Living in Switzerland - General

Swiss License and Registration Requirements

Due to the wide geographic diversity of Switzerland, driving around the countryside requires a bit of diligence on the motorist’s part. This is due in part to the ever-changing environments, like that of a small mountain road to a much larger motorway. Because of these environments, the rules concerning driving are often more complicated than in other countries.



Getting a Swiss Driver’s License

In Switzerland, if you are a foreign driver, you are permitted to use your license for one year. After this time period you must exchange your license for a Swiss one. Any driver who does not end up applying for a Swiss license within their first year must pass a driving test. The minimum age for driving is 8 for cars, and 4 for motorcycles less than 50ccs.

Getting Your Vehicle Registered in Switzerland

In each canton in Switzerland there is an automobile service that helps to issue inspections and vehicle registrations. When you move from one canton to the next you will need to send in your driver’s license and vehicle registration to this service for an update. Upon moving you will want to request a new license from the automobile service to your new canton within 4 days of your relocation.

In order to receive your vehicle registration documents and your number plates you should ensure you have your insurance certificate, a test report form 2.30A for a new vehicle and the registration of the previous owners for a used vehicle.

Typically the canton that is responsible for registering your vehicle is the one where the vehicle is based. This usually means where your vehicle is parked overnight or the same area of your residence.

Getting your license and registering your vehicle are the two most important steps for both new drivers and foreign drivers.[...]

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Guide to International Schools in Switzerland

One of the most common reasons that people relocate to Switzerland is for their education system. Aside from the local institutions of public and private schools, a large number of highly renowned international schools in Switzerland provide children with an exceptional education opportunity. Foreign students can still continue their home country curriculum in their own native language.  This is a valuable resource to international students spending only a few years abroad, giving them the cultural experience and keeping them in line with their peers at home.

A vast majority of Switzerland’s large cities have a number of international schools in them, providing both students and parents with a list of choices. Starting the process of enrolling in an international school should be done as soon as possible. Since these schools offer many valuable resources that public and private schools do not, the waiting list can be quite long.

When choosing an international school, parents and students will have the option of either enrolling in a day school or boarding school away from home. The boarding school option may be suitable for families who do not live in a city with an international school available.



Be sure to plan ahead financially when selecting an international school. The costs attached to these institutions typically are higher and will increase as the student ages. There are options however, for parents to plan ahead. This includes soliciting an employer for an educational stipend and scholarships to help pay for all or a portion of a child’s schooling.  The average tuition for secondary students in international schools in Switzerland can be as high as $35,000 CHF per year.

Planning ahead and reviewing the available options for international schools in Switzerland can help open a world of educational experiences for families of all ages.



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Transferring Money to Switzerland

Sending money to Switzerland inefficiently can leave you stung by fees and delays.

There are several options available to you. International transactions can be received by any of the 300 Swiss banks and The Post (most offering an online transfer service, too). It’s required by Swiss legislation that all fees and costs involved be declared before the transaction is carried out.

An alternative is to use an online service such as CurrencyFair to handle the transfers. A service like this gets around some of the heftier fees, by carrying out local transactions rather than international ones. It works in three steps:

) Deposit your money into a CurrencyFair account.

2) Convert your money by matching with other users who are sending money in the opposite direction

3) Transfer your money to a nominated account in the country of destination.

They promise a 0.5 percent commission which is included in the quote you receive before completing the transaction - so this may be worth looking into if you’re annoyed by the way your bank handles international transactions.



To complete any international transfer to Switzerland you’ll need a couple of things - primarily the details of the nominated account including the IBAN and BIC/SWIFT numbers. If you don’t know these, your bank will provide them. Be aware that not including this information can incur additional fees!

If you do use a money transfer firm like the one mentioned above, you will be required to provide identification for the sender and receiver and sometimes other documentation, such as proof of residence.

Online services offer the most convenience, but the transfers can be slow. Dedicated money transfer firms tend to be the fastest, but may offer poorer exchange rates. It’s always worth researching to find what suits you and your circumstances![...]

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Stay Connected - Internet Communications in Switzerland

Switzerland has strong competition in the telecommunications space. Swiss and International service providers offer residents a fair amount of choice when it comes to Internet and mobile phone packages.

In terms of mobile operators, the three major service providers are Swisscom, Sunrise and Orange. All offer a variety of packages available, as both long-term contracts and pre-pay services. While tariff prices are competitive, some may find that less glamorous providers, such as Migros, offer better deals for those who don’t heavily rely on their mobile.

Network coverage is pretty decent across all three providers, however I’ve found that Swisscom seem to have a slight edge here, especially if you’re going up into the mountains!  Roll out of 4G capability happened early and fast so now most developed areas are within reach of blazing fast mobile data.

When it comes to the Internet, as well as the same three providers mentioned above, there are a few local options available that will be different depending on your area. In some cases, local providers can offer better speeds at lower prices than the main three. This is what we found vs Swisscom for our own TV, Internet and fixed-telephone service.



Swiss Internet speeds are very good when compared to the global average, but there are still some remoter regions that will struggle to find an affordable and fast connection.

To give an idea of pricing, we currently pay 68-75CHF per month for 50Mbit down/5Mbit up. This is faster than Swisscom could provide, as they only offered us 20Mbit down/2Mbit up for around the same price.

Most of the better plans are unlimited in terms of the amount of data you can download/upload per month. There are very few Swiss ISPs throttle speeds on bandwidth-heavy websites during peak times. This should be mentioned during the sign-up process, but if you’re not sure then ask!


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Embassies in Switzerland

Moving to Switzerland? If you’re coming from the U.S., you’ll need to go through several procedures before you can take up residence.

The most important point here is that you must already have employment lined up before you enter the country. Please be aware that anyone who finds work while visiting as a tourist will need to leave Switzerland and negotiate from the USA.

US Citizens relocating to Switzerland will need to ensure that their passport is valid, that it expires no sooner than three months before the intended departure date and that it has been issued within the last 10 years.

You’ll need to apply for long-term national visa (type D), as well as a residence permit and this can be done through the Swiss Embassy in the U.S. Permits for US citizens are reviewed on a per-case basis and will require proof of employment, usually your work contract.

Already in Switzerland? Embassies can assist in a number of ways in cases of emergency or if you need to renew your passport. There are three US Consulate buildings in Switzerland – the main Embassy in Bern and a Consulate Agency each in Zurich and Geneva. Emergency passports and visa extension pages can only be obtained at the Embassy in Bern.

All three offices are able to assist in other matters such as; voter registration, assisting with communication during emergencies, dealing with the logistics of repatriating remains and ensuring that you are receiving basic necessities if you are arrested or institutionalized.

While embassies will look to support you wherever they can, they cannot provide legal advice, a lawyer (although they may provide contact info) or financial support. If you become destitute in Switzerland, they can assist in getting you back the U.S.


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A Renter's Guide to Zurich

Renting in Switzerland can be a complicated affair for those coming into the country. We’ll quickly look at the basics to help get you started in your search for rented accommodation in Zürich.

Zürich is one of the hot spots for working expats in Switzerland. The city also happens to be one of the most expensive in the world! The average monthly rent for a one-bedroomed apartment in the city centre is a budget-busting ,770CHF per month! Rent in neighboring towns and cities is somewhat lower. In Winterthur the average one-bedroom apartment drops to ,525CHF per month.

The contract is King. Study it thoroughly before signing. It will contain everything about the apartment and the agreement between the landlord and tenant - right down to the rules of the block or house you’re sharing with your neighbours.



Remember that the Swiss are detail-orientated and they will expect the contract to be followed to the letter. A landlord, as well as your neighbours, may well get very agitated if you do not. This particularly applies to specifications about noise!

Although it can be costly, it may well be a good idea for an expat to join the local tenant’s association (Mieterverband), who may be able to offer advice and representation in case of a dispute with your landlord. Most towns and cities have one.

When you’ve agreed to rent an apartment or house, you’ll be asked to put down a deposit. This is usually equal to three months of rent, and it is sequestered in a special account that can’t be accessed by you or the landlord until you move out. At this point, you’ll be refunded the Kaution, plus interest but minus any funds the landlord requires for repairs.




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