Guide to Moving to Switzerland

Switzerland has a solid reputation as a favoured destination for expats. With a booming financial services industry and favourable lifestyle, it’s easy to see why. Switzerland placed 3rd (out of 37 countries) in the 2013 Expat Explorer Survey (commissioned by HSBC) for economics and experience. The Swiss are widely renowned for their work ethic and punctuality, so if you are moving to Switzerland and happy to put in the hours, you will be rewarded with very friendly and positive surroundings. The logistics of moving to Switzerland are made easier by Cadogan Tate’s specialist European removals service, which runs regular shipments between the UK and Geneva and Zurich.
Importing your car and driving in Switzerland
The Swiss government recognises driving licences from countries in the EEA (which includes the UK), however they can only be used for up to 12 months after moving to Switzerland. EEA citizens are not required to retake the driving test and can exchange their licence for a Swiss equivalent without much hassle. However, it is worth noting that the licence exchange process can take some time to complete, so it is advisable to get this sorted as soon as possible. Once the 12 month period has lapsed, you will be required to take both the theory and practical tests again. If you choose to import a car into Switzerland and you have owned the vehicle for more than 6 months, and you do not sell the car within a year of arriving, you will not need to pay any import tax or VAT. As long as you have the relevant documents (registration certificate, a current MOT and insurance) you will be allowed to drive your car for up to 12 months with foreign licence plates before applying for the Swiss equivalent.
Importing other goods
As with many other countries across the world, Switzerland is registered with CITES, meaning that there are approximately 25,000 types of plants that are prohibited from importing into Switzerland. Among the varieties of prohibited plants, are apple and pear trees, oak, potato plant, conifers, roses and citrus plants. For more information visit
When importing alcoholic beverages into Switzerland you will be permitted to bring up to 2 litres of 15% vol (or less) alcohol and up to 1 litre of alcohol over 15% vol without incurring any import taxes. There are plans to adjust these limits, as well as the amount of VAT payable on excess quantities. To keep up to date with the most recent import duties, click here. The new import provisions will also affect the limits on duty exempt tobacco products, which currently stands at 200 cigarettes, 50 cigars or 250 grams of cut tobacco.
Moving to Switzerland with your pet
Living with a pet can reduce stress, and it’s a great way of exploring your new surroundings (and a good excuse to go for ‘walkies’). Since May last year, moving to Switzerland with your pet has got a lot easier due to new legislations being approved by the European Union. When moving to Switzerland with your dog or cat you must follow the rules set out by the EU but in short your pet needs a microchip, a rabies vaccination and a pet passport.
Moving to Switzerland with children
The education system is slightly different in the various regions of Switzerland. Ecole enfantine for example, in French-speaking parts and Scuola dell’Infanzia in Italian areas have more in common with primary school than the kindergarten system of the German-speaking regions. Nearly all children in Switzerland attend pre-school for one year and around 86% of children will attend it for 2 years before entering compulsory education at the age of 6.
The school system in Switzerland is very different to that in the UK, with pupils being separated according to their abilities and career aspirations at the start of secondary school (at around 15/16 years old). Swiss secondary schools (‘Gymnasiums’) often have specialist areas of teaching including maths and science, modern languages, ancient languages, economics, art or sports. It is important to do a deeper level of research into schools, because each region (or ‘Canton’) will have its own system and variations. Upon arrival into your new home in Switzerland, setting up a working Internet connection will be very important, both for yourself and your child. Put measures in place so that your child is able to communicate with friends and family members back home. Video calling software packages such as Skype are very popular amongst expats and their families as it allows users to talk, for free, over the Internet.
Everything handled with care
When moving to Switzerland with Cadogan Tate you will be assigned a Move Co-ordinator who will assist you every step of the way – from the acceptance of the moving quote to any assistance that you may require after you have unpacked at your new home. Cadogan Tate are specialists in moving to Switzerland and have ample experience and knowledge in this field, as well as being able to offer a competitive and comprehensive removals service.
Information correct at time of publication