Cost of living -

7 Things to know and do before moving from the U.S. to Switzerland

Switzerland lies in the heart of Europe and is famous for its stunning natural beauty, delicious chocolate, and the Swiss Alps. Americans move to Switzerland because of the high quality of life, the employment opportunities, the education system, and the excellent healthcare system. Before you get to enjoy the benefits of living in Switzerland, there are several things you need to prepare! Here are some of the most important things to know before moving from the US to Switzerland.

Moving to Switzerland: Everything to know and do

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1. First steps before moving to Switzerland

Visa requirements

Many people want to immigrate to Switzerland because of the high quality of life. Due to high immigration demands, Switzerland has recently limited the number of immigrants allowed in the country per year. As an American you can move to Switzerland if you’re applying for an immigrant visa or a non immigrant visa. It is only after you have set foot in Switzerland on a visa that you can then begin applying for permanent residency.

Work Visa in Switzerland

To work in Switzerland, you must:

  1. Find/have a job in Switzerland.
  2. Complete the Swiss work visa document at your nearest Swiss embassy in the US. All visa applications are by appointment only.
  3. Your employer then applies for your residence permit within 3 months of living and working in Switzerland. 

*For more information on Switzerland’s work visa requirements, click here

Family Reunion Visa in Switzerland

To join your family or spouse in Switzerland, you must:

  1. Have a spouse or an immediate family member who is a legal Swiss resident/citizen. Some situations require the family member to have been living in Switzerland for 10 consecutive years.
  2. Complete the Swiss family reunion visa documents at your nearest Swiss embassy in the US. All visa applications are by appointment only.
  3. Have a letter from your family member/spouse indicating they will support you financially. 

*For more information on Switzerland’s family reunion visa requirements, click here.

Student Visa in Switzerland

To study in Switzerland, you must:

  1. Be accepted in one of Switzerland’s educational institutions.
  2. Complete the Swiss student visa document at your nearest Swiss embassy in the US. All visa applications are by appointment only.
  3. Register for a residence permit within 14 days of your arrival in Switzerland at your nearest Residents Registration Office.

*For more information on Switzerland’s student visa requirements, click here.

Finding a job 

According to the Swiss Federal Statistical Office, the most in-demand jobs in Switzerland are accountants, engineers, teachers, nurses, doctors, and lawyers. However, there is also a high demand for skilled workers, such as mechanics. When looking for a job in Switzerland, it’s essential to leverage different resources. Start by exploring online job portals like Glassdoor and Jooble. Additionally, you can network on professional platforms like LinkedIn and research Swiss companies that align with your skills and career goals.

Consider reaching out to local recruitment agencies, attending job fairs, and exploring the opportunities each city can offer, such as access to fast-track programs for skilled jobseekers in Zurich. And don’t forget to ensure that your qualifications and certifications are recognized in Switzerland, which may require some document translation and verification.

Getting there 

Moving from the U.S. to Switzerland by air is the best and fastest option. First, make sure that your passport is valid for your intended stay and acquire the necessary visa or residence permit, depending on your purpose for moving. Book your flight to a Swiss airport, typically Zurich, Geneva, or Basel-Mulhouse Airport, from a major city in the United States.

The duration of the flight can vary depending on your departure city, but on average, a nonstop flight from major US cities to Switzerland takes approximately 7 to 10 hours. Once you arrive in Switzerland, be prepared to complete any required immigration and customs procedures and start your new chapter in this beautiful Alpine country.

What should I look for in an International Moving Company?

You can easily move your things from the US to Switzerland by plane or boat, but make sure the moving company you decide on is reliable. So when opting for an international moving company, here’s what you should look for:

  • Insurance is included (ask what’s included)
  • Rates are not extravagant (compare with other companies)
  • They have many Google reviews that are over 4 stars.
  • Customer service and transparency is their priority.

Car shipping to Switzerland

Unless they have significant emotional attachment to their car, most Americans choose to leave their cars behind when moving to Switzerland due to the elevated shipping and import fees and the long vehicle inspection process. If you must absolutely ship your car to Switzerland, here are the steps to follow:

  • Get various quotes from the best car shipping companies. A trusted car shipping company will have insurance, good reviews, and will make customer service their priority.
  • Choose the port of departure.
  • Choose the port destination.
  • Prepare the car by cleaning it and emptying the tank to ⅛ full, or you may have to pay a fee upon arrival.

*Ask your chosen car shipping company for additional requirements.

The cost of shipping your car to Switzerland depends on several factors that include what distance and the means of transport. The average cost of car shipping to Switzerland from the US ranges between $2,000-$4,300 per car, by boat.

Must dos before your arrival 

  • Define your required visa or permit to enter and stay in Switzerland.
  • Make sure that your passport is valid for your entire intended stay in Switzerland.
  • Secure a pre-accommodation before your move.
  • Learn Local Language for Integration (German, French, Italian, Romansh).
  • Secure a Job Offer for smooth Work Permit Process.
  • Plan your move in advance, check international movers.

2. Upon your arrival in Switzerland

Must dos right upon your arrival

  • Get Swiss Francs at the airport or an ATM for immediate expenses.
  • Get to know your neighborhood, local stores, pharmacies, and emergency phone numbers.
  • Notify your employer and get guidance on next steps after your arrival.
  • Consider opening a local bank account for financial convenience.
  • Learn local transportation options and use a Swiss Travel System timetable for planning.
  • Check requirements for your license to drive in Switzerland.
  • Get mobile data or a local SIM card from a Swiss provider if needed, but ensure your phone is unlocked for a local SIM card.

Healthcare

Healthcare in Switzerland has a particular way of functioning. Like in the US, Switzerland’s healthcare is not free and is managed by private insurance companies. The Swiss government does have some agency on the healthcare system, as they forbid any doctor from refusing a patient. ithin 3 months of receiving your residence permit in Switzerland, it is compulsory to purchase private health insurance. The best private health insurance companies in Switzerland include Helsana, KPT, Sanitas, and Swica.

Life Insurance in Switzerland

In Switzerland, employers often include life insurance as a benefit. While life insurance in Switzerland is not mandatory, it is a must to ensure your financials are taken care of in case of any unexpected events. The best life insurance companies in Switzerland are Allianz, Axa, and Zurich.

Setting up your cell phone 

In Switzerland, the majority of people opt for prepaid SIM card plans for their cell phones. Cell phone minutes and data are provided through SIM cards. It’s important to ensure that your American phone is unlocked before arriving in Switzerland, so you can easily insert a Swiss SIM card and start using your phone right away. SIM card features typically include data, calls, and texting. Initially, you’ll need to purchase a SIM card for a few dollars, and then you can expect to pay around $62.51 USD per month for a plan that includes 10 GB of data along with unlimited calls and texting according to numbeo. The primary Swiss cell phone providers are Swisscom, Sunrise, VTX, Salt (Orange), and Aldi Mobile.

Getting a driver’s license 

If you are moving to Switzerland from the US and are over 18 you can drive in Switzerland with your American driver’s license for up to one year. As an American, you won’t have to pass a theory driving test after a year, but you still have to pass a practical driving test. After passing the practical test, visit your local canton traffic office to exchange your American driver’s license for a Swiss one.

Car insurance in Switzerland

Car insurance in Switzerland is mandatory. Basic car insurance is the minimum car insurance you must purchase in Switzerland. Basic car insurance will cover damage to other cars during a crash. The best car insurance companies in Switzerland are smile.direct, ELVIA, Generali, and Dextra.

Setting up a bank account 

If you are an American looking to move to Switzerland long-term, opening a bank account is a great way to keep your money safe and even start some investments. To open a bank account, you will need to go in person and expect 10 days for its activation. To open a bank account you will need, your passport, proof of address, and your visa. Switzerland has National banks, of which the most popular ones are:

Switzerland also has cantonal banks that are different in each canton.

Register with the Swiss authorities

Once you arrive in Switzerland, you will have only 14 days to register at your local Residents Registration Office to obtain your residence permit. Be sure to get familiar with your canton (it’s the way the country is divided like states in the US).

3. Best places to live in Switzerland

Best places to live in Switzerland

While living in Switzerland can be expensive, moving there from the US can be the experience of a lifetime, with the added perks of delicious chocolate and beautiful scenery! The best places to consider living in Switzerland, especially when coming from the US, are Bern, Lugano, and Zurich. These cities offer safety, English language proficiency, a wide range of entertainment options, and good employment opportunities.

Cities

Characteristics 

Zurich

Economic and Financial Hub center with abundant job opportunities and a bustling city life.

Geneva

Home to international organizations, ideal for diplomacy and global affairs.

Bern

The Swiss capital features a well-preserved medieval old town and rich history.

Lausanne

Scenic Beauty surrounded by Lake Geneva and mountains, offering stunning natural landscapes.

Lugano

Located in the Italian-speaking region, it offers a warm Mediterranean feel.

Setting up home services 

Electricity is considered to be cheap in Switzerland compared to the cost of other living expenses. The most popular electricity companies are Alpiq, Axpo Switzerland, Azienda Elettrica Ticinese, Etrion, and Repower. If you are renting, in most cases, electricity, and water will be included in your monthly rent. To find the water supplier in your area, click here

With many free internet hotspots across Switzerland, you may not even need internet at home. In case you do, know that internet in Switzerland is considerably fast and is similar to the American pricing for internet. On average an unlimited internet plan with 60 Mbps will cost you $55.59 USD per month according to numbeo. The top residential internet providers in Switzerland are SinCOM Switzerland, Sunrise Communications AG, Swisscom, and UPC Cablecom.

Should you rent or buy?

Finding a house or apartment to live in Switzerland isn’t always easy due to the high housing costs. We highly recommend you know what you’re looking for before you arrive in Switzerland so that upon your arrival, you can quickly get settled in. Homegate, Immo Scout 24, and Comparis are all websites that can help you find a house or apartment in Switzerland.

Home Insurance in Switzerland

Basic building and fire insurance (home insurance) is mandatory in Switzerland. The best home insurance companies in Switzerland include Zurich, Axa, and Helvetia.

4. Cost of living in Switzerland

Category

Monthly cost

1 bed apt rent outside city center

$1,451.82

Groceries

Numbeo’s grocery list ($97.37 multiplied by 4)

$389.48

Utilities

Electricity, heating, cooling, water, garbage

$257.35

Internet with 60 Mbps

$55.59

Transit pass

$88.46

Entertainment 

Meal, taxi, movie

$159.22

Gym membership 

$87.90

Total

$2,489.82

Numbeo (Nov 2023)

Grocery Stores in Switzerland

Grocery stores in Switzerland are found at every corner of the street. The main grocery stores in Switzerland are Alnatura, COOP, Migros, Spar, and Volg. If you want to order groceries online, you can shop at Farmy.

Most grocery stores only accept Swiss Francs, so make sure to exchange your Euros beforehand.

What to Expect from your New Life in Switzerland

In Switzerland, you can expect a beautiful scenery along with various different languages. Expect taking the train to go pretty much everywhere, and don’t expect to be going anywhere on Sunday! Want to know more about moving from the US to Europe? Check out our article on the Things to Know before moving from the US to Europe.

Taking the Train in Switzerland

Switzerland has one of the safest, highest quality, and most used railway systems in Europe. Traveling by train in Switzerland is super efficient due to their clock-face scheduling, meaning that you can count of train’s passing regularly. To purchase a ticket, find your local train station, and find train schedules, visit the Swiss Federal Railway (SBB’s) website.

5. The weather in Switzerland

Switzerland experiences four distinct seasons. Spring, from March to May, features cool temperatures. Summer, from June to August, brings warm and sunny weather with highs of 18 to 28 °C, ideal for hiking in its stunning landscapes. In September, Autumn starts off mild, but gradually cools down to 5-12 °C. Finally, Winter (December to February) sets in with cold temperatures and snowfall, ranging from -2 to 7 °C. Switzerland transforms into a winter wonderland during this season, offering a variety of activities to enjoy, including skiing in world-class ski resorts and snowshoeing in the breathtaking Swiss Alps.

6. What to do as a local in Switzerland

As a local in Swiss, you can embrace a lot of year-round activities. The country’s breathtaking Swiss Alps make it a hiker’s paradise, and outdoor enthusiasts enjoy in mountain biking, paragliding, and rock climbing.

For a taste of local culture and tradition, explore Switzerland’s vibrant festival scene, which ranges from cow parades to folk celebrations. As “The Land of Chocolate,” Switzerland invite people to visit the Lindt Chocolate Museum, the world’s largest Lindt chocolate shop over 500 m2), for an interactive chocolate tour delving into the country’s rich chocolate heritage. But don’t miss out on savoring fondue, Switzerland’s national dish. 

While art lovers can immerse themselves in the contemporary art scene by visiting museums and galleries. Switzerland offers a wealth of diverse cultural and outdoor experiences for everyone to enjoy!

7. Fun facts about Switzerland

  • Renowned for its watchmaking industry, Switzerland is home to top luxury brands like Rolex, Patek Philippe, and TAG Heuer.
  • Switzerland is famous for its neutrality in global conflicts and maintains no standing army for defense.
  • The iconic Swiss Army Knife, celebrated for its versatility, is a Swiss invention.
  • Switzerland offers a wide array of cheese, with Emmental and Gruyère being famous for dishes like fondue and raclette.
  • Boasts a world-class healthcare system, consistently ranking among the top countries for quality, accessibility, and efficiency.
  • Often referred to as the “Chocolate Capital of the World”, Switzerland has a rich tradition of producing high-quality chocolate, globally renowned.

Conclusion

When moving from the US to a European country like Switzerland, you’re embarking on an adventure filled with cultural discoveries, logistical challenges, and the joys of embracing a new way of life. To settle comfortably in your Swiss home, take time to understand the local customs, and the unique Swiss lifestyle.

As you prepare for this exciting journey, carefully research the best international moving companies in the US. Finding the right mover can make your transition smoother and less stressful!

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Selina Cifelli

The author

Selina is a motivated marketing intern with a keen interest in developing engaging content related to moving experiences and city life. With a passion for fashion and traveling, she brings a fresh perspective to our readers. Her talent for crafting innovative written material effectively positions MovingWaldo as a trusted resource for hassle-free and efficient moves.

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