READER QUESTION: Can I live in Switzerland without registering at the commune?
If you come from a country with fewer regulations surrounding your residency, then Swiss rules may seem to be unnecessarily onerous. Here's what you need to know about registering with the commune.
One of the first things you may have learned as a newcomer to Switzerland is that there is a huge amount of paperwork you need to fill out and file with appropriate authorities when settling in.
Getting registered in your place of residence is one of them.
Every person living in Switzerland, whether Swiss or foreigner, must announce their arrival to their local communal or municipal authorities within 14 days.
There is no way to circumvent this requirement; you can’t move from one location to another and stay pretty much under the radar. That’s because Swiss authorities want to know who is living in their country and where.
One of the reasons for this requirement is to be able to find you in case of need, but there are other reasons as well — for instance, for statistical purposes, so that local governments know how many residents there are in each of their communes.
This is important for calculating tax revenues, health infrastructure, emergency plans, and other logistics.
Being a rebel and not registering with your commune (even if you manage to be undetected, which is doubtful in a small and well-organised country like Switzerland), will eventually backfire.
Local authorities will find you anyway sooner or later — probably sooner — and impose a hefty fine on you, the amount of which will depend on the reason why you didn’t register in the first place.
There will be certain situations when you will be asked to show the proof of residence document (Wohnsitzbescheinigungen/ Attestation de domicile / certificati di residenza) in your commune — for instance, in connection with tax and social security contributions, or when renewing your driving licence.
The requirement to register in your town or village can be likened to the obligation to buy a health insurance policy: you must do it whether you like it or not.
How do you register?
In some cantons, you can do this procedure online, while in others you must come to your local residents’ registration office (Einwohnerkontrolle / Contrôle des habitants/ Controllo abitanti) in person.
Whether you register online or in person, you will need the following documents:
- A passport or ID card for each member of the family, in addition to a passport-sized photo for everyone
- Documents about your family status — whether you are single, married, with or without children
- Your work or residency permit
- Your rent contract or proof of home ownership.
The entire process will have to be repeated when you move to another home, even if you remain in the same commune. You will have to de-register your old address and register the new one.