The process of job relocation to Switzerland consists of several steps: getting a visa and a work permit, finding accommodation, applying for health insurance, and more.
Your employer might pay for your relocation, including visa fees, registration of a work permit, plane tickets, the first month of rent, etc. Discuss the details in advance to learn what applies specifically to you.
1. Obtain a visa, if applicable
If you’re not a citizen of the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein, or Norway, you need a Schengen visa to enter Switzerland. With the C-Type visa, you’ll be able to stay in the country for a maximum of 90 days in any 180 days. After that, you’ll need to obtain a D-Type visa or residence/work permit.
You can check whether you require a visa on the State Secretariat for Migration’s website.
The period for processing a visa application is 15 to 60 days. The cost of submitting an application is €80 for adults and €40 for children between 6 and 12 years old. You can apply for a visa in a Swiss embassy/consulate or visa center.
2. Apply for a work permit
To be able to work in Switzerland, you can obtain either an L-permit (allowing you to stay and work in Switzerland for up to 1 year) or a B-permit (allowing you to stay in Switzerland for up to 5 years). Conditions depend on your citizenship.
If you’re an EU, or Iceland, Liechtenstein or Norway (EFTA) сitizen, you don’t require a residence permit to work with a company in Switzerland for up to 3 months in a year. If you want to be employed longer, you can obtain a work permit, if you have a job offer and a place to live in the country.
If you’re not from the EU/EFTA, your employer in Switzerland must get you a work permit. You’ll need to meet the following requirements:
- Degree from a university or another institution of higher education
- Several years of professional work experience
- Employment contract in Switzerland
- Your future employee must prove that there is no suitable person to fill the job vacancy from Switzerland or an EU/EFTA state
- The salary, social security contributions, and the terms of employment must be in accordance with conditions customary to the region and the sector
Swiss residence/work permits allow their holders to change jobs and occupations. The period of validity depends on the duration of employment:
- If your employment will last between 3 months and 1 year, you’re entitled to an L-permit, whose period of validity matches the duration of the employment contract.
- If your employment will last for 1 year or more, you can get a B-permit, which remains valid for 5 years and can be extended.
In Switzerland, employers are responsible for obtaining work permits. They submit an application to the labor market or migration authorities in the relevant canton.
Documents your employer will need to apply for a work permit:
- Application form (each of the cantons have their own forms)
- Copy of your passport
- Job description
- Confirmation of job search efforts in Switzerland and the EU/EFTA area (for non-EU/EFTA citizens)
- Your CV
- Contract of employment
- Proof of qualifications (education certificates and references)
- Copies of documents in the original language, as well as certified translations if the documents are not in one of Switzerland’s official languages or English
With an L- or B-permit, you can also bring your family members to Switzerland, namely your spouse, your own children, your spouse’s children (who are under the age of 21 or receive support), as well as your parents or your spouse’s parents who receive support. Residence permits issued to your family members will have the same duration of validity as your permit. Your spouse and children will have the right to work in Switzerland.
To obtain a residence permit, family members must present the following documents:
- Valid identity card or passport
- Visa (if they need a visa to enter Switzerland)
- Marriage or birth certificates
- Certificate confirming you’ve agreed to provide support for your family member, if the person requires support
3. Find temporary accommodation
It’s recommended to find temporary accommodation before traveling to Switzerland. Your employer might provide you with a temporary apartment for several weeks. Discuss conditions in advance to learn what applies specifically to you. If your employer doesn’t provide you with temporary accommodation, you can find it on Airbnb or similar websites before you arrive in Switzerland.
Photo: The Zero Star Hotel in Swiss Alps
4. Find a permanent place to live
Allow at least 2 weeks to hunt for a long-term rental apartment. You can find an apartment in Switzerland on the following property websites:
When you find an apartment that fits your needs, try to be the first to email the landlord or another contact person with a personalized cover letter stating why you want to rent the property. Rental demand in Switzerland is high, so it’s usually the landlords who choose tenants, not the other way around.
To rent a flat in Switzerland, you’ll need the following documents:
- Valid ID
- Application form (obtained from the landlord). In it, you’ll have to indicate personal data such as your age, marital status, occupation, employer, salary, children, residency status in Switzerland, pets, etc.
- Debt register extract (Auszug aus dem Betreibungsregister, extrait du Registre des poursuites) — obtained at the local authority for prosecutions (if you haven’t previously lived in Switzerland, this might be a similar document obtained in your home country)
- Contact details of your previous landlord
- Employment contract. Remember that rental costs should not amount to more than 1/3 of your gross income
As a tenant, you usually have to pay the following costs before moving in:
- Rent for the first month
- Rental deposit: 1–3 months’ rent or anywhere from CHF 1,000 to 6,000. In a housing cooperative, instead of a rental deposit, you would pay a contribution (which can amount to more than 3 monthly rents) to become a member
- Furniture and home appliances (most long-term rental apartments in Switzerland come unfurnished)
Utilities, such as heating, electricity, or gas, for one month for one person in a 45 m² apartment would cost around CHF 150 plus about the same for TV, phone, and Internet — around CHF 300 in total. However, expenses depend on how much you will spend.
Examples of utilities and other costs (CHF per month):
- Utilities (heating, electricity, gas): 150
- Garbage removal: 18
- Phone, TV, Internet: 110–150
5. Apply for health insurance
If you come to live in Switzerland for more than 3 months, you must be covered with mandatory health insurance. You must apply for health insurance coverage within 3 months after moving to the country. All providers offer identical benefits. However, monthly premiums can vary significantly according to the insurance model, place of residence, age, and deductible ("franchise").
You can choose your insurance company and decide how much you’re going to pay. Health insurance does not cover the full cost. The amount you will pay consists of two parts:
- Deductible (“franchise”): money you will pay per calendar year out of your pocket (a minimum of CHF 300 for adults or CHF 0 for children)
- Coinsurance: once your annual health care costs exceed the amount of your deductible (e.g. CHF 300), you must pay a coinsurance of 10% of the amount exceeding the deductible up to a maximum of CHF 700 per year (or CHF 350 for children)
For example, if your medical costs are CHF 2,500 and your deductible is CHF 300, your subtotal for coinsurance will be CHF 2,200. After subtracting 10% of doctor’s bills (e.g. CHF 170) and 10% of generic products (e.g. CHF 20), your insurance would pay CHF 2,010.
Dental care is not included in health insurance and can be quite expensive in Switzerland. For example, bills are from CHF 200 to 5,000 per implant.
You can use an online health insurance comparison tool to assess costs.
Once you’re insured with a health insurance company in Switzerland, you get a health insurance card with your 13-digit AHV number (Alters- und Hinterlassenenversicherungsnummer).
6. Register at your place of residence
Within 14 days after entering Switzerland (before your first day at work but after finding a permanent place to live), you must register yourself and your family members with your local residents’ registration office (Bevölkerungsamt).
Note that you can start working in Switzerland only after registering.
You will need to take the following documents to the residents’ registration office:
- Valid identification document for each family member moving to Switzerland
- Residence permits
- Proof that you are covered by basic health insurance. As the deadline for registering with a health insurance provider is 3 months, you may not yet have health insurance at the time of registration. You can submit proof of health insurance coverage later within 3 months
- Passport photo of each family member
- Documents regarding family status (marriage certificate, birth certificates for children)
- Your contract of employment
- Copy of rental agreement
Find out from your local residents’ registration office whether you need additional documents as well as how high the registration fees are (e.g. CHF 40 in Zurich). These can vary depending on the canton.
7. Buy a SIM card
Main national providers include Salt, Sunrise, and Swisscom. Swisscom and Sunrise have the largest networks.
There are also mobile virtual network operators (MVNO) that don’t own their cell towers, buy wholesale minutes and data from the main operators, and sell their services to end users. Using them might be cheaper. Aldi, Coop, Lebara, Lycamobile, Migros are among the Swiss MVNOs.
You can buy a SIM card in the provider’s offices, in regular shops, at train stations, at airports, in electronics stores, and at post offices.
To buy a Swiss SIM card, you need a valid ID (passport or identity card). To get a postpaid plan, you need to have a work/residence permit or be a Swiss citizen. Otherwise, your only option is prepaid SIM cards.
Prepaid cards cost CHF 9–30 per month, and postpaid packages cost CHF 50–200 per month. You can compare mobile phone tariffs on Comparis.ch.
8. Open a bank account in Switzerland
To get your salary in Switzerland and pay for your rental home, you need to have a bank account in the country. Many other payments may also require a local bank account, such as utility bills, mobile top-up operations, online payments, etc.
Here are the most popular banks in Switzerland:
- Banque cantonale de Genève (bcge.ch)
- Credit Suisse (credit-suisse.com)
- Julius Baer (juliusbaer.com)
- Post Finance (postfinance.ch)
- Swiss Raiffeisen (raiffeisen.ch)
- UBS (ubs.com/ch/en.html)
- Zurich Cantonal Bank (zkb.ch)
Banks might be reluctant to open an account if you don’t have a permanent address in Switzerland. At the same time, landlords might be reluctant to offer you a lease without a local bank account.
You will need the following documents to open a bank account in Switzerland:
- Proof of identity: your passport
- Proof of residence status: visa, B- or L-permit
- Proof of address: rental agreement, recent utility bills, or official correspondence
- Proof of income: a substantial deposit in your new account or a letter from your employer
The required documentation can vary depending on the bank. So it’s recommended to ask for an application pack in advance which would explain the process for opening an account and detail what documents you should provide.
Banks might require additional payments, such as account maintenance fees (CHF 3–7 per month), cash withdrawals at other banks’ ATMs, etc.