Moving to Switzerland

Moving to Switzerland

If snowclad mountains and skis and chocolates are your idea of heaven on Earth then you have made the right decision about relocating to Switzerland from the US.

We have prepared a comprehensive guide for an American moving to Switzerland to use as a checklist and we invite you to walk with us as we virtually travel to this beautiful country known more for its ethereal beauty than any other place in this world.

We explore what it means to shift to this gorgeous country and give you the low-down about everything from getting a Visa to the healthcare system in Switzerland to what is the status of education over there to even questions about whether you can move to Switzerland without a job.

It’s tough to find a place not to like in Switzerland… ~Michele Bachmann
Fact: Switzerland is a federal republic made up of 26 areas called Cantons.

Nestled between Austria on the east, France on the west, Italy to the south, and Germany to the north, Switzerland is nothing short of paradise, geographically placed amidst the Swiss Plateau, the Alps, and the Jura.

So if you are immigrating to Switzerland from US one of the first things to consider is learning about Visa requirements.

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Swiss Visa Requirements for US Citizens

Do US citizens need a visa for Switzerland? Citizens moving to Switzerland from the US can travel to Switzerland if they are in possession of a valid US tourist visa and stay up till a period of 90 days within a duration of 180 days.

Swiss Visa Requirements for US Citizens
Swiss Visa Requirements for US Citizens

Types of Visas:

Generally, there are three different types of Swiss visas. You can check out the table below for a quick understanding.

Type of VisaAllowed time period
Short-term Swiss visasPermits a stay of 90 days for tourism or short-period business visit
Non-Immigrant visasPermits a longer-period temporary stay for purposes of education or contract work
Immigrant visasPermits longer period permanent stay for purposes such as work or even retirement.

Types of Permits:

There are three types of Swiss residence permits available for American citizens immigrating to Switzerland from the US.

Type of PermitDetails
Permit LOnly allows short-term residence for up to 1 year which can be renewed to a maximum of 2 years.
Permit BAllows for initial entry and temporary residence which can be renewed annually.
Permit CAllows permanent residence applicable only for someone holding Permit B for the last 10 years.

Required Documents for Visa:

We understand how cumbersome the whole process of procuring a visa can be. As an American relocating to Switzerland, you will need a Swiss permanent residence permit. However, initially, you will be eligible only for Permit B or Permit L.

Fact: Switzerland permits dual citizenship without restrictions.

How to Become a Swiss Citizen?

Can US citizens get Swiss citizenship?

If you are moving to Switzerland from the US and thinking of getting Swiss citizenship then read on to find out what are the eligibility criteria for becoming a Swiss citizen. As an American moving to Switzerland, one of the most frequently asked questions is how to snag Swiss citizenship.

How to Become a Swiss Citizen
How to Become a Swiss Citizen

There are generally four different paths to get citizenship in Switzerland.

  • Citizenship by birth
  • Citizenship by descent
  • Citizenship by marriage
  • Citizenship by naturalization

The best route for someone moving from US to Switzerland is through the process of naturalization. You need to complete 10 years of continuous residency in Switzerland and then apply for citizenship under regular naturalization.

How to Apply for Citizenship:

Applying for citizenship is a multi-leveled process and can cost you upwards of CHF 1000 and depending on the laws of your local canton the duration can be anywhere over a year.

You will need to make an application through your local canton or commune.

Required Documents:

Save this page for future reference on the required documents while applying for citizenship. While applying for citizenship make sure you have:

  • The application form (which is available with the cantonal naturalization authority you belong to)
  • Proof of C residence permit
  • Proof of language expertise attained from a registered language institution in Switzerland

Tax System in Switzerland

Since you are immigrating to Switzerland from the US let us warn you well in advance that the Taxation system in Switzerland can be both simple as well as complex depending on how you look at them. If you have received a work permit, then you are eligible to pay tax within 30 days of entering Switzerland.

Tax System in Switzerland
Tax System in Switzerland

The complexity arises from the fact that there are four levels of tax authorities namely:

  • Federal
  • Cantonal
  • Municipal
  • And even the Church.

Tip: Swiss citizenship means three different levels: communal, cantonal, and confederation. Therefore communal, cantonal, and federal authorities are involved in the citizenship registration process.

Types of Taxes: Two types of taxes are levied in Switzerland. The direct tax is applied on income and wealth and indirect tax gets applied to goods and services.

How much tax do you pay in Switzerland?

You can use this link to calculate the amount of Tax you will need to pay the Swiss government. This will also give you an understanding of the tax rates prevalent in Switzerland.
If you’re an American and you have a comfortable salary to meet the high cost of living in Switzerland, you will almost certainly have to pay some taxes.

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How to Get a Job in Switzerland?

You have a high chance of landing a good job in Switzerland provided you have the necessary skill sets. Many Americans find it possible to locate vacancies and settle into a job that is tailormade for them.

Though there is an extremely competent job market in Switzerland, an American, immigrating to Switzerland from US can find themselves a good job if they have the necessary high skills and qualifications for the same.

How to Get a Job in Switzerland
How to Get a Job in Switzerland

The unemployment rate in Switzerland is one of the lowest in the world and usually, foreigners find themselves on the side where jobs are difficult to come by. But this is mostly due to them being low on skills. The key here is there is a high demand for professionals in the following industries:

  • Chemicals
  • Banking
  • Insurance
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Watch manufacturing
  • Food retail.

The minimum salary in Switzerland comes to CHF 4000 per month approximately and has been at the receiving end of quite some national-level debate. The average annual salary in Switzerland is CHF 60,847. If you are keen to know a sector-wise salary rate in Switzerland you can click here.

There are multiple avenues for foreigners to search for jobs in Switzerland. You can start with the newspapers for a listing of jobs. There are also certain recruitment agencies you can search for online. Similarly, you can also search for job-related websites for Switzerland.

Public employment services and jobs at International Organizations are some other opportunities available.

We have listed out some of the jobs that are in high demand below:

  • IT and technical jobs
  • Accountancy jobs
  • Software developers

A good salary will be anything that lets you sustain the high cost of living that is common in Switzerland. But you can use the salary calculator to get an idea of how much you will be earning.

Healthcare System in Switzerland

Welcome to one of the best healthcare systems in the world. Moving to Switzerland from the US, you are in safe hands as Switzerland has consistently been ranked high as having the world’s best health care systems. Once again you will find that Switzerland has a delegated system of healthcare with individual cantons.

Healthcare System in Switzerland
Healthcare System in Switzerland

What you find is a combination of:

  • Public
  • Subsidized private
  • Totally private healthcare systems

Fact: There is no free public healthcare system in Switzerland.

What you need to do is get yourself insured after getting a residence permit. Basic healthcare insurance covers the following areas:

  • Hospital visits
  • General check-ups
  • Vaccinations
  • Hospital stays in private or semi-private wards

Education System in Switzerland

It’s an interesting system of education that can be observed in Switzerland. Delegation of education to the cantons is one of the distinct features of the education system here. This can be a pertinent question for anyone relocating to Switzerland. The education system is advanced and offers holistic development for the learners.

We can understand the education system by drawing up a chart: The interesting thing is parents get the choice of a public education system and a private education system at both Primary and Secondary levels.

Education System in Switzerland
Education System in Switzerland

The International schools affiliated with the private education system is what are often chosen by expats as they receive the much-coveted International Baccalaureate Diploma (IB Diploma) upon graduation. There are learning opportunities galore for even adults willing to undergo training and counseling for skill enhancement. Details for the same can be found here.

How to Find a Property?

Fact: Switzerland has one of the lowest house ownership percentages in Europe.

To find a property to stay in you will have to do the extensive house hunting. Get acquainted with the local real estate agents or check out the local listings in newspapers. You can also search online across numerous websites.

An American moving to Switzerland prefers going for renting properties. And there are two options available:

  • Short term rentals
  • Long term rentals

According to the Federal Statistical Office, the average net rent in 2019 was CHF 1362 at the national level and this was regardless of size. The website also states that the highest rents were found in the cantons of Zug, Zurich, and Schwyz. Jura, Neuchâtel and Valais are the cantons that offer the cheapest cantons.

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Is Switzerland a Good Place to Live?

Fact: Several offices of a lot of international organizations such as the WTO, the WHO, the ILO, the headquarters of FIFA, and even the UN’s second-largest office can be found in the prominent cities of Switzerland.

Considered as the jewel on the crown that Europe is, Switzerland is one of the best places to live if you are a nature lover. Moving to Switzerland from the US offers you the golden chance to be one with nature nestled between the Alps and the wetlands and woodlands along with the Central Plateau.

Check out our guide on “things to do in Switzerland” to find out what the country has to offer other than breathtaking natural beauty!

Here are a few facts about living in Switzerland:

  • The Swiss own a lot of guns and yet has one of the lowest crime rates.
  • 25% of the population in Switzerland is found to be foreign
  • Switzerland has an active outdoor culture
  • The Alps and the chocolates
  • The cost of living is extremely high in Switzerland
  • Health hazards owing to the topical climate in the country
  • The public transportation system is not that great and can often be costly.
  • The Swiss have a record of being unfriendly to foreigners.

Living in Switzerland as an American

To better understand the cost of living in Switzerland for an American moving to Switzerland, we offer you a table for comparison.

CategorySwitzerlandUnited States
Cost of living (One person)$2417$1900
Cost of living (Family)$6349$4272
One person rent$1288$1171
Family rent$2472$1874
Food Expenses$790$496
Transport Expenses$120$93.3
Monthly salary after tax$5893$3674
GDP per capita$82797$62795
               Source: Living cost

Best Place to Live in Switzerland

Now comes the all-important question of where would someone moving to Switzerland from the US should know. The best places for ex-pats to live in Switzerland. After telling you in detail how to move to Switzerland from the US, we are also duty-bound to help you get a feel of which are the best places to settle in Switzerland.

Best Place to Live in Switzerland
Best Place to Live in Switzerland

So here we cover some of the best places to live in Switzerland you would love in no particular order. We give you a short tour of the places that Americans can typically be found along with a handful that you might want to check out for yourself.

  • Bern: The capital city has the distinct quality of being at times one of the busiest and yet maintains its small world feels. This city is the home to Swiss Parliament and also has been declared as a UNESCO World Heritage.
  • Geneva: It is also Switzerland’s second largest city. Though described as stuffy and characterless, it houses some of world’s largest organizations like UN, Red Cross and WHO. The plus point is Geneva is the door to some of the best resorts in Europe.
  • Zurich: The largest and most popular city in Switzerland is also described as an economic powerhouse. An ultimate combination of scenic spaces, eateries and watering holes for the drink aficionados, Zurich also makes it easy to travel to other European cities.
  • Basel: Located close to both French and German borders, this city which is also Switzerland’s third largest gives the unique advantage for residents to find accommodation across the border, work in Switzerland. Plus, the bars, restaurants and markets are added attractions.
  • Zug: This young city is fast becoming one of the most sought-after places in Switzerland. Having the distinction of being one of the first to accept bitcoin payments. Some what remote from the other popular places, Zug is one of the hidden gems Switzerland has to offer to anyone relocating to Switzerland.
  • Lucerne: If you want to stay close to the Alps and if you have a keen interest in winter sports. An advantage of setting base here is the lower property rates as compared to other popular cities in Switzerland.
  • Winterthur: One place that has a huge concentration of expats and perfect for an American moving to Switzerland is this small but extremely busy city which is quite close to Zurich. One thing that people deciding to live here are attracted to are the cultural events that are held throughout the year.
  • Lausanne: Located near Lake Geneva, Lausanne offers a quiet but high-quality life. The Alps being just a trek away puts another positive in the coffers of this city.
  • Lugano: Another favorite of expats immigrating to Switzerland from US and other countries is Lugano. The mountainous location ensures this small city receives snowfall. But the city also has a generous warm climate.
  • Ruschlikon, Meggen, Sion and Valais: Winding up our list that helps you identify the best place to live in Switzerland, we give you four more options. Having featured in the current times as top most places to reside in, Ruschilikon and Meggen have a mixed population. Meggen, located on Lake Lucerne climbed the list of hotspots to reach the second highest ranking offers a lot of recreational spaces for enthusiasts. Sion and Valais give a rare mountain lifestyle coupled with modern living.

Switzerland Culture & Climate

Switzerland Culture & Climate
Switzerland Culture & Climate

What type of Climate will you find in Switzerland?

Depending on whether you are up in the mountains or down on the plains, you are bound to experience cold winters and hot summers respectively. Does Switzerland have four seasons? It’s winter in Switzerland between mid-December to mid-March.

Summer is between mid-March to mid-September while fall arrives between mid-September and mid-December. So, you can surmise that Switzerland typically has three seasons. Having said that the climate pattern can be unpredictable to a certain extent due to its inconsistency.

Is Switzerland hot or cold?

The climate is moderate in Switzerland with the summers often being warm with moderate humidity and the winters not being excessive except at peak season. Switzerland celebrates a mixed culture and as an American moving to Switzerland, you will experience a diverse culture thanks to the influence of multiple neighboring countries like Germany, Italy, and France.

People often patronize dance and folk music. Swiss cuisine again takes inspiration from the German, Italian, and French offerings but you will also be able to try out authentic Swiss fare. You can try fondue, pastetli, zopf, raclette, etc. which are considered as some of the most popular dishes in Switzerland.

And Swiss beer is often touted as one of the best in the world with both lager and dark beer being considered winners.

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Ranking in the World

If you are worried about how to move to Switzerland from US, then let us alleviate your fears by sharing some of the perks of moving to Switzerland. We mean you would be going to the 4th best country in the world. According to the 2021 U.S. News Best Countries Ranking, Switzerland ranks 4th in the overall ranking according to

The various categories that were considered are:

Tip: Some important numbers to remember after relocating to Switzerland:

  • General emergencies: 112
  • Police: 117
  • Information service in German, French, Italian, and English: 1818
  • Swiss Rescue: 1414 

The various categories that were considered are

Cultural Influence59.28
Open for Business1001
Quality of Life89.95
Social Purpose81.19
               Source: US News

The Bottom Line

Is Switzerland expensive? Yes, it is! Is it still worth traveling to Switzerland? Of course! However, we would like to clear the air that Switzerland only looks and feels expensive if you perceive it as a tourist. If you are planning to work there and live there as an American moving to Switzerland from US, then you have made the right decision.

As long as you have a valid permit to travel in and around this beautiful part of Europe you will never feel you have made a wrong choice or decision Switzerland provides a unique blend of calm and serenity with just the right dose of cultural offering anyone would crave for.

Wondering what is the best time to visit Switzerland? Check out our guide on the Best Time to Visit Switzerland!

Tip: In case you plan to move from one commune to another then you are required to notify your commune of residence about your departure while at the same time informing your new commune of residence.

So go ahead and pack your bags and come over to this paradise on Earth where you come eye to eye with nature at her finest. You also need to be given a fair warning that it pays to learn the local language both for a smooth transition and in the long run while applying for permanent residence.

Be prepared for something of a culture shock as the Swiss have their own dialects for even French and German. English though used; Foreigners tend to be looked upon as mere tourists who don’t usually play a prominent part in the economic upliftment of Switzerland.

So final verdict on moving from US to Switzerland, go if you must but use our guide to prepare well before you do. Ciao.

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