Living in Switzerland

Table of content

You have applied for a job in Switzerland and are wondering what you have to do to live in Switzerland.
You are hired, you will live in Switzerland. You are starting to settle down.
To prepare your arrival in Switzerland, it is better to start in the right order, step by step, and to know the list of documents required for each of the administrative procedures.

You will find here the steps for a successful settlement…


Where to live ?

You now know where your employer’s premises are. So you decide where you are going to live. In the city, in the countryside? Do you choose to live near your job? Does the commuting worry you? Depending on the nature of your activity and on whether working from home is feasible in your company, your decision may be very different.
If your employer is not too far from the border, you can choose to live in France, in Germany or in Italy, becoming a “cross-border commuter”. Please refer to the advice – budget, accommodation, transport for cross-border commuters.

Choosing where to live is your first decision, then there will be the following steps.
Housing prices vary a lot between Switzerland and the border area and several criteria must be taken into account: will you be alone, with a partner and / or with some children? Is being next to school important? Do you prefer city centers or countryside, an apartment or a villa? Will your spouse have a professional activity or not?


When you have found your accommodation and signed the rental lease, the first step of your administrative tasks is done

Check-List "Signature of the Rental Lease in Switzerland"
Copy of your IDaction effectuée
Employment contract in Switzerlandaction effectuée
For foreigners, residence permit or residence permit application (if in Switzerland for more than 3 months)action effectuée
Certificate of non-prosecution aka “attestation de non poursuite” if in Switzerland for more than 3 months)action effectuée
Household liability insurance (Civil Liability) offer or policy if in Switzerland for more than 3 monthsaction effectuée
For students, copy of the ID of the guarantor for the accomodationaction effectuée
For students, last 3 payslips of the guarantor for the accomodationaction effectuée
Bank rental guarantee or suretyaction effectuée


Your work / residence permit

Your employer will initiate the process to get you a work permit (aka “permis de travail” in French), which allows you to work in Switzerland.

You may need to get the residence permit (aka “livret pour étrangers” in French”) for other members of your family, which allows them to stay in Switzerland, without necessarily working.
In case you work in organizations like the United Nations (UN), you will need the “legitimation card”

Both work permit and residence permit have validity periods and renewal procedures are straightforward, provided they are done on time.


All Swiss administrative procedures require one of these documents

"Work permit" checklist
(to be sent by your employer)
Work permit application formaction effectuée
Certificate of payment of the taxaction effectuée
Copy of your ID (color copy)action effectuée
Family registeraction effectuée

Check-list "booklet for foreigners"
(to be sent to the Cantonal Office or to the municipality of residence)
Residence permit request formaction effectuée
Certificate of payment of the taxaction effectuée
Copy of your ID (color copy)action effectuée
Family registeraction effectuée
Rental lease (rental contract)action effectuée


Your move and your personal belongings

With the arrival in Switzerland of your personal belongings, you have your first contacts with the Swiss customs.

You are requesting duty-free admission for your move

You need to provide a household inventory that lists the price of each of your personal belongings (in Switzerland, this includes amongst others furniture, household appliances, clothes).

If you arrive from abroad with your motor vehicle, depending on the date of its acquisition, it may be exempt from taxes; otherwise, VAT will be estimated on the basis of the market value of the motor vehicle. The Swiss tax authorities have these estimates. You must request the services of a freight forwarder to complete the expected forms (main customs in Switzerland have freight forwarders offices).

Please note that importing a used vehicle into Switzerland requires you to have its conformity checked at the “auto office” within 6 months of your arrival in Switzerland. To avoid this, many newcomers prefer to sell their vehicle before arriving in Switzerland and buy one in Switzerland upon arrival (the used vehicle market is quite dynamic in Switzerland). If you still want to import your car, you should pay attention to the name of the owner on the imported vehicle (you or your partner) and the specifics of importing vehicles.

It is feasible to arrive in Switzerland without immediately moving your belongings; then, you will have a maximum of 2 years to proceed with their importation without tax (exempt from royalties). Beyond this period, there will be taxation.
If the family arrives in two stages: first the working spouse then the rest of the family, the 2-year exemption for household effects, also called moving effects, starts from the second arrival.

"Moving" checklist
(to be sent to Swiss Customs)
Free admission of moving goods application form action effectuée
List of personal belongings (vehicles, furniture, household appliances, clothes, etc.)action effectuée
Rental lease (rental contract)action effectuée
Employment contract (may be requested by Swiss customs)action effectuée
Certificate of announcement in the municipality of residence (may be requested by Swiss customs)action effectuée
Certificate of departure from the country of origin of the move (may be requested by Swiss customs)action effectuée
Foreign driving license for the vehicle (may be requested by Swiss customs)action effectuée
Depending on the case, residence permit or request if the permit has not been received (may be requested by Swiss customs) action effectuée


My subscriptions to general services

After finding an accommodation, informing the authorities of your arrival, you will need to subscribe to banking, phone, internet and media services; payment for these services can be made by:

  • Bank card
  • payment slip (ISR), payment is made individually from their web banking account or from a post office counter
  • direct debit (LSV), after the registration deadline, the individual no longer has to deal with future periodic payments. Payments are made automatically
  • ebill, an internet portal presents invoices, payment is made with a single click

The bank card of the country of origin can settle the first payments, but you should pay attention to the exchange rate

"Subscriptions to general services" checklist
(bank, phone, electricity, internet, etc.)
Bank, Current Accountaction effectuée
Bank, Bank card
Bank, "WebBanking", "NetBanking"action effectuée
Electricityaction effectuée
Phoneaction effectuée
Internetaction effectuée


Compulsory and optional insurances when living in Switzerland

When I arrive in Switzerland with a move or without moving, my personal effects will have to be insured. I also take care of my housing and my health.

The overview of compulsory insurance and optional insurance when I come to live in Switzerland

Compulsory (C) or optional (O) insurances when living in Switzerland
FireCTo protect the home and its contents
Household and household
CTo protect the home and its contents
Civil liabilityCTo cover damage that family members or pets could do
Basic LAMal health insuranceCCompulsory LAMal Health Insurance
Complementary health insuranceOComplementary insurance to access the next level of care and expand coverage (natural medicine, dental, international ...)
AccidentCFor employees: Risk covered by the employer

For non-workers: Subscribe at the same time as subscription for LAMal and / or complementary health insurance
Motor vehicleCTo protect against damage generated by your vehicle
CascoOTo reimburse the repairs of an accident on your vehicle
Legal protectionOTo benefit from legal assistance if required


School for your children

There are three language regions in Switzerland. Compulsory education is done in the language of the linguistic region (in French in French-speaking Switzerland, German in German-speaking Switzerland, Italian in Ticino). From college (also called Gymnasium) preparing Swiss Maturity, the public school offers bilingual courses in English; however, even in bilingual courses in college, students are expected to speak the national language. Note that entrance test may be required.

For the children of expatriates who do not plan to stay in Switzerland for a long time, private schools offer courses entirely in English. In addition to the Swiss Maturity, private schools allow students to obtain the International Baccalaureate (IB), the French Baccalaureate, the German Abitur … If you plan to enroll your children in a particular private school, its location must be taken into account when choosing your accommodation.

School enrollment checklist
Registration Formaction effectuée
Grades from the previous schoolaction effectuée
Civil Liability Insurance Certificateaction effectuée
Accident Insurance Certificateaction effectuée
Medical instructions and allergy declaration formaction effectuée
Canteen registrationaction effectuée
School bus bookingaction effectuée


Other steps

Within 12 months of arriving in Switzerland, you need to give your driving license issued by the country of origin at the “auto office” cantonal administration and get a Swiss driving license. After the deadline, you may have to take the driver’s license exam again.

The “non-prosecution” certificate is a document provided by the cantonal prosecution office certifying that the resident in Switzerland has no unpaid debt. It can be requested by a creditor at the start of a service. Employers request it as part of the periodic audit of their employees. ficate is produced by the cantonal prosecution office. It can be requested by the internet or by going to the Office and usually takes around 5 working days.

You can request your Swiss criminal record extract by the internet through ; it usually takes around 10 working days (you will be informed by the administration on how long it will take to process). You will need to send by mail a copy of your ID and pay by internet.

Each Swiss canton offers an internet follow-up service for administrative procedures.


“Other steps” checklist
Driver's licenseaction effectuée
Certificate of “no prosecution”action effectuée
Criminal recordaction effectuée
Cantonal administrative procedures by internetaction effectuée


Your previous residence

In the country you used to live in, there are procedures to finalize such as cancelling subscriptions, checking that the invoices for canceled subscriptions are no longer debited fom your Bank account, cancelling insurance, checking reimbursements of subscriptions for the period not covered, collecting the social and fiscal documents.


“Previous residence” checklist
Cancel subscriptionsaction effectuée
Check for absence of direct debitsaction effectuée
Check refundsaction effectuée
Tax clearance from the previous country of residenceaction effectuée
Social discharge from the previous country of residence (retirement "points", provident account)action effectuée


Your procedures at the consulate of your country of origin

If you are not Swiss, you still have to register with the consulate of your country of origin (country of nationality).

“Country of origin” checklist
Register at the Consulateaction effectuée
Register as a non-resident voteraction effectuée


Link to useful information

If you live in Switzerland, the above steps guide you through your settlement in Switzerland.

If you are an expatriate, a “cross-border commuter” or a Swiss, returning to Switzerland, you will find the information you need in the following articles:

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