Tips on moving to Switzerland

This page will contain some information for anyone who might be looking to move to Switzerland, based on my own experiences of doing just that.

There are a lot of things to consider before moving and upon arrival that you might not necessarily know if you haven't prepared yourself properly. I was fortunate that my wife is Swiss and so was able to help me with my settling in, but others might not be so lucky and so this page will hopefully help.

Please note - the information on this page is based on my own personal experiences, mixed with research on the Internet with a view to being of some use to people who are looking to move permanently to Switzerland. People wishing to stay on a temporary basis here might not find this information very useful.

Things to do before you move

1. Register with your birth country's embassy in Switzerland
It's mainly for administrative purposes to let them know you are in the country. They won't actively track or harass you, and won't really have any say in whether you stay in the country or not, but it's just nice to let them know your intended arrival date and the address you will be staying at.

Things to do when you arrive

1. Register with the SPoP
You have to register with the office of the "Service de la Population" (or SPoP for short) in the local commune in which you are/will be living. The purpose of this is to announce to the Swiss authorities that you have arrived in the country, and to provide them with your address in Switzerland.

You will need to fill in a form, then they will make a copy of your passport and you will then have to pay an administrative charge to cover the costs of registering you as a citizen and for organising the appropriate permit for you to stay and work in Switzerland. When I registered in 2009 I paid 30.- CHF as administrative fees and 60.- CHF for the work permit I would receive, although presumably this price will increase over time.

It is very important to register with the SPoP as it starts the process of receiving the permit that will allow you to stay and work in Switzerland. The type of permit you will need depends on your own circumstances - the SPoP website has more information on this. As I was married to a Swiss national when I arrived, I was entitled to request a "permis B", which gives me the right to live and work in Switzerland for a period of 5 years - after this time, provided I am still married, I will be entitled to become an official Swiss citizen and therefore receive an ID card instead of a permit.

As a rough guide to the types of permits available, see below:
Permis B - this is for long residence in Switzerland. It is generally issued to persons from the European Union who have already found a job in the country and can present proof of a signed contract (or have a written declaration from their future employer confirming the future employment). As mentioned above, my wife is Swiss and therefore I was granted a Permis B, despite not having found employment at the time.
Permis L - for short term residence in Switzerland. This type of permit is issued to persons from the EU who have signed a short term contract (at least 4 months but not more than 12 months) of employment with a Swiss company. It can be renewed as required without having to leave the country, and after a total stay of 30 months it is replaced with a permis B.
Permis C - for long term residence in Switzerland, this permit is given to persons from the EU who have lived and/or worked in Switzerland for 5 years. It effectively replaces the Permis B as it does not expire.
Permis G - this is for persons from the EU who have signed a contract to work in Switzerland but wish to continue living in their own country (common for people from France, Germany and Italy). This is valid for 5 years but the holder must go back to their own country at least once a week. It is worth noting that someone with this type of permit who stays all week in Switzerland and then goes home at the weekend might have to pay tax in Switzerland (gulp!).

The Swiss federal body limits the number of some types of permits that can be issued each year to a maximum number, meaning you are not always guaranteed to be given one.

It is also important to note that you need to complete your registration with the SPoP within 14 days of arriving in Switzerland.

Check out the SPoP website for more information (this is the website for the Canton of Vaud, where I live - other Cantons have their own websites).

2. Visit the ORP - "office regional de placement"
This service can help you find a job, if you haven't already got one lined up before you moved over to Switzerland.