Moving to Switzerland for a Year: Advice for Short-Term Residents

Moving to Switzerland for a year or a few months can be a fantastic experience. Not only do you get to experience a new culture, but you can also benefit from excellent healthcare and high salaries. Before you make your move, prepare all your documents and learn how the Swiss immigration system works.

Getting Set Up

If you’re coming to Switzerland to study or work, your school or employer may help you get set up. Some of the most important things to do are getting a residence permit, signing up for health insurance, finding an apartment, and getting a bank account.

Moving to Switzerland for a Year: Advice for Short-Term Residents

Getting Your Permit

If you’re an EU or EFTA citizen, you can simply register at your local council. If you’re from a non-EU or EFTA country, your employer will have to sponsor you. Depending on the length of your stay, you might get one of two types of permits:

  • The L permit: This is typically issued to people who have a 3-12-month contract or are looking to study in Switzerland for a semester or year. It is also given to job seekers from EU or EFTA countries.
  • The B permit: This is a longer-term work permit. It enables you to work in Switzerland for many years at a time. You may have your L permit converted to a B permit if you end up staying longer than expected.

Healthcare

Health insurance is mandatory for everyone living in Switzerland. If you don’t take out a policy within 90 days, you may be assigned one by your council. Depending on various factors, such as area and age, health insurance might cost something like CHF 350-550 per month.

Apartments for Short-Term Residents

Most traditional rental contracts run for at least a year. Therefore, you may want to stay in a furnished short-term rental apartment or house. You can find these types of properties on portals like Homegate.

Do I Need a Swiss Bank Account and Phone Number?

You most likely need a Swiss bank account if you’re working in Switzerland. There are several national banks, and each canton has its own smaller bank. There are also banks associated with the large supermarkets and the postal system (PostFinance). Use comparison tools to find a cost-effective option. Once you’ve decided on a bank, the easiest way to open an account is to visit a branch in person. Don’t forget to bring your ID, work contract and proof of address.

You may also need a phone number if you’re staying for more than three or four months. Get a prepaid SIM card if you don’t want to commit to a 12 or 24-month contract.

Life in Switzerland as a Short-Term Resident

Once you’re settled in Switzerland, you can enjoy a good work-life balance, excellent educational opportunities, and a comprehensive transport network. Switzerland has a lot to offer in terms of recreational activities, so take advantage and travel around the country while you’re here.

Work and Taxation

People with a short-term work contract have similar rights and responsibilities to those with a permanent position. They have to pay taxes and health insurance, and they can take advantage of Switzerland’s excellent healthcare and social security system. However, it’s important to note that some benefits only become available after a resident has worked in Switzerland for at least a year.

Is Double Taxation a Concern?

Switzerland has agreements with over 80 countries, so you’re unlikely to run into issues with double taxation. If you want to find out more, contact the Swiss embassy in your country or your employer.

Schooling

If you’re sure you’re only staying in Switzerland for a year or two, sending your children to an international or bilingual school may be the best option. These schools typically offer programmes like the International Baccalaureate, and some even allow students to study the UK or US curriculum. They also offer inbuilt expat communities, so you and your children can meet like-minded people.

Learn more: Podcast episode with Swiss education consultant Stefanie Busse

Language Considerations

Although there are plenty of English speakers in every Swiss city, learning the basics of the local language can help you feel more integrated. This might be German, French, or Italian, depending on where you settle. A group language course is often a good idea because it allows you to meet other expats.

Getting Around

Because Switzerland has a fantastic public transport system, you probably won’t need a car unless you live in a rural area. Instead, a combination of a half-fare card that covers the entire country and a local travelcard is likely to be more efficient.

If you do need a car, importing your current vehicle is often cheaper than selling it and buying a Swiss one. This is especially true if you come from an EU country because there is a free trade agreement, so your import will be duty-free. However, you’ll still pay fees that can add up to several thousands of francs. If you’re only staying in Switzerland for a few months, a rental car could be cheaper.

Socialising and Recreational Activities

At first, you might mostly socialise with other expats. Since the proportion of foreigners is high in Switzerland, you won’t struggle to find English-speaking groups on Meetup and other platforms. If you’re planning to stay for more than a few months, you might also want to join local interest groups. You’ll run into more Swiss people there, but you’ll likely need to speak the local language.

Moving to Switzerland for a year or a few months can be a great adventure. Sign up for our Rigby AG newsletter to download our e-book ‘Living in Switzerland’ guide. It contains information about a wide range of topics related to moving to and working in Switzerland.

Moving to Switzerland for a Year: Advice for Short-Term Residents