also not be within the “cooling off” period (designed to stop tenants from immediately withdrawing from contracts) that is stipulated in your contract.
Some tenants may be able to get around notice periods by finding a new person to move in. This tenant must then be approved by the landlord before they can take over your tenancy.
Before you leave, make sure to book a cleaning service to do a thorough cleaning before the new tenants move in. If you do not do this, or have left parts of the apartment damaged, the landlord is allowed to use your rental deposit for emergency cleaning and repair.
Sell or rent your house (if you own one)
When leaving Switzerland, you’ll need to consider what you should do with any property that you own. If you are considering selling your house, you should get in touch with a real estate agent. Keep in mind that selling a house can often take a significant amount of time, so it's best to start preparations as soon as possible.
If you plan to keep your house and rent it out, then again, it’s best to start thinking about this early. Non-Swiss residents are allowed to own property and rent to tenants but there can be restrictions depending on the canton, particularly regarding short-stay rentals. Thus, it’s advisable to check in with the land registry and municipal offices in your city or town before putting your property on the housing market.
Decide what to do with your Swiss bank account
There are a couple of options for what you can do with your Swiss bank account when moving abroad. You can of course close the account. If you do this then it is recommended that you leave this until the last minute, or until after you’ve left Switzerland, so that any last-minute payments can clear.
However, Swiss banks are some of the most secure and reliable banks in the world, and many people might consider keeping their accounts open even after they move to another country. Not only are they reliable, but Swiss accounts can often be used to hold a range of world currencies. Banks in Switzerland offer a variety of beneficial services and many banks offer overseas accounts, so it might be worth investigating your options.
Remember to deregister from the municipality
One thing that is easily forgotten among the mounds of admin work is deregistering from your municipality or council (Gemeinde) in Switzerland. It is important to inform municipal authorities of your move and leaving date. When you deregister you will no longer be a tax resident, meaning you are no longer responsible for paying most Swiss taxes.
However, it is important to know that you may still be liable for some taxes in Switzerland; if you’re a homeowner you might have to pay Swiss property taxes. If you’re selling your home, then you might have to pay capital gains tax.
Sort out pensions
Moving to another country means you will have to sort out what you are going to do with your Swiss pension. In Switzerland, the pension system is split into three pillars: OASI pension, BVG pension and an optional private pension.
First pillar: OASI pension
Swiss and EU citizens can voluntarily continue contributing to the Swiss old age and survivors’ insurance (OASI) and disability insurance (DI). However, this is only possible if you have lived in Switzerland and made OASI contributions for at least five years before leaving. You must apply at the Swiss Compensation Office within 12 months of leaving Switzerland.
Four things to be aware of:
- You pay the full contributions; foreign employers are not obliged to cover half your contributions
- You are charged an annual interest rate of 5 percent for missed payments
- You can be unsubscribed from the scheme after the second late payment
- Voluntarily contributing to OASI does not exempt you from paying compulsory pension scheme contributions in your new country
Second pillar: BVG pension
If you are moving outside the EU, you can cash out your pillar two savings, although a capital withdrawal tax will be levied on your assets by the canton where you live, or by the canton where your pension company is based.
If you move to an EU or EFTA country, your compulsory pension contributions (pillar 2a) must be transferred to a Swiss pension company, which will hold your contributions in escrow until you reach retirement age. Important to note is that you can withdraw these assets to buy a primary residence or if you decide to become self-employed.
You can cash out any extra-mandatory pension contributions (pillar 2b) you have made, even if you move to an EU country.
Third pillar: private pension
Private pension contributions (pillar 3a) can be withdrawn when you leave Switzerland, no matter which country you move to. Much like pillar two, withdrawals will be subject to capital withdrawal tax. However, with your private pensions, you can also choose to keep your private pension fund with a Swiss retirement foundation.
Permanent life insurance policies (pillar 3b) can often be kept in place, even after leaving Switzerland, depending on their terms and conditions. Some Swiss insurance providers might even allow you to transfer permanent insurance policies from pillar 2 and pillar 3a to pillar 3b.
For more detailed information about claiming Swiss pensions abroad, please contact the Swiss Compensation Office in Geneva.
Arrivederci, Auf Wiedersehen, au revoir!
Now that you’ve sorted out all of the above, there’s nothing left to do but enjoy your travels and prepare for new adventures wherever you find yourself in the world. Who knows, we might even welcome you back here again; as the famous writer F. Scott Fitzgerald said, "Switzerland is a country where very few things begin, but many things end."
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