Florastrasse 14
8008 Zürich
Published on 10.08.2023

The ultimate checklist for expats in Switzerland

Switzerland is a great destination for expats, but they face an overwhelming amount of work just to get settled in. Simplecare is here to lead you through everything you need to know to start living like a Swiss native.

Doing your research

Before making your move to Switzerland, you should go through several rounds of thorough research. To achieve a useful basic overview, form a plan regarding your career prospects and inform yourself on necessary permits, accommodations, and the high cost of living in Switzerland.

For your convenience, we have collected material on a few notable topics:

‘Living in Switzerland: Some pros and cons’
‘Find a job in Switzerland’
‘Finding a home in Switzerland’
‘This is how the education system works in Switzerland’

Residence permit

After entering Switzerland, you have a maximum of fourteen days to register at a local resident services office. When planning to remain in the country for longer than three months, you need to apply for a residence permit from the authorities in your local canton. If you are bringing a pet with you, it must have an up-to-date pet passport.

For more information regarding residence permits for EU/EFTA nationals, click here.

Finding a place to stay

As a small country, space for residential buildings is always scarce in Switzerland, and since most citizens rent their homes (up to 85% of people in some of Switzerland’s biggest city centers!), affordable housing is not easy to find. When applying for an apartment, you’ll need to keep several documents on hand, usually including a copy of your residence permit, employment contract, and payment record. Depending on the circumstances, your employer might also be able to provide temporary accommodation; furthermore, we can get you on the right track in your apartment hunt in a personal consultation.

Keep in mind that the general advice for tenants is that your rent should not exceed a third of your monthly income. This will allow you to keep a flexible budget and still manage to cope with other arising costs.

Should you find yourself struggling with the rental deposit that most landlords in Switzerland demand (often amounting to three months of rent!), you can consider rental deposit insurance as a flexible alternative.

Getting insured

Having health insurance is mandatory for all residents in Switzerland, and you need to secure it for yourself and your family within three months of arriving. If you're employed at least eight hours a week by the same employer, accident coverage is automatically included in your plan, otherwise you will have to add it to your health insurance.

Residents generally enroll in a basic healthcare plan before purchasing additional policies that offer a diverse range of benefits. It is a very competitive industry, so for a newcomer, it can be helpful to have expert advice on choosing a health insurance policy. Simplecare is here to get you on the best health insurance plan that suits your specific needs – click here to contact us now for a consultation with experts in the insurance industry.

Additionally, there are other types of insurance that are not mandated by law but are nonetheless extremely useful. Personal liability insurance and legal insurance can be acquired at very affordable rates, so consider them to protect yourself from unwanted surprises.

«In Switzerland, the cost-effectiveness ratio of private liability insurance premiums is so high that not having the coverage is almost unthinkable.»

-Evgeniy Timoshenko, Partner at

Working in Switzerland

To start off on the right foot in your life in Switzerland and manage the high cost of living, you should consider your career prospects before arriving. The country sports several thriving industries, and the recent top employment sectors for expats have been IT, finance, and healthcare.

Most people in Switzerland find work through online job portals like or If you’re unemployed, you can register with the regional employment center. Although the unemployment rate increased due to the Corona crisis, the figures are still far below the European average. As of June 2023, the rate in Switzerland is 1.9% according to the national definition.

If you’re working for an employer that isn’t located in Switzerland, make sure to inform yourself about the social contributions that fall under your responsibility.

Customs, bank accounts, communications

To import your household effects duty-free, you'll need to prove that you're changing your place of residence. This can be shown through an employment contract, tenancy agreement, or confirmation of departure in your previous country. Submit a clearance application for household effects to the customs office as well.

You'll also need a Swiss bank account. To open one, visit a bank with your residence permit/valid ID and your employment contract, if available.

Finally, before you move, notify your post office and arrange for mail forwarding. Apply for a landline and/or Internet connection for your new home. Remember that a fee is required for TV and radio usage, which is invoiced automatically by Serafe, the company responsible for collecting these fees.


Switzerland raises revenue through direct and indirect taxes. There is a tiered system where you pay several taxes to the national confederation, regional cantons, and communes. Income tax is a complex issue in every country, but when moving to Switzerland, it is advisable to seek the help of a professional tax expert for advice and assistance to help you avoid making expensive errors.

Driving in Switzerland

In Switzerland, the foreign driving license is only valid for up to one year after entry. Therefore, it is crucial to convert it within 12 months after arrival, provided it is still valid at the time of conversion. If you miss this deadline, we strongly advise against continuing to drive in Switzerland and instead rewriting your foreign driver's license as soon as possible.

The Swiss authorities also require an eye test. This is mandatory for all, and the results, which are valid for two years, must be recorded on the application form. See more information on the exact conditions regarding your driver's license.

Additionally, you are required to have basic vehicle insurance for any cars you own. This coverage does not address every single possible damage scenario on the road, so consider closing the gap with full-coverage supplementary vehicle insurance.

In case you are interested in buying a new car in Switzerland, note that Simplecare can offer you special conditions on brands such as Audi and BMW.

Getting to know the culture

Switzerland has a rich history and culture for you to dive into. And while the Swiss work a lot, they also appreciate their leisure time with outdoor activities like hiking or skiing. Large events and celebrations are also commonplace; rarely does a weekend go by without a festival or parade happening in your vicinity. More information on the culture of Switzerland can be found here :

‘What do Swiss people do in their free time?’
‘Traditions in Switzerland’

Moving abroad is a big step, but we hope that our checklist can get you started on the right path. We wish you good luck, a smooth transition and are always happy to consult you with professional advice in all matters of insurance, tax, and pension.

Find out more about the challenges that Swiss expats face in 2023.

Please contact us for a personal consultation:

locationLavaterstrasse 67, 8002 Zürich location +41 44 552 72 32 location