What to consider before you move to Switzerland

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What to consider before you move to Switzerland
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09:32 CEST+02:00
Switzerland is one of the world's best expat countries, with some of the highest living standards and a sophisticated, multilingual population. Yet moving to Switzerland can still be stressful and difficult if you don't do it right.

It's no secret that Switzerland is a great place to live. A few years ago it was even ranked as the best country for expats – and then it was ranked the best place to spend your retirement.  

But there are some challenges involved with moving to Switzerland, and they can really throw you off course if you don't have the right support.

We asked Carolina Souviron, founder of the relocation service Swissbenefits, about the four biggest challenges of moving to Switzerland. Here are her answers.

Obtaining residence permits

This might be the most obvious one. Before you move to Switzerland, you need a permit – and getting one might be harder than you think.

“Often for EU/EFTA nationals the issue is that you need an address to get a permit, and many landlords to not want to rent out to someone without a permit,” Carolina explains. “So it's a bit of a catch-22 situation.”

Things are even tougher for people from outside the EU. Even those with a job and a rental contract have to grapple with quotas. This necessitates planning - and knowing what you're doing.

“Many people are not aware of the Schengen limitations and the issues that come with overstaying,” Carolina cautions.

Getting advice before you start the process will save you a lot of stress further down the line.

See: 14 mistakes foreigners make on moving to Switzerland

Contracts

Contracts can be another big hurdle.

“Often the language barrier causes issues,” Carolina says. “It can be unclear how they work and if they are binding. There is also unfortunately a certain naiveté that can be taken advantage of.”

So how do you avoid being taken advantage of and getting yourself stuck with an unfavourable contract?

“Always make sure that statements from authorities are given in writing,” Carolina says. That means requesting a statement in writing if it's not offered.

“Never be afraid to ask questions,” she adds. If you're not sure what something means, have an expert – such as a service like Swissbenefits - translate or explain it.

That applies to job contracts, too. For instance, you might not be allowed to just switch jobs if you feel like it and get an offer – an unauthorized move could have long-term legal repercussions and invalidate your permit.

“Also, any important correspondence should always be sent by registered mail. And make sure to read the fine print,” Carolina says. “Even though it can be time-consuming, it's worth it in the long run.”

Insurance

No matter where you're from and why you're in Switzerland, insurance can be rather complex.

“I find that many people have a general idea of the do's and don'ts, but they're not aware of the implications if insurances are not done right,” Carolina says.

Common expat mistakes include over- or under-insuring things, getting the wrong health insurance, not understanding what real legal protection insurance actually is, and how to navigate the pension fund system.

Paperwork in general

“The paperwork can be gruelling,” Carolina says.

The specific requirements may vary from country to country, but be prepared to file a plethora of documents – and many of them need to be up-to-date. That five-year-old marriage certificate, for instance, won't get you far.

“Marriage certificates and birth certificates should be no older than six months,” Carolina explains.

You don't want to make a mistake here, so make sure to get the assistance you need to file all the right documents.

But while it may sound intimidating, the process of moving to Switzerland can be smooth and easy with the right assistance.

“At Swissbenefits we verify procedures and offer support, we translate when required, and we give crash courses on various situations and inform you of what needs to be done in your individual case,” Carolina says.

The company offers legal advice through every step of the relocation process, for both individuals and businesses.

No matter where you are in your Swiss relocation journey, Swissbenefits can help – but Carolina adds that they can give you the smoothest transition if you contact them as early as possible.

Need help with your move to Switzerland? Contact Swissbenefits

This article was produced by The Local and sponsored by Swissbenefits.

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