Living & Working in Switzerland
Are you planning to move to Switzerland or have you recently arrived in Switzerland? We are pleased to present our latest edition of the guide “Living & Working in Switzerland”. It is designed to give you an overview of some important topics that may be relevant to foreign nationals moving to Switzerland.
This guide is intended to provide practical information about the country as well as factual information about the most important aspects of individual taxation, social security, immigration and labor law. It is not intended to provide detailed answers to specific questions and is intended only as a general overview. Due to the complexity of the various laws and the constant changes in the legislation, none of the information contained in this brochure can be used as a basis for specific planning. However, we hope that this brochure will provide you with useful information and an initial guide to living and working in Switzerland and we would be happy to support you with our service after your move.
Life in Switzerland
Switzerland attracts many new residents every year who want to settle here temporarily or long-term, and not without reason, because life in Switzerland is characterized by high quality. To give you a small impression of what to expect when you live in Switzerland, we have put together some topics for you to make your new start as smooth as possible.
A strong federationSwitzerland is divided into 26 cantons, which have partial sovereignty and a capital. Together, the cantons form the Swiss Confederation – the federal state. The capital of the federal state is Bern. Unlike many other countries around the world, the political system in Switzerland is a direct democracy. The resulting autonomy as well as the willingness to compromise are deeply rooted in Swiss culture. Furthermore, neutrality in foreign policy issues is part of the self-image of Swiss politics.
Four official languages
Unlike many other countries in Europe, where there is usually only one official national language, Switzerland has four of them: Swiss German, French, Italian and Romansh.
The most widespread language is Swiss German, which is spoken mainly in central Switzerland and the cantons bordering Germany.
French dominates in the western part of Switzerland, and Italian in the southern part.
Rhaeto-Romanic (Romansh) is spoken by only a very small part of the total population in southeastern Switzerland.
In each region, there are also different dialects in the various languages. Official documents are generally issued in German, French and Italian.
Currency and banking
The national currency in Switzerland is the Swiss franc (CHF).
1 Swiss franc (Franken) is equal to 100 centimes (Rappen).
The banknotes are available in the following amounts: 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 1000.
For coins, there are the following denominations:
• CHF 1, 2, 5
• 5, 10, 20, 50 centimes
Current accounts can be opened at any major bank, Swiss Postbank, cantonal or private banks. The largest banks in Switzerland are: Credit Suisse, UBS and PostFinance.
Usually you can pay everywhere with any Debit/Credit Card (watch out, AmEx is not accepted at many places) or cash. Many farmers markets still only accept cash payments. One of the most popular mobile payment methods in Switzerland is the app TWINT. It allows users to connect their bank account or cards with the app to make secure payments (both for ecommerce and in person).
How to open a bank account in Switzerland as an expat
The simplest way to open a Swiss bank account is by visiting a bank in person. In general, accounts take from one week up to one month to become active. You won’t usually need to make an appointment to open a bank account. Any requested credit or debit cards can be expected to arrive after a week to 10 days.
Opening a Swiss bank account from abroad
It’s possible to open a bank account before you move to Switzerland, but this can be labor-intensive and time-consuming. Most national banks allow you to view their websites in English, making it easy to research your options as well as ask for an application pack. If you’re set on opening your account from abroad, you may find it easier to choose a bank that either has a branch in your home country or a relationship with one of your local providers. Banks will ask for more extensive documentation from overseas applicants. You must prove your identity by providing a passport and residency card (if applicable) and your address. You will also be asked to provide details about your personal and employment history. Any documents you provide will need to be authenticated, either by providing a notarized copy or Apostille stamp or by visiting a bank branch in person.
Public holidaysPublic holidays apply throughout Switzerland. In addition, there are cantonal holidays, which may vary from canton to canton.
Swiss National Day
The federal public holidays are:
- January 1: New Year’s
- Day Good Friday (variable date)
- Easter Monday (variable date)
- Ascension Day (variable date, 38 days after Easter Monday)
- August 1: Swiss National Day
- December 25: Christmas Day
- December 26: Boxing Day
If a public holiday falls on a weekend day, the following Monday is not a day off.
Usual business and store opening hours
Government offices and banks are typically open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays (Monday through Friday), although there may be differences depending on the office.
Stores are typically open from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on weekdays and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays. In the cities, stores are often open even longer, some grocery stores even until 9 pm or later.
Stores, banks and government offices are generally closed on Sundays. Exceptions are stores in train stations, airports or tourist places.
Post office opening hours vary greatly by location. In addition to the large post offices, there are also some shop-in-shops, i.e. postal services in pharmacies, bookstores, kiosks, etc.
Get the Post app to track parcels or even organize pick@home service.
Electricity and water
The provision and maintenance of the public electricity and water network is the responsibility of the cantons. As a rule, anyone moving into a house or apartment must register their electricity connection with a supplier of their choice.
The monthly, quarterly or semi-annual contributions are then paid by means of a progress bill. The energy supplier, as well as the water company, usually prepare a statement at the end of the year, and refund overpaid contributions, or demand an additional payment in case of additional consumption.
Tap water is very good quality and drinkable throughout the whole country.
Telephone and television
There are three major mobile network operators in Switzerland: Swisscom, Sunrise and Salt. All three providers operate 2G, 3G, 4G and 5G networks. There are dozens of service providers who do not have their own network infrastructure or mobile communications license and therefore acquire network usage rights from a network operator. They then resell these to their customers with their own products and services. Examples are Wingo (Swisscom) or Yallo (Sunrise).
A (rather unpleasant) Swiss peculiarity is that every household has to pay a broadcasting fee – even if there is no TV or radio. The fees are collected by the SERAFE company.
A wide range of programs can be received via a satellite or cable connection. Watching TV via the Internet is of course gaining in popularity, as Swiss channels can also be received and the offer is constantly being improved.
A diverse population structureMany ethnicities and cultures meet in Switzerland. Of the total population of 8.6 million, one in four is a foreigner. Italians, Germans and Portuguese make up the largest proportion of expatriate Swiss. However, the number of non-European immigrants is growing steadily.
Freedom of living
Switzerland is a predominantly Christian country, Catholics are the largest denomination, followed by Protestants. Switzerland’s religious landscape has changed considerably in the last few decades. The number of people with no religious affiliation has gone up, and there are also new communities that practice different faiths.
Women’s suffrage in Switzerland was introduced by a federal referendum in 1971, and in the canton of Appenzell Inerrhoden as late as 1990, making Switzerland one of the last European countries to grant full civil rights to its female population. In the meantime, however, there is also a large movement in Switzerland that is working for equality and recognition of women in the state and all areas of society.
In terms of LGBTQIA+ issues, the small country still has some catching up to do in international comparison. For example, the Swiss people did not approve “marriage for all” until September 2021. This means that same-sex couples are allowed to marry civilly only since July 2022; previously, only official recognition of the partnership was possible. Now they are equal to heterosexual married couples institutionally, but also legally. This applies, for example, to the facilitated naturalization of a foreign spouse or inheritance matters.
Switzerland is one of the richest countries in the world. It has its solid economy to thank for that. The gross domestic product per capita is the equivalent of almost 76,000 US dollars (as of 2020). This puts Switzerland in second place, beaten only by Luxembourg in this category. The driving economic forces in Switzerland are the service sector, pharmaceuticals and watchmaking.
High standard of living
The robust economy enables people in Switzerland to enjoy a high standard of living. It is not for nothing that Zurich and Geneva are regularly voted to the top of the list when it comes to the question of the most livable cities in the world. But Switzerland is also a great place to live away from these two cities, as the strong influx into all regions over the past few years has proven time and again.
Exemplary social security system
The Swiss social security system is one of the best in the world. Through its underlying 3-pillar model , it enables an attractive retirement provision, so that the high quality of life can be maintained far beyond basic security, even at the end of employment. As a rule, every Swiss and everyone who lives and works in Switzerland must pay into this solidarity-based insurance system.
The healthcare system in Switzerland is one of the best in the world. Even in less densely populated regions, the density of hospitals and doctors’ offices is high, so that medical care is always timely manner.
The federal government sets the financial framework within which health insurers may offer their premiums. The federal government must also give its prior consent to premium increases and can also reject them.
The cantons and municipalities are responsible for regulating hospitals. This means that it is determined at the cantonal level which hospital provides which services and how high the wages of doctors and nursing staff are.
Compulsory health insurance applies in Switzerland. This means that everyone who lives here must have health insurance. The health insurance companies are private companies, but they are only allowed to operate within the legal framework set by the federal government.
The companies are obliged to include every citizen in the so-called basic insurance- without a prior health check. Insured persons can add additional services that go beyond basic medical care to their health insurance plan at an additional cost, if they wish.
Every citizen is free to choose an insurer. The amount of the insurance premiums that are paid monthly differ in part very much from insurer to insurer. Therefore, it is advisable to compare the benefits and premiums of the individual insurers beforehand. You can take out the mandatory basic insurance and the voluntary supplementary insurance with different health insurance companies. So if you change your basic insurance, for example, you can still keep your supplementary insurance.
How to apply for health insurance
It is your responsibility to arrange your own Swiss health insurance. Foreigners can’t sign up for Swiss healthcare until they have arrived in Switzerland and applied for their Swiss residence permit or registered their residence with the local commune.
After arriving in Switzerland, you have 90 days to join a Swiss health insurance plan or apply for an exemption. It’s advisable to shop around and choose a provider that best suits your circumstances and preferences. You will usually have to provide proof of residence and details of your address to take out a policy.
Once you have registered with a Swiss heath insurance company, your coverage will backdate to the day you were liable for compulsory Swiss health insurance, for example, when you took up residency or gave birth in Switzerland. As you can claim expenses retrospectively, you must also pay the premiums from the beginning of your compulsory insurance period. Policies usually only include coverage for an individual and not additional family members, so spouses and children need to have separate coverage.
Choosing a health insurance provider
You can find details of authorized health insurance providers in Switzerland from your local cantonal authority. When choosing a provider, look at costs as well as what they cover and the claims process. You can check for things to consider in this short guide here.
If you wish to change Swiss health insurance companies, you can do so with three-month’s notice before the end of June or the end of December, providing you’re on a package where you pay the standard CHF 300 excess. Otherwise, you can only change your Swiss health insurer at the end of each calendar year, typically giving one month’s notice. The Swiss government website gives full information, including sample cancellation letters.
Immigrating to Switzerland
Depending on which citizenship(s) an immigrant to Switzerland holds, immigration regulations differ. In this section we explain everything you need to know or consider about immigrating to Switzerland.
Immigrants with EU/EFTA citizenship
For immigrants from the EU and EFTA states (Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein), the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons also applies within Switzerland. This means that immigrants with EU/EFTA citizenship are generally granted a work permit in Switzerland if they can present a signed Swiss employment contract.
Those who only work in Switzerland for up to 90 days per calendar year do not need a work permit, but must register with the Swiss authorities using the registration procedure.
If there is no Swiss employment contract, but an employee is posted to Switzerland by his employer, a work permit must be applied for if the posting lasts longer than 90 days.
Immigrants from a third country
For those who do not have EU/EFTA citizenship but that of a third country, it is somewhat more difficult to obtain a work permit. Again, an employment contract with a Swiss company is a prerequisite for a work permit. However, in the case of a third-country national, the Swiss employer must be able to prove to the authorities that he has not found a suitable candidate on the Swiss labor market.
Therefore, employees from third countries are often only recruited if they are specialists in their field or if managerial positions are to be filled.
How to obtain a permit
If you need a permit to live in Switzerland, please contact the cantonal migration or employment authorities of your commune of residence: https://bit.ly/3SDLw76
The requirements you need to meet depend on your nationality and the duration and purpose of your stay. www.ch.ch/en gives you more information on its pages “Working in Switzerland as a foreigner” and “Staying in Switzerland without working”.
An exception arises when an employee is transferred within the company to a branch or subsidiary.
Depending on the nationality, different entry requirements also apply. This means that in most cases the employee must additionally apply for a visa that entitles him or her to work and reside in Switzerland.
Overview of the different work/establishment passes
Short-term residence permit (L permit)
For EU/EFTA nationals, a short-term residence permit (L permit) is issued if the person is staying in Switzerland for a limited period of time and only up to 12 months (with or without gainful employment). The L permit can be extended up to 48 months.
If an employment contract with a Swiss employer is presented in which a temporary employment relationship of between three months and less than one year is documented, the employee is entitled to the L permit.
In principle, L permits can be issued to all EU/EFTA nationals who reside in Switzerland even without gainful employment. It should be noted that the L permit does not entitle the holder to claim social security benefits.
Non-EU/EFTA nationals are only entitled to an L permit in exceptional cases.
Residence permit (B permit)
For EU/EFTA nationals, the validity period of the B permit is five years; for non-EU/EFTA nationals, one year.
The B permit is issued if an EU/EFTA national can prove permanent employment or temporary employment of at least 365 days.
EU/EFTA citizens who are not gainfully employed receive a B permit if they can prove that they have sufficient financial resources and adequate health and accident insurance.
For non-EU/EFTA nationals, a B permit is only issued if the quota in the canton of residence has not yet been exhausted.
Cross-border commuter permit (G permit)
A cross-border commuter is an EU/EFTA national who lives abroad in the EU/EFTA and works in Switzerland. The prerequisite is that the employee returns to his or her place of residence abroad at least once a week.
If there is an employment contract that is either indefinite or documents temporary employment of more than one year, the G-card is valid for five years. In the case of employment relationships of shorter duration, the G-card is valid for the duration of the activity.
Non-EU/EFTA nationals are only issued a G permit if they have already lived in the EU/EFTA country for at least six months with a residence permit.
Settlement permit (C permit)
For EU/EFTA nationals, the validity period of the B permit is five years; for non-EU/EFTA nationals, one year.
The B permit is issued if an EU/EFTA national can prove permanent employment or temporary employment of at least 365 days.
EU/EFTA citizens who are not gainfully employed receive a B permit if they can prove that they have sufficient financial resources and adequate health and accident insurance.
For non-EU/EFTA nationals, a B permit is only issued if the quota in the canton of residence has not yet been exhausted.
Settlement permit (C permit)
The C permit entitles the holder to unlimited residence in Switzerland. It can be issued after a person has lived in Switzerland continuously for either five or ten years. Different time limits apply depending on the person’s nationality. For EU/EFTA nationals from the following countries, the C permit is issued after five years:
EFTA: Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway
For nationals from other states, either a five or ten year period applies.
Generally, a C permit is only issued after strict examination of the person. For example, there must be no entry in the criminal record and, depending on the canton, proof of language skills must be provided.
Labor law in Switzerland
Anyone who is gainfully employed in Switzerland is protected by Swiss labor law and is also subject to its rules. We explain everything you need to know about employment law in Switzerland and what rights and obligations you have as part of your employment.
The employment contract
An employment contract with a Swiss employer should contain all information about how your employment relationship is structured. This includes:
Number of hours worked per week
Vacation entitlement / number of vacation weeks/days
Place of work, where the work is to be performed
Entitlement to remote work, if applicable
Duration of the probationary period or waiver thereof
The maximum working time for employees in industrial plants, office and sales personnel is 45 hours per week and may not be exceeded.
As a rule, an unlimited employment relationship begins with a probationary period. The duration is usually specified in the employment contract and varies from employer to employer. It may not exceed three months.
During the probationary period, there is no protection against dismissal for the employee in the event of illness, accident or pregnancy. The probationary period may be extended by the employer in the event of accident or illness.
Both the employee and the employer may terminate the employment relationship during the probationary period with 7 days’ notice (to the end of any day) without giving any reason. The condition is that the notice of termination is received by the other party during the probationary period.
Termination of the employment relationship
Longer notice periods apply after the probationary period. These are based on the duration of the previous employment relationship:
for a period of employment of up to one year
for a period of employment between more than one year and less than ten years
for a period of employment of more than ten years
In all cases, the termination shall take effect at the end of the month in which it is received by the employer. The indication of a reason for termination is voluntary.
You have been working for your employer for five years and want to give notice as soon as possible. Your notice period is 2 months. If you hand in your notice on May 1, it will take effect on May 31. This means that your employment relationship will then continue until July 31.
During the notice period, the salary will continue to be paid as usual. If a 13th month’s salary has been agreed in the employment contract, this will be paid pro rata with the last regular monthly salary. The remaining leave can be taken by the employee if no compensation for the remaining leave is agreed with the employer.
When may the employer not terminate?
In the following cases, it is excluded that the employer may terminate the employee after the expiration of the probationary period:
- during pregnancy and during the first 16 weeks after birth
- during military service, and 4 weeks before/after, if the period of service exceeds 11 days
In the event of absence due to illness or accident during the first
- 30 days in the first year of employment
- 90 days in the 2nd to 5th year of employment
- 180 days from the 6th year of employment
You have been working in a permanent employment relationship for 7 months and become ill. During the first 30 days from the date of the sick leave, the employer may not terminate your employment. However, he has the right to terminate your employment from day 31, even if you are still sick then.
Swiss income tax is levied on the individuals worldwide income such as (self-) employment, pension and retirement income, immovable as well as movable assets, lottery winnings.
Requirements for tax residence in Switzerland
In the civil law sense, domicile represents the place where a person has his permanent residence with the intention to remain there. This residence therefore represents the center of the person’s life.
B and C cards decide how to pay the tax
If you want to work in Switzerland as a foreigner, you need either a residence permit (B permit) or a settlement permit (C permit). Depending on which of the two one receives, this has an impact on the way taxes are paid.
Residence permit (B permit)
- Employment relationship: There is an employment contract that is limited or unlimited to at least one year.
- Self-employed persons: proof of effective self-employment
Settlement permit (C permit)
- The employed person has lived in Switzerland for more than five years (without interruptions).
Paying taxes as a B permit holder
Anyone who holds a B permit and is gainfully employed pays withholding tax in Switzerland. This means that the employer deducts the monthly tax contributions to be paid from the salary and passes them on directly to the tax authorities. Thus, the principle of withholding taxation differs from “ordinary” taxation in Switzerland, where taxpayers receive their gross salary and are required to submit a tax return once a year and then pay the taxes to the tax authorities themselves. Exception: Anyone with an annual salary of more than CHF 120,000 does not only pay withholding tax, but submits a tax return with the tax authorities in retrospect according to the “ordinary” system. The withholding tax payments will only function as prepayments in these cases.
Paying taxes as a C permit holder
If the employed person has a C permit, they pay taxes in the same way as a Swiss citizen: per monthly or quarterly advance tax payments (regulated differently depending on the canton) through provisional tax invoices. The tax rates vary greatly from canton to canton.
At the end of the year, it is obligatory to file a tax return, which then determines exactly how much tax the employed person actually has to pay. This can result in a plus or a deficit, so that either the overpaid taxes are refunded by the tax authorities, or the taxpayer has to pay additional taxes.
- Employment income
- Rental income
- Alimony/child support received payments
- Investment income
- Self-employment profits
- Family allowances
- Unemployment & other insurance benefits
Social security on income tax
Since security contributions are usually paid in the country where the work is performed, foreigners working in Switzerland are obliged to contribute to the social security system (AHV/IV/EO, BVG, UVG) which builds the first out of the three pillars in the Swiss social security system. It includes age, accident, survivor as well as invalidity pensions. The contributions for the first pillar of total 10.25 % is covered half be the employer and half by the employee.
Wealth tax is independent of income, and thus not linked to income tax. It therefore only assesses the taxpayer’s assets. The 26 cantons and the municipalities each have their own tax rate for wealth tax. So, depending on where you reside, the tax rate can vary, and ranges from 0.13% to 1.1%. The taxation is progressive, i.e. as the wealth increases, so does the tax rate.
What all falls under the taxable assets?
All assets of the taxpayer – both domestic and foreign assets – are subject to wealth tax.
- Cash (if this exceeds the normal household cash holdings)
- Shares and fund units (domestic and foreign)
- Precious metals: gold, silver, platinum
- Bank account balances
- Private equity like GmbH/AG shares
- Granted loans (lender declares it as an asset, borrower as a debt)
- Life insurances (if surrenderable and not in tax pillar 2 or 3a)
- Usufructuary rights (e.g. lifelong right of residence)
- Domestic real estate and land
- Land and water vehicles of all types (except leased vehicles)
- Valuable collections and objects (art pieces, stamps, coins, wine and spirits, jewelry, valuable musical instruments)
- Farm animals and horses
If you have further questions about taxation in Switzerland, feel free to contact us for a non-binding quote, as this is our core competence. We will contact you promptly and discuss your individual situation.
Double taxation agreements between Switzerland and other countries
In order to avoid the income and assets of an individual living in Switzerland but having income or assets in another country, Switzerland has concluded double taxation agreements with many countries
Taxation of income and assets
Double tax treaties are mostly aimed at taxing income. However, there are also treaties that take into account the assets as well. Double tax treaties are complex and are concluded individually between the two contracting states, so that usually no treaty is 100% similar to the other. Therefore, it is always advisable to seek the advice of a tax expert when it comes to questions regarding the taxation of income and assets abroad.
Double taxation in the case of gifts or inheritances
Switzerland’s double taxation agreement does not cover gifts. However, there is an agreement with some countries regarding the taxation of inheritances. This is usually very limited in scope, so that double taxation can often not be avoided entirely.
Countries with which Switzerland has a double taxation agreement
The following list concludes all countries between which and Switzerland a double taxation agreement exists:
Indirect taxes in Switzerland
Value added tax
As in many other countries, Switzerland also has a value added tax, which every consumer has to pay. Switzerland and Liechtenstein have a common VAT area, so that import/export or the procurement and provision of services in this community of states is treated as if it were a common country. In this article we explain which tax rates apply to which goods or services in Switzerland and Liechtenstein.
In Switzerland, there are three different tax rates for different product categories.
Standard rate: 7.7%
The standard rate is 7.7% and is due on the purchase of the following goods:
- Use of services
Reduced rate: 3.7%
A special rate of 3.7% applies exclusively to hotel accommodation including breakfast.
Reduced rate: 2.5%
The reduced VAT rate is applied to the following goods:
- Food and soft drinks
- Other goods for daily use
VAT on goods and services from abroad
Services and goods purchased from abroad are also subject to VAT in Switzerland. Imported goods are taxed upon importation. Services are to be declared and taxed by the recipient of these services. Individuals living in Switzerland who purchase services from a company that is not registered for VAT in Switzerland/Liechtenstein have an exemption limit of CHF 10,000 per calendar year. If the total price for the services received in one year exceeds this amount, they must be declared by February 28 of the following year at the latest.
Examples of foreign services:
Legal fees Costs for tax experts Transport costs for goods Construction, cleaning and management of a property in Switzerland by a foreign service provider
If the service is provided abroad, it does not have to be declared in Switzerland, as it is assumed that the VAT is paid in the country where the service is provided. This includes, for example, medical treatment or therapies abroad.
Indirect taxes incurred when moving
Importation of personal belongings
When moving to Switzerland, collections of art/valuables, animals or vehicles can be imported duty-free. The prerequisite is that the goods have already been in the possession of the person moving for at least six months prior to the date of the move and will continue to be in his possession. Additional household goods may be imported for up to two years after the move, provided the above requirements are met. All items must be declared to customs upon importation. Anyone moving to Switzerland from an EU/EFTA state can prove their change of residence either with a Swiss employment contract or a deregistration from their previous state of residence. Third-country nationals must present a Swiss residence permit to customs.
What should be considered when importing pets?
If dogs, cats or rodents are imported, they must be chipped. In addition, a passport for animals is necessary, as well as a vaccination against rabies. Depending on the country the animal comes from, other regulations may apply. For dog owners it is obligatory to register the dog with the municipality, which charges a dog tax of 100-200 CHF depending on the canton.
Tax exemption limit when entering Switzerland
Personal items, travel catering and the fuel in the tank are considered duty and tax free when crossing the border into Switzerland. Import tax is levied on all other items, depending on their value and quantity. Per person and per day, goods to the value of CHF 300 may be imported without VAT becoming due. If the total value of the goods exceeds this amount, the tax rate of 7.7% or 2.5% is due according to their classification. Special limits apply if a high quantity of the same product is imported and the allowance of CHF 300 is exceeded:
- from 1kg meat/meat products: CHF 17/kg
- from 1kg/1l butter/cream: CHF 16/kg, CHF 16/l
- 5kg/5l oil, fat, margarine (for consumption): CHF 2/kg, CHF 2/l
- 5l alcoholic beverages with up to 18% vol. and 1l alcoholic beverages with more than 18% vol.: CHF 2/l
- 250 pieces/250g cigarettes, cigars and other tobacco products: CHF 0.25/piece/g
Other federal taxes
In addition to VAT, there are other federal taxes in Switzerland that should not go unmentioned here, because we want to give you as broad an overview as possible of the Swiss tax system.
Stamp duty is a turnover tax payable on the purchase and sale of shares, bonds, funds and other securities. It is also called transaction tax and is withheld by the bank or broker and paid to the state. It is based on the turnover of the security. A distinction is made between domestic and foreign securities:
Anticipatory tax is due on income from investments (e.g. dividend payments or returns with a total value of more than CHF 200 per year). This amounts to 35% and is withheld by the Swiss broker (bank or investment partner) and paid to the state. The anticipatory tax is refunded in full if the tax return includes all income from investment income completely and correctly. If the investment income is not declared, incompletely declared or incorrectly declared, the anticipatory tax will be withheld. It serves to prevent tax evasion. Anticipatory tax is paid both by taxpayers in Switzerland and by foreign investors. The latter are only or partially refunded the withholding tax if this is regulated within a double tax treaty with the investor’s country of residence.
EU Savings Directive
Within the countries of the EU, the EU Savings Directive applies, which provides for automatic exchange of information (AEOI) on financial accounts between individual member states. This directive facilitates exchanges between banks for tracking interest payments to individuals living in another EU state. A similar agreement exists between Switzerland and the EU. This states that interest payments from Switzerland to an individual in the EU are taxed at the EU withholding tax rate of 35%. All interest payments subject to Swiss withholding tax are exempt from EU withholding tax. This means that a person living in the EU who receives interest payments from a Swiss bank does not have to pay EU withholding tax if the bank is instructed to declare the payment to the Swiss tax authorities and withholds the withholding tax.
Rent and buy property
The Swiss housing and real estate market varies greatly from region to region in terms of purchase and rental prices. In highly sought-after areas or larger cities, prices are relatively high, while living in rural areas is less expensive.
Tenant or sub-tenant
Property owner, condo owner
Member of a cooperative
A look at the statistics shows how different the price structure is in the various cantons.
In 2019, the square meter for a rental apartment in the canton of Zug cost an average of CHF 19.5. In the same year, one pays CHF 11.8 for it in the canton of Jura. The situation is similar for real estate purchases: In the canton of Geneva, buyers pay an average of CHF 13750 for a square meter, while in the canton of Jura, only CHF 3520 is due.
Swiss property descriptions
In Switzerland, listings describe apartments by the total number of rooms, not counting bathrooms. In some cantons, the kitchen isn’t counted either, so a four-room apartment may have two or three bedrooms and a living or dining room. Open-plan rooms that include the kitchen are often counted as 0.5 or 1.5 rooms. However, almost all adverts will list the total living space and also the total plot size for a house, giving you a clear idea of the size of the property and the garden.
Properties in Switzerland are typically without furnishings, often without even light fittings. As such, when you view the property, it is important to check whether kitchen appliances will be included or not. Laundry facilities are generally communal in apartment buildings. Tenants may have a time slot for using them.
Outdoor space is important for Swiss tenants. Many modern apartments have a balcony and often access to a communal garden or playground. Near bodies of water such as Lake Geneva and Lake Zurich, a right of access to the water will increase the cost of a property, as will the right to moor a boat.
Renting is popular
Renting a house or apartment is very widespread in Switzerland. 2.3 million households lived in a rented apartment at the end of 2019, which corresponds to a total share of 60% of households in Switzerland.
In general, the rental rate is higher in urban areas than in rural ones. In Basel-Stadt, the rental rate in 2019 was 83% and in Geneva 78% – well above the national average. In contrast, the rental rate in more rural cantons such as Appenzell-Innerrhoden was 38%.
> 1800 CHF
1600 – 1800 CHF
1400 – 1600 CHF
1200 – 1400 CHF
< 1200 CHF
Rent property – what you need to consider
Broker can help with mediation
In highly sought-after areas, it is rare for a property to remain vacant for a long time. There, rental properties are often not even published on the internet, but immediately referred by an agent or the landlord himself. So if you want to rent a property in a region that is in high demand, it is advisable to do so through a real estate agent. This can often drastically reduce the time needed to find a suitable property.
Use other sources as well
Even if you use a realtor, however, you should also go apartment or house hunting on your own to make sure you exhaust all your options and have the widest selection. Use real estate portals on the internet like homegate.ch, immoscout24.ch etc., as well as rental advertisements in local newspapers. Often, advertisements for rental properties are also posted at the municipal administration.
How to apply to rent a Swiss house or flat
Landlords seem to broadly work on a first-come, first-served system so in a competitive area you’ll want to hand in your application as soon as possible, perhaps even before you see the property. You can always withdraw your application if you don’t like the property.
Swiss rental applications are comprehensive documents. Expect to provide your:
- Marital status and number of children
- Profession and employer
- A letter of reference or indication of employment from your employer
- Residency or visa status
- Often including copies of passports and visas
- Number and type of pets
- Duration of stay
You often must provide a document proving that you have no outstanding debts or legal judgments. This is called an extrait du Registre des poursuites / Auszug aus dem Betreibungsregister / estratto del registro dell’Ufficio delle Esecuzioni e Fallimenti.
If you’ve lived in the country for a while, make a formal request (for which you will be charged) at the nearest Office des poursuites / Betreibungsamt / Ufficio delle Esecuzioni e Fallimenti. If you’ve recently arrived, you may be able to request one from your previous place of residence, but in the first instance, you should discuss your situation with the estate agent.
For properties with high demand, your chances will increase if you create a nice application dossier to send to the landlord. This includes:
- A personal profile
- a letter of motivation
- possibly salary statements to support the paying power
All tenants should have a written contract which is the tenancy agreement between landlord and tenant. This should cover:
- Rent – don’t try to negotiate, the rent is fixed in Switzerland
- Tenancy start and end date
- How and when to give notice
- Detailed property inventory
- Tenant rights to shared services
- Quiet hours
- Any other house rules.
Starting and ending a tenancy
Tenancy agreements in Switzerland tend to be for an initial period of 12 months. Traditionally, tenancies could only start or end on a quarter day which is around 25 of March, June, September, and December. This tradition continues in many areas, although its implementation is patchy. As an extra twist, the December quarter day, being Christmas, is often not acceptable for a tenancy change over. The tenant must give notice by the previous quarter day of their intention to vacate (i.e., at least three months in advance).
While this system is dying out in many areas, particularly the cities, it’s still the norm in others. This is why Switzerland has a strong sub-letting culture and tenancy transfer is common: if you can find a candidate willing and able to take over your let, you can leave at any time with little notice, even if the landlord rejects their tenancy application.
The additional costs
Service charges usually include the costs for heating and hot water consumption. Depending on the tenancy, other things may also be agreed as ancillary costs, which must also be listed in the tenancy agreement, e.g. fees for garbage collection, Internet/TV connection, garden maintenance, snow removal, etc. Incidental costs that are not mentioned in the rental agreement are generally included in the rental price. How the ancillary costs are paid is also specified in the rental agreement. A distinction is made between the payment on account and the lump-sum payment:
Payment on account
The tenant pays a certain amount for the ancillary costs in advance each month (usually this is transferred together with the rent). The landlord then prepares a service charge statement annually. Service charges that have been paid too much are then refunded. In the event of additional consumption, an additional payment is due accordingly.
At the end of the year, check the service charge statement carefully. You do not have to pay service charges for an item that is not specifically mentioned in the lease. Repairs and maintenance work may not be billed as service charges. Likewise, it is not permissible to mark an item as “other operating costs”.
Lump sum payment
In the case of lump-sum payment, the tenant also pays the service charges monthly, but does not receive a statement at the end of the year. This means that no refund is made for under-consumption, and no additional payment is due for over-consumption.
Buying residential property
Residence status decisive for real estate purchase
Anyone holding a C permit has the same rights as a Swiss citizen to purchase residential property in Switzerland – whether as a primary or secondary residence, or as a vacation home/apartment.
EU/EFTA nationals are allowed to buy a property if they have a B or C permit. For cross-border commuters (G permit), it is permitted to purchase residential property if this is for work purposes (e.g. to stay in their own property during the working week).
Costs when buying real estate
The purchase of a property must be financed from at least 20% equity, as the taking out of a mortgage is only allowed for a maximum of 80% of the purchase price.
Please note that in addition to the purchase price, you will also incur other costs:
- Notary fees
- Registration fees for entry in the land register
- Real estate transfer tax (varies from canton to canton)
- Possible brokerage costs
If you are retired and want to buy a property in which you will have your main residence, you can use your pension withdrawals from pillar 2 (pension fund) and pillar 3 (retirement pension) to pay off the mortgage.
Tax implications of the acquisition of residential property
If you buy a home, your tax situation will normally change only to a limited extent. This is because from now on, the acquired property will be added to your assets and the mortgage on it will be listed in the list of debts. This means that your taxable assets do not change significantly if you have a maximum mortgage burden.
The situation is similar on the income tax side. The imputed rental value increases taxable income. However, the mortgage interest can be declared as a deduction. It can therefore be stated that owner-occupied residential property in Switzerland that is encumbered with a mortgage has only a minor impact on the tax burden.
The situation is different if the property is not mortgaged to a large extent or even not mortgaged at all. In this case, the imputed rental value definitely leads to a higher tax burden. The same applies if the property is rented out – the rental income is fully taxable.
Having children in Switzerland
Pregnancy and birth
Organising your pregnancy and childbirth in Switzerland
How can I have a positive experience both during pregnancy and after childbirth? Our tips for a successful experience of parenthood in Switzerland.
What assistance is available?
In Switzerland, an expectant mother can receive help from:
The confederation sets the general framework and minimum benefits to be complied with.
Your canton may provide for additional allowances to those paid by the Confederation.
Your canton Your employer may offer more generous coverage than the minimum required by law.may provide for additional allowances to those paid by the Confederation.
What does the law provide for?
14 weeks leave
Whether you are an employee, self-employed, unemployed or receiving a loss-of-earnings allowance at the time of birth, you are entitled to maternity leave of at least 14 weeks (16 weeks for Geneva residents). If you return to work earlier, your entitlement to maternity benefits stops immediately. However, you are prohibited from working during the eight weeks following childbirth (Art. 35 (a) (3) Federal Law on Employment in Trade and Industry).
80% of salary
During maternity leave, you receive 80% of the average income earned before childbirth in the form of a maternity allowance capped at CHF 196 per day. More generous benefits may be stipulated under the cantonal provisions of your place of residence or under your company’s staff regulations. As maternity benefits are considered a salary, contributions to the LPP (Federal Law on Occupational Benefits), AVS (old age and survivor’s insurance), AI and APG (disability and loss of earnings capacity) are deducted. During this period you benefit from accident insurance and occupational pension insurance coverage.
What you need to do to obtain maternity benefits:
- Employee: your employer will automatically pay you the federal and cantonal benefits (if applicable)
- Self-employed, unemployed or unable to work: contact the AVS (old age and survivors insurance) compensation fund
Prerequisites to obtain maternity benefits:
- You must be insured with the AHV for nine months before the birth
- You must have worked for at least five months in the period before the birth
Job protectionYour employer is prohibited from terminating your employment contract during your pregnancy as well as during the 16 weeks following childbirth. This right comes into effect from the first day of pregnancy if you are on a permanent employment contract and after the end of the trial period. In other cases, e.g. during the trial period or a fixed-term contract that is about to expire, you do not benefit from this protection.
Paternity benefitsSince 2021, working fathers have been entitled to two weeks’ paternity leave, i.e. ten days off work. They can take this leave within six months of the child’s birth, at a stretch or spread over individual days. It is worth having a look at your employer’s staff regulations to see if there are any special provisions applicable to men. Some companies offer their employees benefits in the form of extended paternity leave and/or “childbirth” bonuses.
- Self-employed individuals
- Unemployed individuals
Conditions to be fulfilled
- 9 months of old age
and survivors insurnace (AVS)
- 5 months of gainful
Paid maternity leave
- 14 weeks (98 days)
Paperwork you need to do
At the start of the pregnancy
Tell your employer that you are pregnant. Legally, you are not required to do so, but it is easier to do this in order to benefit from the rights you are entitled to. Be careful, however, because you do not benefit from job protection during a trial period. Take out additional insurance or prenatal health insurance before the birth so you can benefit from additional care during pregnancy or insure your unborn child before birth
During the pregnancy
Basic health insurance (LAMal) covers a certain number of treatments without you having to pay the deductible or co-payment, such as:
- check-ups with your doctor,
- two ultrasounds or more if your gynaecologist considers it necessary
- group childbirth preparation courses
Get health insurance for your baby, you can choose any company you like.
Get your baby a pediatrician and get yourself midwife, for the follow-up examinations. Your gynecologist can give you a list of suitable options.
If not yet done, register at the Civil Registry Office.
Reduce your working hours according to the type of work you do: if you work mainly standing up, or evenings or nights, or if you perform dangerous tasks, there are legal provisions in place to protect you during pregnancy and reduce your workload. For example, if you work evenings or nights, you may request to work during the day in a similar role.
If you want to go back to work after your maternity leave, book a place in a nursery or choose an alternative childcare option for your future child. Ask your employer about availing of the company nursery or, if there isn’t one available, find out about the nurseries they recommend. The alternative “Tagesmutter” model is very popular in Switzerland, but there are also a lot of regular nannies. You can easily find addresses online.
After the birth
Your health insurance covers the care of a healthy newborn baby, including the stay in hospital after the birth. If you have not already done so, you have three months (with retroactive effect) to take out health insurance for your baby. Register the birth with the authorities In the event of a birth outside marriage:
- Recognition of the child by the father at the Civil Registry Office (before the birth)
- Declaration of joint custody of the child at the Civil Registry Office (before or after the birth)
Maternity leave begins after childbirth. The leave duration is a minimum of 14 weeks, but it may vary depending on the canton and the employer’s conditions. Respect the work prohibition period during the first eight weeks after the birth. Prepare for your return to work. Take your time when it comes to breastfeeding: you are provided with time to pump milk or breastfeed during working hours. Enjoy your baby!
Get on the waiting list for a daycare center early enough. Especially in urban areas, it is necessary sign up at the very beginning of pregnancy or even when you are planning to have a child. Find more information here: www.kibesuisse.ch (only German, French and Italian)
If you give birth in a hospital or birthing center, you will stay about 2-3 nights and only need to bring your personal belongings. Hygiene items, clothes for the baby, etc. will be provided. Many hospitals also organize regular photo shoots, where the baby will be photographed on the 2nd or 3rd day after being born.
Once you are back home from the hospital, basic insurance pays for home visits from a midwife. She will support you for the start of family life, perform small medical examinations and also gives breastfeeding advice f.e.
Different types of care
If you are moving to Switzerland with young children who are not yet of school age, you may need a childcare option. There are numerous childcare models to choose from. Cost plays a big role in the selection, as well as the type of care.
Day care center (Kita)
In a daycare center (Kita), children from infancy to preschool age are cared for. The employees in the daycare centers have pedagogical training and look after the children on weekdays at set times. In most cases, parents can decide on which days and to what extent care is desired. Kitas are run by private sponsors (rarely by the city/community) and must have an operating license from the respective canton. The canton also defines the binding quality standards that must be met in the daycare center. Children are cared for in groups at the daycare center, which is conducive to the child’s socialization – and, in the case of foreign children, also expands their understanding of German, French or Italian. Whether a facility accepts a child or not is decided by the facility itself. Depending on the region, it can take a long time before a place becomes available at a daycare center. It is therefore advisable to look for a place at a daycare center immediately after moving to Switzerland and to be placed on the waiting list of one (or more) facilities. Many daycare centers are organized in associations. One of the largest is kibesuisse. There you will find a first point of contact and can search for daycare centers in your region of residence. Childcare in a daycare center in Switzerland is one of the most expensive in Europe. The costs vary from canton to canton, and even within the cantons the tariff structure is often not uniform among childcare centers. In public facilities, the Kita fee depends on the parents’ income. Families with medium and higher incomes can expect to pay CHF 150 per day if the child is to be cared for throughout the day.
Childminder / day family
As an alternative to daycare, a child can also be cared for by a childminder. If necessary, care is also possible during school age (mostly until 12 years). Usually, the child is cared for at the childminder’s home. The childminder usually looks after several children there (both other people’s children and, if necessary, her own). The advantage of this form of care over daycare is that it is more personal and takes place in a family-like environment. Childminders are often members of a family care association or association. These institutions also often arrange the childcare places, and offer continuing education and professional training for childminders. Payment is therefore usually made to the association or federation, which then forwards the wage to the corresponding childminder. The gross wage for a childminder is on average CHF 8 per hour. Childminders who do not belong to any association or federation negotiate their salary directly with the parents of the child to be cared for. The salary range is between CHF 5 and CHF 15 – depending on demand in the region and experience. Self-employed childminders usually advertise their services via an ad, website or recommendation from others. After consultation, individual care times can also be arranged with a childminder (e.g. care for one night). It is advisable, if not regulated by the association/club, to specify the weekly working hours or working times in an employment contract, as well as the hourly wage and any additional agreements. Nanny The most expensive way of childcare is through a nanny. The nanny looks after all the children in the parents’ home and usually works there by the day. The advantage for the children is that they are cared for in their familiar environment. Since there is no training to become a nanny and most nannies are not organized in associations like childminders, parents should look for good references when choosing. A completed training in the pedagogical field is also conducive. The nanny is an employee in a private household. The salary is a matter of negotiation and is specified in an employment contract. The average hourly wage is CHF 30.
If a child only needs to be looked after for a few hours a week, a babysitter is an inexpensive alternative to a daycare center or childminder. Please note, however, that these are mostly young people who have no pedagogical training and want to supplement their pocket money with the job. The costs for a babysitter amount to CHF 7-12 per hour.
Tax benefits for external childcare
For children or for their care, there are some possibilities for tax deductions in Switzerland to relieve families financially.
The so-called child deduction amounts to CHF 6,500 per year and applies even to children of full age, provided they are not yet in professional training. The child deduction can also be claimed by parents who live separately. In this case, the parent who has custody of the child or who is primarily responsible for the child’s support must declare the child deduction in his or her tax return. In the case of parents who live separately and who both have custody of the child, each parent claims half of the child deduction.
The federal government provides tax relief for persons who live in the same household with a common child and are mainly responsible for the child’s maintenance by means of a parental rate as a tax deduction. This means that regardless of whether the parents are married or not, the married person rate is assessed as a deduction. In addition, a monetary amount per child is deducted from the tax owed. In concrete terms, this means a tax saving of CHF 251 for the child.
Third party care deduction
The costs of childcare provided by an external person or institution can also be deducted from tax. This deduction for childcare costs can be made until the child reaches the age of 14. It is important for the claim that the outside care is used because both parents go to work or are in training, and therefore cannot take care of the care themselves. Incapacitated parents can also deduct the care from their taxes. The deductions per year amount to a maximum of CHF 10,100. Separated or unmarried parents may divide the deductions between themselves individually. Please note that you will have to prove the costs of care to the authorities upon request. Therefore, keep all receipts related to the care. Excluded from the deductible costs are meals for the child, as well as care costs that are not incurred due to work-related absence of the parents (e.g. babysitter in the evening so that the parents can go out).
The education system in Switzerland
In Switzerland, there are both public and private schools. The public schools are financed by the cantons and attendance at such a school is free of charge.
Compulsory kindergarten or schooling begins at the age of 4. A minimum of 11 years of schooling is compulsory.
Public educational institutions are classified as follows:
- Kindergarten: age 4-6 years; compulsory in most cantons
- Elementary school: ages 6-12, grades 1-6; compulsory
- Secondary school: age 12-15; compulsory, leads to completion of compulsory education plan
- After secondary school: special schools for preparation for higher education (e.g. university), or training centers for trainees
Anyone wishing to enroll their child in the Swiss public school system must contact the cantonal education authority and provide the following proof:
- Work/residence permit for Switzerland
- Health and accident insurance for the child
If a foreign child is between the ages of 12 and 15, he or she must pass an entrance exam before enrolling in a public school, which tests, among other things, sufficient proficiency in the language of instruction.
Enrolling the child in a private school is also possible. However, depending on the school, waiting times for a free place can be several years.
The public transport network in Switzerland is one of the best developed in the world. In urban regions, more and more people are doing without their own vehicles and are traveling by public transport instead. But in the countryside, too, public transportation is very well developed, and you can get anywhere – by train, bus, mountain railroad or boat.
The Swiss are not proud of their railroad network for nothing, because it is the densest in the world in terms of population density. Places that do not have a train station are not cut off from the outside world, but can be reached by bus instead of by train. The Swiss public transport network is being continuously expanded and extended as demand increases and public transport plays an increasingly important role alongside private transport in times of climate change. The federal government has set itself the goal of even doubling the market share of train and bus transport by 2050.
Most Swiss railroad lines are operated by SBB (Schweizer Bundesbahn). They look after the maintenance, repair and new construction of the lines. However, there are also numerous private railroad lines that serve certain sections with their own vehicles.
Most places without a train station are connected to the transport network by bus, so that you can get to the nearest train station in a short time. In very remote places (e.g. mountain villages) there are no scheduled buses. Instead, there are call busses, which you can call two hours before the desired departure by reservation hotline. These buses then take passengers on a specific route to their destination (usually the next largest village), from where they can continue their journey by bus or train. This means that even very remote areas can be reached by public transport.
The pleasant thing about the Swiss public transport network is that the various companies recognize tickets among themselves. This means that you are often not tied to a particular means of transport. When you buy a ticket, you often have the choice of which route you want to take: the place of departure and destination, as well as intermediate stops, are printed on the ticket by “via”.
You then have to stick to this route, but you are free to choose whether you want to cover a certain section of the route by train, bus or even by boat.
Moreover, the ticket is not only valid for a specific means of transport at a specific time, but the journey can be started at any time.
Passengers can purchase tickets either via an app, at a ticket machine, or at a ticket counter. All major credit cards are accepted for payment.
Traveling by public transport is not quite as cheap, but due to the good network development it is very comfortable, as the vehicles run according to a tight timetable and are coordinated so that there are no long waiting times. The price of a ticket is always calculated according to the route and not according to the type of transport used.
Since many Swiss use public transport frequently, most have a so-called half-fare card or even a general season ticket. The Half-Fare Card costs a fixed annual fee (currently CHF 185), but then the individual tickets cost only half the regular price or are reduced.
The annual fee for the General Abonnement is higher than for the Half-Fare Card (currently CHF 3,680 for 2nd class), but there is no need to buy an extra ticket at the ticket machine or counter.
Especially for commuters or for local frequent travelers, there are Verbund subscriptions that save money on trips within a transport association, e.g. the ZVV (Zürcher Verkehrsverbund), which allows you to use all means of public transport in the canton of Zurich.
In addition to regular fares and season tickets, there are also day passes and other special tickets (e.g. group tickets), which are sometimes cheaper than regular tickets, depending on your travel plans.
There are plenty of ways to lessen the burden of ticket costs. SBB offers the following subscriptions:
- seven25 Travelcard: Travel free on SBB trains and public transportation networks between 19:00 and 5:00. Available to anyone younger than 25. CHF 39 per month or CHF 390 per year.
- Half Fare Travelcard: Probably the most popular public transportation subscription in Switzerland, the Half Fare Travelcard reduces all ticket costs by 50%. CHF 185 per year.
Almost all public transportation subscriptions in Switzerland go onto a SwissPass. The SwissPass is a wallet-size card (and an app) that you load subscriptions or tickets onto, as well as use for things like bike rental, car-sharing schemes, or ski passes (of course). At least 250 transport authorities use the SwissPass, so you’re more likely than not to get one at some point.
If you don’t have a SwissPass yet, just go to a ticketing office for a public transportation provider. You’ll need an identity document as well as a recent passport-size photo.
The GA travelcard
One public transportation subscription in Switzerland deserves special mention: the GA Travelcard. This subscription (whose name is short for Generalabonnement in German) allows unlimited travel on all SBB trains as well as other modes of public transportation in Switzerland. The GA Travelcard is available in a variety of categories with the billing period being either monthly or annual.
Second-class prices for the GA Travelcard are as follows (price info 2021, may vary):
- Adults: CHF 340 (month) / CHF 3,860 (year)
- Children (6–16): CHF 160 (month) / CHF 1,645 (year)
- Young adults (16–25) and students (25–30 and studying at a Swiss university or college): CHF 245 (month) / CHF 2,650 (year)
25-year olds: CHF 300 (month) / CHF 3,360 (year)
- Seniors (64+ [women] or 65+ [men]): CHF 260 (month) / CHF 2,880 (year)
- Disabled: CHF 225 (month) / CHF 2,480 (year)
- Dogs: CHF 805 (year)
GA Travelcard passes are expensive, but they’re worth your (or, potentially, your employer’s) money if you plan to take the train quite a bit. It’s also an eco-friendly alternative to driving in Switzerland.
Internationally, Switzerland is also very easy to reach from any corner of the world with three national airports. The three airports are located in Zurich, Geneva and Basel-Mulhouse (which is geographically located in France near the Swiss border).
From Zurich and Geneva, destinations within and outside Europe are served, and from Basel- Mulhouse, destinations within Europe.
In addition to these three major international hubs, there are also eleven regional airports from which various destinations in Europe are served.
Driving in Switzerland
General information about driving in Switzerland
Right-hand traffic applies in Switzerland. Driving a vehicle is permitted for persons 18 years of age and older; trucks and other large vehicles may only be driven from 21 years of age. Fun fact: A small motorcycle or a tractor can already be driven from 14 years upwards.
In order to be able to drive on freeways, a vignette must be purchased every year. This can be obtained at customs or at gas stations. The price is currently CHF 40.
On highways, the maximum speed is 120km/h, unless otherwise indicated by a sign. A maximum speed of 50km/h applies in built-up areas.
Traffic offenses are also fined in Switzerland. While a parking fine usually costs around 40 Fr., forgetting the motorway vignette can even be fined up to 200 Fr. The amounts are recommendations from the federal government, but vary slightly from canton to canton.
Speeding – warning, reprimand and driver’s license withdrawal
A warning is issued for a minor violation of traffic regulations. It is a kind of “yellow card” and does not include a driver’s license withdrawal. However, if you continue to violate the traffic regulations in the following two years, you must expect more severe consequences. Violations of 21 km/h or more in built-up areas, 26 km/h or more outside built-up areas and 31 km/h or more on the highway will result in a fine and a driver’s license suspension of at least one month. If you exceed the speed limit of 25 km/h in the city, 30 km/h outside the city or 35 km/h on the highway, your driver’s license will be revoked for at least 3 months. In the case of a repeat offense, the duration of the driver’s license re-vocation will be significantly increased.
Speeding – depending on the amount of the violation may vary by canton and result in a criminal complaint / suspension
Failure to carry the driver’s license
Exceeding the permitted parking time up to 2 hours
Telephoning without hands-free equipment
Not or not well visible attachment of the parking disc on the vehicle
Stopping on a pedestrian crossing
Failure to yield the right of way at pedestrian crossings
Unnecessary preheating of the engine
Overtaking on the right on the highway
Disregarding the formation of an emergency lane on the freeway
Disregard of zipper principle on the highway
Missing the freeway sticker
fine in francs
40.- – several thousand
Exchanging driver’s license
A valid driver’s license is required to drive a vehicle. Foreigners may drive in Switzerland for up to one year with a driver’s license from their home country or an international driver’s license. After that, a Swiss driver’s license must be applied for at the traffic licensing authority. Necessary for this are:
- Completing the application to exchange the foreign driver’s license for a Swiss driver’s license
- Enclose the previous driver’s license (will then be stamped as “invalid in Switzerland”)
- Proof of a vision test by an ophthalmologist confirming good enough eyesight
- Passport photo
- Foreigner’s identity card (B or C permit card) as confirmation of residence
Having vehicle safety checked
Vehicle safety is checked regularly and is mandatory for every vehicle. The inspection takes place at the motor vehicle inspection (MFK) and is carried out every two to five years, depending on how old the vehicle is. If a defect is found, it must be repaired as soon as possible. As long as the defect exists, the vehicle may not be moved (or only for driving to the car repair shop).
To register a car in Switzerland, you need to be a Swiss resident. The purchase is possible either from private persons or from a vehicle dealer. The latter usually also takes care of some formalities. The buyer must also apply for a license plate at the cantonal road traffic office and have the seller hand over the vehicle registration document. In addition, the vehicle must be insured with a Swiss motor vehicle insurance.
Swiss Authorities Online – government portal with information on cars and driving in Switzerland: https://bit.ly/3W5pTj1
Federal Office of Roads (Bundesamt für Strassen – ASTRA) – Swiss authority for roads and traffic: https://bit.ly/3swM7gp
ASA: Association of Automobile Services (Vereinigung der Strassenverkehrsämter/ Association des services des automobiles/ Associazione dei Servizi Della Circolazione). This website is offered in German, French, and Italian: https://bit.ly/3D8Kqur
If a vehicle is to be imported into Switzerland from abroad, the following documents or proofs are required:
- Insurance certificate of a Swiss motor vehicle insurance
- Foreign vehicle documents/registration certificate
- Audit report of the customs office
- Certificate of CO2 tax; obtained after the vehicle has been inspected by the Motor Vehicle Inspection (MFK).
The vehicle does not have to be cleared through customs, or it can be imported tax-free if it can be proven that the vehicle was already in the possession of the vehicle owner for at least six months before the move to Switzerland. The vehicle must also be held for at least 12 months after the move to Switzerland.
In all other cases, Swiss VAT of 7.7% is due upon importation, as well as vehicle tax of 4%. The current value of the vehicle serves as the basis for calculation. In addition, customs duties may also apply, depending on where the vehicle was manufactured (not purchased!) and how high its weight is.
In Switzerland, there are three insurances for a vehicle:
- Liability insurance
- Comprehensive insurance (optional)
- Accident insurance (provided by employer or health insurance)
Liability insurance is mandatory for every vehicle. It covers damage to third-party property and injuries to third parties. Comprehensive insurance covers damage to the vehicle and theft. Accident insurance covers damage to passengers.
What do you actually do in Switzerland when you’re not working? Since free time also plays a major role in a positive work-life balance, we naturally don’t want to leave this topic unmentioned here.
Newcomers to Switzerland sometimes feel upstaged by the locals because they like to keep to themselves. However, that doesn’t mean that the Swiss aren’t open-minded toward strangers – it just takes them a little longer to thaw out.
There are many ways in which you can get in touch with the locals. Mostly you have to make the first step. Once you have dared to do so, you will quickly find that the locals will quickly welcome you in their midst.
One of the easiest ways to get in touch with other people is through a shared hobby. Sports and other interest clubs are particularly well suited for this purpose. About 30% of all Swiss are active in one or even more sports clubs. Very many clubs – especially in rural regions – are manageably small with fewer than 100 members, which makes for a family atmosphere.
In most sports clubs, the focus is not only on playing sports together, but also on socializing. The clubs therefore also regularly organize non-sporting events where people simply sit together socially and have fun. This strengthens the social bond with each other and is a nice way to get in touch with people from the neighborhood.
If you would like to pursue your favorite sport in Switzerland as well, look around for appropriate clubs in your new home. With more than 150 sports offered by the over 19,000 sports clubs in Switzerland, there is sure to be an activity that appeals to you.
If you feel like volunteering for a good cause, there are also many opportunities to do so in Switzerland. For example, you can get involved with the Red Cross or the volunteer fire department to help your fellow human beings. In the field of animal protection and nature conservation, volunteers are also always needed.
Especially if you yourself have been living in Switzerland for a while as a foreigner, you can get involved in migration assistance and give other immigrants useful tips and help to make integration easier for them.
Integration courses are offered for immigrants to Switzerland, especially in large cities and urban regions. The courses on offer range from general events to language courses.
Such integration offers make it much easier for them to get started in their new society. There, you learn everything important about life in Switzerland: from trivial things like correct waste separation to information about dealing with the authorities. You can also ask questions and raise personal concerns. This often saves a lot of time and nerves, as it is not always easy to gather all the necessary information, especially if the language is an additional hurdle.
Mingle with the people
There are plenty of opportunities to go out in Switzerland. Often, you go out for an after-work beer with your colleagues. Especially if you’re new to Switzerland, your local colleagues can be great at helping you integrate into Swiss society. There are also some Expat communities which you can join to connect with like-minded people as InterNations, IamExpat or more.
The bigger cities are known for a vibrant nightlife, so if you want to go clubbing, visit Zurich, Basel, Bern, Geneva or Lausanne. But also the smaller places always have some nice bars or clubs to dance.
With your family or even as a single person you can do many things. Culturally, Switzerland has a lot to offer. In larger cities there are museums, cultural centers and theaters and many other.
With the alps practically on your doorstep, it’s easy to take a family outing into nature, or a hiking tour. No matter where you go and what you’re in the mood for, you’ll soon discover that Switzerland has a lot to offer – and that the locals are quite nice and warm people after a certain period of acclimatization.