Living in Switzerland For Members

The most essential pieces of paperwork you’ll need in Switzerland

The Local Switzerland
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The most essential pieces of paperwork you’ll need in Switzerland
Start of registration for medicine studies in Austria (Photo by HANNAH MCKAY / AFP)

Almost everything you do in Switzerland requires a pile of documents. This is what you will need to start with when you settle here.


Despite its notoriously high cost of living, Switzerland’s natural beauty, strong economy, and quality of life are a magnet for foreign residents. But it's not all easy when you get here. 

You may have heard horror stories about Switzerland’s bureaucracy, but in many ways it is no worse than that of any other country.

Depending on where you are coming from, there will be a little (or a lot) of cultural adjustment, and getting used to Swiss ways may take a while.

READ MORE: Five Swiss laws that foreign residents are bound to break

But when it comes to paperwork, the process is pretty straightforward. Here is what you will need.

Visa and work / residence permit

By the time you arrive, you will already have these documents, issued to you on the basis of your employment / residence conditions.

The criteria for entry into Switzerland is different (and simpler) for residents of EU / EFTA countries than for those living outside Europe.

But once you are granted the right to live and work here, will need the same kind of paperwork to live in Switzerland, irrespective of whether you are from the EU or a third state.

READ MORE: Golden visas: Everything you need to know about ‘buying’ Swiss residency


Proof of residency

In many instances while residing in Switzerland you will be asked to show where you live (Wohnsitzbescheinigungen/ Attestation de domicile / certificati di residenza).

When you move into your house or apartment, you will need to register with your local commune within 14 days of arrival. The office in charge of registrations is called Einwohnerkontrolle / Contrôle des habitants/ Controllo abitanti.

To do so, you will need to show a passport of ID card for each member of the family, the work or residency permit, and your lease contract. 

You can then receive the Wohnsitzbescheinigungen/ Attestation de domicile / certificati di residenza.

This process must be repeated every time you move to another residence or commune.

Health insurance

Health insurance is compulsory in Switzerland and you must purchase a policy for each family member within three months of your arrival.

You can take out insurance with an authorised health insurance company of your choice.

While complementary policies are optional, you have to buy the basic one, which is the same for everyone in terms of coverage regardless of the insurer.

After the period of three months, you will receive a letter from your local authorities asking you to provide details of your, and your family’s, policies.

If you don’t have any, the canton will purchase insurance for you and send you a bill – which you must pay.

READ MORE: Should you buy supplemental health insurance in Switzerland?


Driver’s license

You are permitted to use your old license in Switzerland for 12 months. After this period, you must exchange it for a Swiss one, which can be done in a motor vehicles office closest to your place of residence.

To do this you must present an application form, which can be downloaded from the office’s website, original license ( valid at the time of exchange), residence permit, a colour passport-size photo, and a certificate from an ophthalmologist attesting that you have good vision.

These are the four documents you will need to live in Switzerland. There are also some other ones which depend on your personal circumstances.


If you bring your pet to Switzerland with you, you will need to have the pet’s identification (microchip), pet ID card, valid certificate of vaccinations, and blood test.

More information on bringing pets to Switzerland, and what conditions you should be aware of, can be found here.

Travel card

Chances are that at one time or another you will use Switzerland’s excellent public transportation network. As everything else in Switzerland, this can be quite expensive, so it is a good idea to purchase travel cards enabling to buy tickets at a discount.





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