Expats in Switzerland

Everything about being an expat in Switzerland

Switzerland’s high quality of life and vast career opportunities make it the perfect place for expats.

On this page, you’ll find out what it’s like to move to and work in Switzerland. We’ve also included a checklist to help you determine if Switzerland is the right place for you.  You can contact us for a free consultation.

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What it’s like to move to Switzerland as an expat.

After 6 years in Spain, our marketing manager, Annelise Michel, and her family have decided to move to Switzerland and follow new professional opportunities offered to her partner. 

To make an informed decision, they start gathering information. They look for career opportunities for Annelise, what schools they could send their kids to, how long it’d take to visit family abroad, and how the healthcare system works. 

They join various online communities like InterNations, the Expat Switzerland forum and some Facebook groups to get first-hand accounts of the experience of moving to and living in Switzerland. 

After all the research, they decide to make the move – and they don’t regret it.

They find that the quality of life in Switzerland is on a high level: Their kids receive excellent education while being able to play safely outside and enjoy the preserved nature in the city. Annelise and her husband find that they can pursue challenging careers and still have time for their kids. They also value the cultural activities on offer in the region and enjoy meeting people from all around the world at their workplaces and in their free time.

Even after all their research, the family was pleasantly surprised with everything Basel has to offer. 

I’ve seen many cities in Europe and also worked in Spain, London and Paris for many years before moving to Switzerland. It’s rare to find a place like Basel. Basel is unique.

Annelise MichelManager Marketing

After 7 years of living in Basel, Annelise confidently says it has much more to offer than she initially thought. Her career flourished — but not at the expense of her social life. 

Basel is a vibrant city with great nightlife, an excellent culinary scene and a dense community from all over the world. 

It’s a unique ecosystem.

Since her arrival in Switzerland, Annelise has been able to explore exciting professional opportunities in the medtech sector and now with Basel Area Business & Innovation. 

These days, she and her family enjoy all the beautiful things life in Basel offers. 

About life in Switzerland.

People associate Switzerland with mountains, cheese and chocolate. While that’s all true, Switzerland is so much more.
working in switzerland
Active outdoor culture. 

If you enjoy outdoor activities, Switzerland is perfect. You can go hiking, skiing, biking, swimming… Majestic mountains, beautiful lakes and serene forests are just a stone’s throw away, no matter where you live. 

Excellent schooling options

Your kids will be well educated in Switzerland. They can either join the public education system, which is among the top 10 in the world, or enter an international school in their native language. 

High degree of safety

Walking alone at night or letting your kids walk home from school on their own is no problem in Switzerland. According to the Global Peace Index, Switzerland is the 7th safest county in the world, with an average of just 5.4 violent crimes per 1,000 inhabitants. 

working in switzerland
Diverse culture

While most rural areas have remained traditional, big cities like Basel, Zurich and Geneva have become melting pots. With nearly 25% of the population being foreign nationals, cultures from all over the world come together here. 

working in switzerland
Strong public healthcare and health insurance

Hospitals and clinics are clean and well-equipped, the waiting lists are short, patients can choose their doctors and emergency rooms are rarely overwhelmed. You can choose one of the many providers for mandatory health insurance and put together the healthcare package that fits you best. 

And that’s still not all

Read more about life in Switzerland.

About working in Switzerland. 

Many expats want to move to Switzerland at the prospect of making a good living for themselves and their families. And for good reason. Switzerland tops the list of the 20 countries with the highest salary worldwide. 

But the pay isn’t the only benefit of working in Switzerland. 

Liberal labor laws allow you to negotiate your role and compensation freely with your employer. If you’re unhappy with your job, you can quit within a week if you’re still in the probation period and within up to three months when that probation period has ended. 

 The Swiss are hardworking and proud of it. What other country would democratically decide against more vacation days 

This fantastic work life balance culture and work ethic set the foundation for trust and mutual respect between employers and employees. 

If you want to work in Switzerland but don’t have a job yet, learn how to find one: 

Four central questions from expats about Switzerland. 

Can a foreigner live in Switzerland? 

Yes, as long as they obtain the correct residence permit. There are various permits divided into two categories: nationals of EU-27/EFTA countries and third-country nationals. You need to meet the requirements based on your working status and nationality to apply for a residence permit with the cantonal immigration and employment market authorities. 

Are foreigners allowed to work in Switzerland? 

Yes. Foreign nationals can work in Switzerland with the correct work permit. What work permit you need depends on your nationality and type of employment. EU/EFTA member states citizens can work freely in Switzerland but must apply for a residence permit if they stay longer than 90 days. All other citizens must apply for work permits, even short-term employment.

Can foreigners start a business in Switzerland? 

Citizens of EU/EFTA member states only have to apply for a residence permit and proof that they can support themselves and their families with their business. Third-country nationals must follow extensive visa requirements and prove their business is in Switzerland’s economic interest.

Can a foreigner buy commercial property in Switzerland? 

If you want to start your own business, you might be looking to buy commercial property. Good news, everyone can buy real estate for commercial use in Switzerland! No special permission is needed. There is an exception: foreigners aren’t allowed to buy rental homes or invest in the Swiss real estate market. 

A checklist to find out if Switzerland is the right country for you. 

Can you leave friends and family?

Leaving behind those you care about is among the most difficult things for all expats.  

Yes, I’m fine without seeing my friends and family for some time. 

Will it improve your situation?

Many expats move to Switzerland to improve their financial situation, sometimes improving their mental health and happiness at the same time. 

Yes, moving would improve my situation overall, not just financially. 

Can you deal well with new situations?

Living in a new country is overwhelming. Food you’ve never tasted before, a culture you’re not accustomed to and currency you don’t know might overwhelm you.  

Yes, dealing with new situations isn’t a problem for me.

Does Switzerland excite you?

Some think of Switzerland as a paradise of nature and culture. You, too?  

Yes, Switzerland sounds like a dream to live in.

Can you imagine your kids going to school on their own?

In Switzerland, parents usually don’t accompany their kids to school. Are you able to let your kids go to school on their own? 

Yes, I’d let my kids go on their own. 

Do you have a backup plan?

Not everything works out. It’s important to be prepared for that. 

Yes, I’m prepared in case Switzerland doesn’t work out for me. 

If you can tick off all these boxes, you’re ready to make your move. Here’s how. 

Talk to us

We’re the go-to agency for every question or request about launching in or relocating to the Basel Area. Either we know the answer, or we know the people who do. We help you solve questions about real estate but also about hiring or collaboration opportunities with universities.

Fabio MarelliManager Business Affairs at Basel Area Business & Innovation

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