Moving to Switzerland
Expert help when moving to central Europe
With a stunning mountainous backdrop, crystal-clear lakes and fantastic work opportunities, it’s no wonder Switzerland is a popular place to relocate to. If you’re considering or planning on moving to this central European gem, it’s time to start thinking about the logistics of international removals.
Only when you start to plan a big move abroad do you realise the difficulties surrounding transportation, paperwork, customs, admin… it all builds up and can be quite overwhelming. Moving from the UK to land-locked Switzerland takes preparation and time to organise. But you don’t have to do it alone.
This is where an experienced removals company can help. Cadogan Tate can arrange and plan every aspect of your move, with our qualified team on hand to answer any questions. We’ll take care of the practicalities, so it’s one less thing for you to worry about.
Let our team deal with the administrative complications of relocating to Europe, while you concentrate on planning your new life in Switzerland.
When moving abroad there are inevitably challenges to face and hurdles to overcome. Understanding what you can take with you, how to transport it and what paperwork you need to cross borders is key to having a stress-free moving experience. However well planned you are, it’s also about knowing how to react and adapt to the unexpected. Here at Cadogan Tate we have a dedicated European removals and storage service team who can provide you with the expert help you need.
We make regular shipments to Switzerland, including the popular expatriate cities of Zürich and Geneva. As such, we understand the logistics and practicalities of a move to central Europe, and can draw on our extensive experience to give you a hassle-free move. It’s easy to get started; simply fill in the form on this page and we’ll provide you with a free no-obligation quote to meet your removals to Switzerland requirements.
Once we receive your request for a quote, we will arrange for one of your relocation surveyors to visit you in person. They will assess your needs and the belongings that you wish to transport, place into storage with us or dispose of. From here, we can determine the best packing methods, storage solutions and transportation options to meet your individual needs. We can then give you an accurate and detailed free and no-obligation quotation for our removals services.
If you choose to go-ahead with Cadogan Tate, you will be assigned a specialist Move Co-Ordinator, who will plan and manage the whole process for you. With a detailed move plan in place, we can ensure you a calm and organised relocation to Switzerland. Knowing you’re relocating with a highly experienced and professional international relocation specialist will be a weight off your shoulders and will give you the time to focus on the other aspects of your move.
It can be very exciting planning a relocation abroad, but there is quite a lot to think about before the big move. Finding somewhere to live, researching local schools (if relevant) and ensuring you have a healthcare policy in place are just three important tasks ahead of you.
We’ve been working in the international removals business for a long time, and have built up detailed knowledge of Switzerland through our professional experience. So, while our main aim is to give you a stress-free moving experience, we can also share some useful information on life in Switzerland as an expatriate.
We have an overview of living in Switzerland on this page, as well as a growing archive of useful articles on every aspect of expat life in the country. We cover everything from your finances to your healthcare and moving with a family.
Switzerland, officially known as the Swiss Confederation, is located in the mountainous region of central Europe. It’s a popular expatriate location, attracting people from all over the world. It has a booming economy and is considered one of the best countries for business (according a Forbes). It has a sophisticated, multilingual population (with four official languages of German, French, Italian and Romansh) and a strong cultural heritage.
There are 26 cantons in Switzerland, each with their own individual feel. The cantons are independent federal states, much like there is in the USA, with each canton determining their own spending, laws, schooling systems and constitution.
Your location is likely pre-determined by your work opportunity, but it is worth spending some time travelling around the country as well. Most expatriates will find themselves in one of the two global cities of Zürich or Geneva. Both of these cities rank highly in quality of living rankings, including Mercer’s respected 2017 list, which placed Zürich as second worldwide and Geneva as eighth.
The high living standard, good wages and welcoming acceptance of expatriates means there is a diverse population, with a high percentage of non-Swiss nationals. Your experience of the country is likely to change depending on which canton you live in. There are clear influences from neighbours France, Germany and Italy, which can be seen in the language, architecture and culture.
Switzerland offers an excellent quality of life, which is one of its main attractions. It does help to have some experience in one of the official languages to help you adapt more quickly. Most people do speak English though, especially in the business world. Swiss nationals are known for being polite and reliable, if a little reserved. But on the whole, they are very accepting of expatriates and you will likely receive a warm welcome in your community.
Getting out and about after your move is the best way to immerse yourself in your new lifestyle. There is a lot of incentive to indulge in an outdoors-centred way of life. The mountains offer great skiing and winter sports opportunities, while the large lakes are perfect for walking and picnics all year round. There are plenty of social and private clubs to join to suit any hobby, and these are a good way to make friends with like-minded people and build new relationships.
Switzerland is a great place for culture lovers; there are more than 1,000 museums covering all styles and tastes. It is among the top countries in the world for most museums per capita. There are also 12 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including three natural ones and nine cultural.
Accommodation in Switzerland is of a very high standard. It is well-developed and there are some truly stunning properties for luxury living. However, the cost of living is high and the competition for prime real estate is fierce, which can make house hunting a time-consuming task.
Most expatriates opt to rent, as do the local people, which creates a shortage of desirable properties on the rental market. There is far more demand than there are properties available, and it’s not uncommon to have over 50 applications from prospective tenants for a desirable apartment in the city. It is best to start the search well in advance of your move. It is possible to search for and even put in an application online, through services such as www.homegate.ch. It is worth brushing up on the very comprehensive Swiss tenancy laws. They lay out the rights and duties of both the landlord and the tenant. When moving to Switzerland, it is worth trying to negotiate a housing provision into your employment contract, which can help secure a good property and you should speak to your employer about their connections in assisting with the search.
In the main cities of Geneva and Zürich, and even in some of the smaller cities, most properties are apartments. These are usually provided unfurnished, enabling expats to set up their home as they wish. In some of the suburbs, outside of the main urban areas, larger detached houses are available, which are good for those moving with children.
One of your main considerations when moving to any international location is healthcare. Not everywhere has a universal state healthcare system like the UK. In Switzerland, like everything else, the standard of healthcare is exceptional. The facilities are world-class, with experienced doctors, a choice of treatments and short waiting times.
There is no government-funded or employer-sponsored healthcare program; health insurance is compulsory. Private health insurance policies vary and some are more comprehensive than others. Basic health insurance will cover most treatments at a public hospital and centre – the government determines what should be covered by the basic policies. As public facilities are of such a high standard, many residents opt to use these services. Some specialist treatments may require additional payment.
There are also private hospitals, which are of a similarly high standard, but they can offer even shorter waiting times and specialist treatments. These are only covered by more expensive, comprehensive health insurance packages.
As an expatriate, you can access these services with an appropriate health insurance policy. You cannot sign up to the Swiss healthcare service until you arrive in Switzerland and have applied for your Swiss residence permit. You must sign up to a health provider within 90 days of arrival in the country, or one could be assigned to you by your local authority. It is best to shop around and choose a policy that best suits your needs. Once registered with a Swiss health insurance company, your coverage is backdated to the date you took up residency. Premiums also need to be paid from the beginning of when you became a resident, as expenses can be claimed retrospectively.
Money and Utilities
The cost of living in Switzerland is high, and Geneva, Zürich and Bern often reach the top ten in cost of living surveys. However, many expatriates feel like the benefits are well worth it. The standard of living is equally high, the infrastructure is excellent and public services are efficient.
While there are the usual expenses, such as accommodation costs, travel costs, healthcare and education, there are some other fees to bear in mind. For example, there is a charge for refuse collection per bag. Recycling is free, however, so there is an incentive to live a green life, which helps the country to be more environmentally friendly.
Switzerland isn’t part of the European Union, so it has its own currency, the Swiss Franc. There are plenty of good international banks in the country, which serve all of the cantons and are good for English speakers. This includes Swiss banks like Crédit Suisse and UBS, as well as branches of UK banks such as Barclays and HSBC. International banks can be useful if you will be receiving income in different currencies. However, if you can manage transactions in the canton’s local language, then a cantonal bank can be cheaper. Cantonal banks are only available for residents of that specific canton, and if you move cantons, you would have to move your bank account too. They often offer more competitive rates on both current accounts and savings, and have smaller fees for transactions.
Tax rates also vary from canton to canton. Expatriates will have to pay both federal and cantonal taxes, and on income, wealth, goods and services.
How long should you allow for shipping to Switzerland?
You will need to ensure you allow enough time for shipping your belongings to your new home. For Switzerland, this could be anything from a few days to a few weeks, depending on the services you opt for and the types of items that are being transported. With our EU Road Dedicated service, shipping from London to Switzerland can be as quick as 2-4 days. Using our EU Road Groupage service, we recommend you allow 2-3 weeks.
What can you take?
When relocating to Switzerland, you can bring most of your personal belongings or household effects into the country duty free. However, you will need to prove ‘transfer of domicile’, which could be a rental agreement, employment contract or house purchase for those moving from the UK. Items must have been used by you personally for six months prior to moving with the intention to continue using them after importation.
You will need to present a completed application form with your goods to the customs office of importation during their opening hours. There are limits on how much alcohol can be imported as household effects, so if you have a wine collection, for example, you would need to take expert advice on how best to import this and pay the relevant duty fees.
Taking a car or motor vehicle
The same general rules apply for importing a car or other vehicle into Switzerland as your household effects or personal belongings (detailed above). If your car doesn’t meet the requirements to be imported as household effects, for example, if it’s newer than six months old, you will have to pay Swiss sales tax and customs duty. Customs duty is charged based on your car’s cubic capacity and weight.
You will also need to register your vehicle at the time of importation, which means reporting to the customs office during opening hours. You may be able to get a temporary permit, valid for two days, if you wish to delay the formal registration while you travel further cross-country to a customs office nearer your destination.
Moving to Switzerland with pets
It is possible to bring your pets with you when you move to Switzerland. They also fall under the ‘household effects’ rule, so if you have had your pets for more than six months, you won’t have to pay any duty on them. In general, there are no issues with bringing most common pets into the country, though special conditions do apply to dogs, cats, ferrets and birds as per EU regulations. They should be microchipped, vaccinated and hold a pet passport.
Swiss Regional Guides
There are 26 cantons in Switzerland, which are all very different. As Switzerland is decentralised, each canton can set its own laws and taxes. They also have different languages and cultures.
To help you find out more about your new location, we have detailed guides to the most popular expatriate cities.
We have storage and office facilities throughout Europe, as well as vetted and monitored professional storage partners that offer the same high standard as Cadogan Tate.
We regularly make shipments to Switzerland, so we can help you find the best removals and storage solutions for your belongings.
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