How To Move To Switzerland - The complete guide!

Find A Job

Switzerland is a popular place for expats to find work, particularly those who are highly skilled; almost 50% of all executive jobs in the country are filled by foreigners. The country’s appeal is largely due to high salaries and a generally high standard of living. Consequently, competition for jobs is fierce, and opportunities are even more limited for those coming from outside the European Union (EU) or European Free Trade Association (EFTA).

However, finding a job in Switzerland is possible, especially if you can fill a skills shortage or speak one of the country’s three national languages.

Despite its small size, Switzerland is host to a predominantly highly-skilled workforce, specialising particularly in the engineering and technology sectors. Additionally, the country is one of the world’s biggest centres of finance. So, for skilled workers, there are regularly jobs available in:

• Engineering
• Technology
• Pharmaceuticals
• Consulting
• Banking
• Insurance
• I.T.
• Finance

Multi-national companies provide many jobs to English-speakers, which can be a positive for expats from the UK. Switzerland is home to some huge multi-nationals, including:

• Nestle
• Zurich Insurance
• Roche
• Adecco
• Credit Suisse

Other large organisations also based in Switzerland include the United Nations, the World Trade Organisation, and the International Red Cross, all of whom hire expats with various language skills.

 

Job Vacancies

You can search for jobs in Switzerland via the standard methods – online, in newspapers, by networking, and by sending speculative applications. For most of these, you will need to send a CV and cover letter as part of your application.

Where possible, write your CV and cover letter in the language of the advert or that of the company you are applying to. If you are writing in an unfamiliar foreign language, ask a native to read your application before sending it, to check for grammatical errors.

Your CV may be as long as three sides of A4 but will ideally be limited to two sides. Keep your work history and experience relevant to the position you are applying for. Ensure your spelling and grammar is of a high standard as Swiss employers look dimly upon poorly written applications. It is not unusual to be asked to include a photo with an application.

If your application requires a cover letter, it should be written in a formal style and kept brief. Include your name and address at the top, followed by the details of the company you are applying to. Next, in bold, should be the position you are applying for. The rest of the missive should aim to convince the recipient that you are the ideal candidate for the job, though you should resist bragging and always be truthful.

 

Applying For A Job

Once you make it to interview stage, you should prepare by researching the company. Your prospective boss will usually be at the interview and may ask many of the questions. Dress formally to make the best first impression, be punctual and greet your interviewer(s) with a firm handshake; additionally, maintain good eye contact. Only sit when invited to do so and address your interviewers formally, using last names.

The Swiss are a conservative nation, and this is reflected in their business culture. They tend to appreciate punctuality and a sense of responsibility, among other attributes. Due to the layout of the country, some companies are based in German regions of Switzerland, whilst others are in Italian or French regions, and this can have an impact upon how they are run. Typically, companies in the Italian and French areas tend to be governed in a more laid-back style than those in the German regions.

Switzerland is not part of the EU but individuals from countries which are part of the EU may move to Switzerland without a visa and work without a permit. If you’re planning a long-term stay (more than three months), you will, however, need to register for a residence permit.

For citizens of countries outside the EU, relocating to the country is altogether more difficult as there are strict quotas on expat jobs in Switzerland. Employers are required to prove that the vacancy cannot be filled by a local and work permits are generally limited to managers, specialists and other highly-skilled workers.

Due to the nature of securing jobs in Switzerland as a non-EU citizen (the employer must apply to the relevant authorities and contact the Swiss embassy for approval before a job offer can be made) and the timeframe involved, most roles are filled by EU citizens where possible.

Switzerland has three national languages: German-Swiss, French, and Italian. German-Swiss is the most widely-spoken of the three, particularly in the central and eastern areas of the country. French is spoken mostly in the west, and Italian in the south. English is often spoken in the workplace, and most natives will be able to at least converse in the language, but it would give jobseekers an advantage to also know at least one of the national languages prior to applying for jobs.

If you are looking to move to Switzerland to work in a profession such as teaching, medicine, technology, law or social work, you will need to have your qualifications officially recognised before you can apply for jobs, even if you are an EU or EEA citizen. To do this, you will need to contact the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI).

 

Apply For A Visa/Permit

Switzerland, with its famous chocolate and beautiful scenery, is a popular destination among tourists and expats alike. Depending on your nationality, you may need a visa to travel there. This article will walk you through what types of visa are available, based on why you are visiting and how long you intend to stay. It will also describe how to apply for a work permit and residency.

 

Visas

Switzerland isn’t a member of the European Union (EU), but it is a member of the European Free Trade Agreement (EFTA) and the Schengen Zone.

Therefore, if you have a Schengen visa, you do not need a separate visa to enter Switzerland, so long as your stay is less than 90 days and doesn’t include work.

To determine whether you need a visa to travel to Switzerland, you can enter your country of residency into their online visa system.

There are several non-Schengen visas available.

Airport transit visa

This visa allows you to travel to Switzerland for the purpose of air travel. To apply, you should fill out the appropriate form, and then take the following documents with you to your local consulate.

• Two recent passport photos
• Your passport, which should have at least two blank visa pages
• A copy of your flight registration

The application fee is $88 for adults (12+ years of age), $44 for children (six to 11 years of age), and free for children under six.

Schengen visa for business purposes

If your trip to Switzerland is for business, you’ll need a Schengen visa, along with an invitation letter from the Swiss company you’ll be visiting, a certificate from your employer approving your business travel, and business bank statements for six months. Either the Swiss company or your employer must clarify that they are paying your expenses during your stay in the Schengen Zone.

Schengen visa for medical purposes

For this visa, you’ll need a local medical report and medical attestation from your Swiss doctor, confirming the date of your medical appointment, as well as an overview of your case.

National visa for a stay of more than 90 days

If you wish to apply for a long-term visa, which can be used for purposes such as study or family reunification, you will need to fill out the appropriate. You will also need four recent passport photos and two copies of your passport.

If you are a student, you will also need:

• Two copies of proof of registration at the school or university in Switzerland – this should specify what language your course will be in
• Two copies of confirmation of paid student fees
• Two copies of your financial income and assets, as well as bank statements
• Two copies of previous diplomas
• Two copies of your resume
• Two copies of a brief essay on your future plans.

If you are applying in order to study in Switzerland, the application is free of charge.

After your application has been authorised, you will need to go to the consulate with your passport, where they will process your visa.

For family reunion visas, including for foreign spouses and children of Swiss or EU/EFTA nationals, additional requirements include:

• Two copies of your spouse or parent’s passport
• Two notarised copies of a marriage certificate or birth certificate
• Proof of language competency (A1) in the language spoken at your future place of residence, or confirmation of enrollment in a language course

There is also a fee of $88 for adults and $44 for children of non-Swiss or EU/EFTA nationals.

After the canton of your planned residency reviews and authorises your visa, which can take eight to 10 weeks, you will need to submit your passport and your approval to your consulate.

Work visa

Work visas for Switzerland are granted only after you’ve been granted a work permit through your employer and the specific cantonal authorities. Once you have that authorisation, you’ll need your passport and a copy of it, a recent photograph, and the $88 visa fee, to apply for your entry work visa.

 

Work Permits

EU or EFTA citizens should have a fairly easy time being approved for a Swiss work permit. If you are a citizen from another country, you must prove that you are a skilled and qualified worker, with a university degree and specific expertise, and that there is a job waiting for you that no EU or EFTA citizen could do.

Once you have that job, your employer will apply for your work and residency permit at the local cantonal office in Switzerland. There is only one type of permit in Switzerland, a residency permit that allows you to work. With your permit and your work entry visa, you can then enter Switzerland, where you have 14 days to register at the Residents’ Registry Office.

 

Residency

Work and residency permits are one and the same in Switzerland. The different options include:

Permit L: This short-term residence permit allows for a stay of up to one year in Switzerland, tied to an employment contract. In exceptional cases, it can be extended for a further year, but no more.

Permit B: This permit is valid for one year initially, but can be extended annually, so long as you remain living in the same canton.

Permit C: This settlement permit is for those who have been living for 10 continuous years in Switzerland and want to apply for permanent residence. If you are from the US or Canada, you only need to have been living there for five years.

 

Get Health Insurance

Many expats take out private medical insurance, even if this is not a requirement of residence, because healthcare is expensive in their destination country or because certain treatments and procedures are not available.

When taking out health insurance, be sure to check factors such as the annual and lifetime policy limits, whether there are any exclusions which are likely to affect you, whether you are limited to treatment from specific types of healthcare providers, and whether the policy covers emergency evacuation for medical treatment.

Too frequently, potential buyers of health insurance look only for the lowest cost of premiums before really considering the specific benefits and areas of cover they may actually need. Some plans are cheaper for a reason. Often they include large voluntary deductibles on any claim you might make in the future and may severely cap the benefits received under the plan. Clients should define their needs first, establish the particular area of cover they need, then determine their annual healthcare insurance budget. Only then should they look to premium comparisons, last of all.

Do not buy a plan without studying the policy wording carefully. If in doubt, ask, and only when completely satisfied complete all application forms fully, to the best of your ability.

Important questions to ask the insurance provider:

1. Does the plan allow for cooling off periods, cancellation and then repayment of premium in full?

2. Does the plan offer “Moratorium” or is it “Full underwriting” and do you need to have a medical examination before joining?

3. Does the insurer offer a 24 hour help line, 7 days a week, available from anywhere in the world (freephone)? Most insurers now offer this facility.

4. Are pre-existing conditions excluded when joining and if so, for how long are such conditions excluded?

5. Are all and any nationalities accepted or are there restrictions which apply to local nationals? Some insurers will only take expatriates abroad and not local nationals into an overseas plan.

6. Does the plan allow you to continue cover unbroken through your lifetime? In most cases insurers will continue to offer existing clients cover year on year, irrespective of age or claims history, although premium rates charged can increase dramatically with age.

7. Does the insurer allow for any doctor or consultant or hospital within the plan? Are there any restrictions in this respect? Most international plans do not place restrictions on either hospitals or doctors, but almost all demand that their help lines are called first, prior to approval of any inpatient care.

8. Does the insurer provide for the direct settlement of bills presented by hospitals worldwide, regardless of location (or do you have to pay first)?

9. What are the insurers procedures for outpatient claims? Do these require any pre-authorization or if stated in the plan can you just pay and claim? How long before you get money back from the insurer? 14 days? 28 days?.

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Rent Or Buy Property

 

Renting Property

Accommodation in Switzerland is typically of a very high standard, and most apartments (even those in city centres) have communal green spaces for residents. Community is still very much a thing in Switzerland, even in apartment blocks, so expect your neighbours to stop by and introduce themselves!

Over 60% of the population rent their homes, which often means (particularly in larger towns and cities) that there is a shortage of properties available. It also means that the rental market in Switzerland is highly competitive and that you have to move quickly in order to secure somewhere.

The process of renting in Switzerland may be a little different from what you are used to. Once you have found a place that you’re interested in, you will need to submit an expression of interest to the landlord, along with any requested documents, such as copies of your identification and proof of your earnings. You may also need to fill out some forms and/or questionnaires.

The majority of properties in Switzerland are offered unfurnished. Usually, an unfurnished apartment will not even have carpets, appliances, or fixtures, so make sure you clarify what is included. You may view the property while it’s furnished, but the current tenants will likely be required to take their furnishings with them when they leave.

Generally speaking, Swiss law is pro-tenant. Legally, a rental agreement in Switzerland does not have to come in the form of a written contract to be binding, although it is always a good idea to have one written down. Swiss rental contracts tend to follow a standard format.

The standard format is widely used but not mandatory. Any templates can be used, so long as they cover key information, such as details of the property, the parties of the agreement and their identification details (and signatures), the deposit paid, the amount of rent and when payment is due, and information on any utilities or other tenant responsibilities. Rental deposits in Switzerland are capped at the equivalent of three months’ rent. Deposits will be held by the landlord or their agent until the tenancy is terminated.

There are plenty of popular websites that people use to find rentals in Switzerland, such as:

Homegate.ch
Immoscout24.ch
Immobilier.ch
Home.ch
Immostreet.ch
Immowelt.ch

Rent in Switzerland is higher than in other European countries, such as the United Kingdom. Rent in Switzerland is, on average, 78.77% higher than in the UK. According to data statistic website Numbeo, the average monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Switzerland (in a central city location) is around 1,518.93 CHF (Swiss Francs). This is roughly equivalent to £1,266.95 or $1,574.83. An apartment of the same size in a less central location would cost closer to 1,168.92 CHF (£974.92 or $1,211.83).

There is nothing specific for expatriates to worry about when it comes to renting property in Switzerland. However, it’s important to note that you should never hand over cash as a deposit (even if this is requested by your landlord). Always use a bank transfer as a method of payment, whether for a deposit or for rent.

 

Buying Property

Switzerland has various restrictions in place on foreigners buying property, so whether you are able to purchase real estate in the country will depend on a number of factors. For example, you can buy property in Switzerland if you are an EU or EFTA national with a Swiss residence permit (who also resides in Switzerland full-time), or if you hold a Swiss C permit.

Foreigners from third states (not EU or EFTA) residing in Switzerland who do not hold a C permit may buy a single-family house or an owner-occupied flat in their actual place of residence without having to obtain authorisation. If you hold a Swiss B permit, you may also purchase a property, but only to live in.

Those who fall outside of these categories may either not be allowed to purchase property or may have to apply for a license in order to purchase. Licensing criteria varies from one region to the next, but typically favours applicants purchasing a primary residence, who have been settled in the region for at least five years or more.

The process of buying a property in Switzerland is not a quick one. In fact, in some cases, it can take three months or longer. Before you even start to view properties, you should find a mortgage provider, so that you know what your budget is going to be. Once you know how much you can spend, you can begin to view properties. Once you have found a property that you like, you will need to make an offer. Most expats use an estate agent throughout the buying process, and they will deal with placing your offer for you.

Before placing an offer, it may be a good idea to get a property survey done. Getting a survey of the property done is not so commonplace in Switzerland as it is in other countries. However, the seller is not legally obligated to notify you of any issues (structurally speaking), so having a survey conducted may be a good idea.

If your offer is accepted, you may need to pay a deposit at this stage. If so, this will be held in escrow by a notary, but you will still need a written agreement or preliminary contract covering the circumstances in which the deposit will be forfeited or returned. You will also need to inform your mortgage provider that your offer has been successful, and you should complete any remaining paperwork with them. They will then inform the notary that the method of payment is arranged, and the sale can go ahead.

To complete the sale, you and the seller will need to sign the paperwork to transfer the deed title, which will need to be filed with the land registry office. You should factor the costs for these services into your overall budget. For example, it would be wise to budget around 5% of the purchase price for the notary’s fees. This will include the notary’s own fees (ranging from 0.2% to 1%) and the property transfer tax (which varies from region to region, but is usually between 0% and 3.3%).

There is another additional cost, which is for registering the deed (this is around 1% to 1.5%), but in some regions of the country this cost is split between the buyer and the seller. Also, in Switzerland, you may have to pay annual service charges, and these can apply to detached houses, as well as to apartments. These are usually for things like car parks, boat docks, and private roads.

The majority of Swiss real estate is listed online through various estate agents and property portals. Property listings can also be found in all of the main newspapers.

Some of the main online property portals include:

Homegate
ImmoStreet
ImmoScout24
UMS Temporary Housing

Websites for finding a local real estate agency are:

Swiss Real Estate Association
Swiss Union of Real Estate Professionals

Mortgage rates in Switzerland have been up and down for the last few years, and despite some uplift throughout 2018, the rates fell again in early 2019, with average five-year rates dropping to 1% and 10-year rates at just 1.35%. Mortgages in Switzerland can be arranged directly with lenders or through mortgage brokers.

The purpose of a mortgage broker is to mediate negotiations between the seller and the lender. They can also, if required, sign the contract on the client’s behalf. When you apply, the mortgage provider will assess the value of the property you are considering and decide whether to offer you a mortgage. A 20% deposit is typically the minimum required, including at least 10% of that amount in cash; the other 10% can be arranged using your pension fund.

 

Move Your Belongings

Consider if you want (or are able) to transport your belongings yourself or whether you will need the services of a removals company that deals with international moves. Unless you are travelling very light, or making a fairly short move by road, you will probably need professional help to ship your possessions. Ask for quotes from several companies first, ensuring that they visit your home to carry out a survey of your requirements. It may be worth paying extra for the removals firm to pack your possessions for you, particularly if they are going to be transported to a distant country and need special protection for the long journey. Make sure you bring to their attention anything fragile or precious that needs particularly careful wrapping and packing.

Before agreeing to a quotation, ensure that you are fully aware of exactly what is covered in the price, and that the service to be provided meets all of your requirements. For example, does the service include both packing and unpacking of your household effects? What about disassembling and reassembling of furniture? If you are planning to put anything into storage in your destination country while you find accommodation, does the price include final delivery and unpacking at your home, or will you need to arrange collection of the items? Obtain a firm estimate of the likely arrival date of your items and obtain contact details for any agents that will be dealing with the removal in your destination country. Ensure that the removals company is aware in advance of any practical considerations such as the lack of an elevator to your apartment, or likely parking problems.

If using a removals company, you may be required to take out their insurance cover for your possessions. Whether or not this is the case, ensure that you have adequate insurance for anything of actual or sentimental value that could get lost or damaged during the move. Take the time to accurately complete or check an inventory of your possessions to be moved, as this will form the basis for any insurance claim for losses or damages. Find out if insurance is included in the price quoted by the removals company, or whether you are required to pay extra for this.

The removals company should arrange any customs and importation documents on your behalf, but if you are arranging the move independently you will need to find out what documents are required and what import duties and taxes are payable (and whether you are eligible for exemption from these).

Make sure that you set aside the important documents you will need for the journey, such as passports and air tickets, and keep these easily accessible in your hand luggage.

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Register For Healthcare

QUICK LINK: Switzerland health insurance

State health insurance in Switzerland is funded according to cantons, rather than by national social insurance contributions. As an expat, you will need to register with the system within three months of arriving in the country. Unless you are exempt (if you are a student, for example, or a cross-border worker) you will be automatically signed up to a provider, possibly at a higher premium, if you do not register yourself.

Since health insurance varies from canton to canton, there is no centralised system in operation. In some regions your insurance company will pay your healthcare provider and send you a bill for 10% of the cost. In others, you will need to pay out of pocket and claim 90% of the cost back from your insurance company.

You are responsible for registering with the Swiss health insurance system. You will need to register for a Swiss residence permit first, or sign up with your local commune.

You can then choose which local health insurer you would like to register with, and ask for a registration form. You will need to send them your visa or residence permit; your passport; and proof of your address along with the form.

Once you are registered, deductions will be taken directly out of your salary.

Insurers are not allowed to turn any applicant down.

 

Open A Bank Account

Switzerland is known for its banks, just as much as for its cheeses and chocolate. Not only are there hundreds to choose from, but they are known as the safest in the world. The buildings are usually large and modern and the customer services can be easily found in English.

The main local banks are UBS, Crédit Suisse, Raiffeisen Bank, PostFinance and cantonal banks (Kantonalbanks) – banks specific to each canton and available only for residents of that canton.

UBS and Crédit Suisse are the biggest in the country, however are chosen less often by expats, due to high service fees. PostFinance is the banking service provided by Swiss Post. It is considered very expat-friendly as the fees are quite low, usage of ATMs is free of charge and any post office works as a branch. You can also find international banks in Switzerland, many from the US – like Citibank, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase or State Street Corporation and the UK – such as Barclays, IG Bank, HSBC or Lloyds Bank. These banks offer international accounts which can be opened in different currencies and might be a good solution if you need a bank account prior to moving.

The accounts available in the aforementioned banks are usually personal current accounts for managing payments and finances, regular savings accounts and special savings accounts for young people and for retirement purposes, time deposits and investment funds. Current accounts are available in several different currencies, usually in Swiss francs, US dollars, British pounds or euros. Personal accounts are provided in Swiss francs, however there is an option of opening an additional account in euros. PostFinance bank allows the opening of private accounts in other foreign currencies and special accounts for children and their guardians. Special options for students can be free of any fees. All mentioned accounts have internet banking services available.

To open an account, you will need to prove your identity with a passport, present your visa or residence permit and a recent bill. You will also need a residential address; if you don’t have one you might be asked to deposit a sum of money or a reference letter to prove your accountability. If you’re not a resident yet, you might find it harder to open an account. It is possible though in the biggest banks like UBS or Crédit Suisse that you will need to deposit a certain sum of money – usually over 50 000 Swiss francs to open an account. Almost all of the banks have the possibility of creating an account online. After you register, the bank sends you your documents and you just need to go to the bank to verify all the necessary things mentioned above.

Banks are usually open from Monday to Friday, from 08:00 to 16:30. Some banks are open even later and during the weekend. Smaller banks might close during the lunch break. In big cities you might be able to find 24 hour service centres where you can exchange currencies, withdraw money, buy travellers’ cheques and make money transfers.

Debit and credit cards like Visa and MasterCard are accepted almost everywhere. You can pay with them in shops and restaurants. It is rare that somewhere doesn’t accept payments by card, but there are numerous ATMs everywhere so you won’t have to worry about withdrawing cash. It is worth noting that some merchants will charge you additional fees for using credit cards, while debit cards won’t be charged at all. To make sure you don’t need to pay additional fees, ask the merchant about it before paying. When it comes to applying for a card, many accounts will have the option of a free debit or credit card, while others will require a small fee or regular payments into the account. To obtain a credit card, a security deposit is needed of approximately one to two times the monthly credit limit; the amount depends on the bank. This deposit is returned once the customer has discontinued the credit card and paid all the outstanding bills. Be careful when paying abroad with your Swiss credit card as it will be charged with additional fees and exchange rates will be unfavourable. In these situations it is always safer to withdraw cash from an ATM.

To get a loan in Switzerland you have to meet many criteria set by lenders. This usually includes a specific age; you have to be over 18 years old. Sometimes there is also a maximum age. Loans are available for expats for the benefit of buying a property. There will have to be some part paid as a deposit though, usually about 20% of the payment, and the mortgage agent will make a valuation of the property, so only this amount will be given to you. The most affordable loans are the low cost ones. The rule is, the shorter the terms of payment and the lower the loan, the more affordable it is. The interest rates will vary between 4.5% and 10% per annum. An overdraft is common with credit cards and can be assigned from the very beginning with a limit of up to a few thousand Swiss francs. Don’t be surprised if you get an overdraft even if you didn’t apply in the first place.

 

Transfer Money

There are many ways of sending money from one country to another. As always, expats can save themselves a lot of trouble and expense if they do a little research and shop around for the best deal.

International Bank Transfers

For most expats, currency transfer involves transferring small to medium sized amounts regularly from an existing bank account back home into a new overseas bank account in the local currency. These may be pension payments, benefits, or any other form of income.

Your home bank will usually be glad to oblige. You can set up facilities with them “on demand” whereby you fax or call them on the phone, provide a secret code or two, tell them the amount in question, and they will transfer it to your new bank, automatically converting it into the relevant local currency. Some banks also allow you to make international payments online. Whatever method you choose, transfers normally take between 3-7 days although 1-2 day transfers are often available but be prepared to pay more for these.

You can also set up regular transactions that are processed automatically on a fixed day of each month. Many state pensions and benefits can be paid directly into your new bank abroad without going through your home bank at all. Some private pension organisations may also offer the same facility.

When you first set up a transfer of funds abroad, the sending bank or institution will ask you for various codes that identify the destination bank. Often they will ask for IBAN (International Bank Account Number), BIC (Bank Identifier Code) or SWIFT codes but don?t panic – your new bank will give these to you and they may even already be listed in your new chequebook or bank statements.

As far as charges are concerned, you will probably be required to pay a flat fee per transaction. Additionally a percentage fee is often charged for the currency conversion itself. You may also find that your receiving bank charges you for receiving the transfer. Charges vary by bank but can quickly add up – ask your bank(s) for an indication of the fees involved.

As a general rule, transferring larger sums less frequently usually works out cheaper than transferring smaller amounts more often. However, if you need to transfer regular amounts of at least a few hundred pounds/dollars or need to make a larger one-off payment (e.g. for a house purchase) you should consider the services of a currency broker.

Cash Machine/ATM Withdrawals

Thanks to modern technology, most people abroad can go to a cash machine/ATM and withdraw local currency funds directly from their home bank account. This is a useful option to have for expats but exercise caution – many banks make hefty charges for using this type of facility. You may also find that withdrawal limits are in place (as a security measure) even if you significant funds in your account back home.

You can also use VISA or Mastercard credit cards to obtain cash in this fashion and if you pay the amount off quickly and avoid interest charges then fine – but once again credit card charges for cash withdrawals can be high. Check the rates carefully.

Currency Brokers

Currency brokers (also called foreign exchange brokers) offer significant advantages over traditional banks. Firstly, brokers will often be able to offer you a better rate than your bank. Secondly, the entire process is more transparent – many banks require you to accept the exchange rate available on the day they process your transaction, whatever and whenever that may be, but a specialist broker will offer greater flexibility, even allowing you to specify the rate you want in advance.

Currency brokers are smaller companies than major banks so always check their background carefully. Ask existing expats for their own experiences and recommendations before choosing a firm to handle your own foreign exchange requirements.

A good broker will discuss all the options with you and enable you to make the best decision for your circumstances. Using a broker will typically off the following advantages:

1) Currency brokers generally provide superior exchange rates to the high street banks. The currency brokers have access to the interbank rate and do not have the high costs that the banks have. This means that they can usually offer better exchange rates.

2) Use of a free Market Watch/Order Service: This allows you to tell your currency broker your target or budget exchange rate and they will ring you if that exchange rate level is reached. As the rate moves every few seconds, currency brokers can act as your eyes and ears on the market.

3) Ability to fix the exchange rate in advance using a Forward Contract. If you know you need to convert/move funds in the future but don?t yet have the money you can reserve a rate in advance using a Forward Contract. During this period, you are exposed to exchange rate movements and therefore, a forward contract is ideal if, for example, you have agreed to buy a house and want to fix the rate now but will not be making payment for a couple of months.

Savings from currency brokers can vary from between 1 and 4 per cent on the exchange rate alone, and specialists do not typically charge any fees for transmitting the funds abroad, unlike banks which often levy expensive fees or charges. If you are emigrating and transferring a large sum of money – such as the proceeds of a property – a foreign exchange company could potentially save you thousands.

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Learn The Language

Switzerland is rich in wealth, scenery and language. If you are moving here, you may be aware that there are several languages spoken in Switzerland. What are these languages, and will you need to learn any of them in order to navigate life in Switzerland? We will look at some of your options below.

Switzerland has four national languages:

• German
• French
• Italian
• Romansh

These are regional languages and you will find yourself engaging with them to different degrees, depending on where you are going to be based.

Swiss German or Schwyzerdütsch: around 60% of the Swiss population speak this. It is spoken in the north, centre and east of the country. This is a group of Alemannic dialects related to German, but with significant differences to the standard German currently spoken in Germany. Speakers of Swiss German are proud of the differences in dialect across the regions in which it is spoken. There is no universal written form encompassing all these dialects and they are written in standard German. More formal communication is usually conducted in standard German, too.

Swiss French: this is spoken by around 20% of the population, mainly in the western regions of the country. Geneva or Lausanne are two of the cities in which French is spoken. The differences between standard French and Swiss French are less marked than those between Swiss German and standard German.

Swiss Italian: around 350,000 people speak this language, in regions where Switzerland borders Italy. Dialects here are influenced by Lombardian dialects, but people who speak standard Italian and those who speak Swiss Italian will find it easy enough to understand each other.

Romansh: finally there is Romansh, a Romance language from the more mountainous regions which has survived in pockets, mainly in the south-eastern canton of Grisons. It in turn has five dialects, although it is only spoken by about 37,000 people.

Cantons such as Bern, Valais, and Fribourg are officially bilingual between French and German. Grisons is officially recognized as being trilingual between Italian, German and Romansh.

Thus it can be seen that Switzerland is a truly multilingual nation. But where does English fit into all of this? Switzerland is also multinational: famous for its importance to the financial sector. English is spoken quite widely and it is estimated that around ⅔ of the Swiss population speak at least some English, although fluency may vary, particularly in rural districts, and among older people. Your workplace language may well be English, but French and German are likely to play a large role as well. In cities such as Bern, Basel and Geneva, you should have few issues with communication.

Expat residents report that English is most widely spoken in German-speaking cantons (you will find some fluent English spoken in Zurich, for instance), then French, and finally is least well spoken in Swiss Italian regions.

You may wish to learn more of the language of your region, however, and you will find provision for doing so. It is up to you whether you learn Swiss German, which is quite specific to Switzerland, or opt for standard German which you will be able to use more widely and in which you will be able to communicate across Switzerland itself. You will not have quite such an issue with Swiss French or Swiss Italian. However, given the number of Germans in Switzerland, standard German might be your best option. Once you have the basics, you can start incorporating Swiss German into your language use.

You will find a number of language schools in cities such as Zurich, which offer German at all levels from elementary to advanced, and for various purposes, such as business German.

Integrationsförderung Zürich and Integrationsförderung Winterthur provide lists with available language classes in Zürich and Winterthur. These are state-funded courses with an aim of integration for newcomers into Switzerland.

Geneva, Lausanne, Neuchâtel and Montreux all have French tuition available, either in private language schools or one-to-one tuition.

Lugano, among other Italian-speaking areas, also offers Italian language training.

There is a demand for English teachers in the country but due to the proficiency of the Swiss in English, it is a relatively small market and highly competitive. If you wish to teach privately you will need to sign up with the English Teachers’ Association Switzerland (ETAS), but otherwise can apply for work in language schools. It is always easier to get work in international education if you have at least a certificate in either TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) or TESOL (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages).

It is also preferable if you have experience in teaching schemes such as the Cambridge English exams or IELTS (International English Language Testing System): the English test for study, migration or work. Some teaching experience in the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) will also be helpful. This assesses analytical, writing, quantitative, verbal, and reading skills in written English for use in admission to graduate management programs, such as the MBA. You may also find work more easily if you are experienced in teaching English for particular sectors, such as tourism and hospitality, or in summer schools.

It will also be helpful to have at least a Bachelor’s degree as most language schools require this: basically, the rule of thumb is that the more qualifications you have, both in TEFL and in academic subjects, the easier you will find it to get work. An average monthly salary is quoted at around £2175.

 

Choose A School

Switzerland has four national languages: German, French, Italian, and Romansh: you will find a dominant language depending on which region you are based in, and this will be used within the educational system.

Education in the country is free and compulsory for a duration of 9 or 11 years (education is organised by individual cantons). It includes:

• primary education (Primarschule in German, école primaire in French, scuola primaria / elementare in Italian and scola primara in Romansh)
• secondary education I (Sekundarschule or Sekundarstufe I in German, secondaire I in French, scuola secondaria / media in Italian and scola secundar in Romansh)

Pupils can also undertake a Berufslehre (apprenticeship), taking two to four years.

There are various types of secondary education:

• secondary schools of maths and science (Mathematisches und Naturwissenschaftliches Gymnasium). These will also teach German and two foreign languages as well (often French and English or Italian)
• secondary schools of modern language: (Neusprachliches Gymnasium) which emphasis modern languages (for example, German, Italian, French and English) but will include some maths and science
• secondary schools of ancient languages (Altsprachliches Gymnasium): the focus is on Latin plus at least two other languages, such as ancient Greek, and includes maths and science subjects as well
• secondary schools of economics (Wirtschaftsgymnasium)

You may also find secondary education with different specialisations such as art and music (Musisches Gymnasium) or sports (Sportgymnasium).

Secondary education is of a duration of six and a half or four and a half years and leads to the federal graduation diploma (Eidgenössische Matura) for university access.

Upper secondary school (Fachmittelschule) also leads to a graduation diploma.

The school year is decided by individual cantons.

According to various international educational rankings, Switzerland has one of the best educational systems in the world. The World Economic Forum’s Human Capital Report says that Swiss pupils benefit from the very high quality of its primary schools and of the education system as a whole, and also from a strong rate of vocational training and high level of skill diversity.

The language of instruction will be the language of the region in which the school is situated. This may not suit all expat families: if you are going to be resident for only a short period of time in the country, and will be returning to school your child in your home nation, then you may wish to opt for private English-language education. A number of private schools (as opposed to international schools) in Switzerland will be bilingual, for instance in English and French. This is ideal if you want your child to grow up to be bilingual.

You will find a range of international schools in the country, teaching a variety of curricula from the British national curriculum, to the International Baccalaureate and American syllabi, among others: the Collège du Léman, for instance, offers bilingual instruction in French and English and offers five international diplomas: curricula include the IB and the American diploma (fees per year are between US$23K – 37K).

As another example, the Geneva English School offers a British curriculum to both boys and girls from the ages of 3-18, culminating in A Levels. Fees range from US$22K – 33K per annum.

The Institut International de Lancy, also in Geneva, teaches in English and French, and offers IGCSEs and IB programmes. Fees per year range from US$18K – 28K.

The British School of Geneva also offers tuition for IGCSE/A Level and teaches in English. Fees are between US$19K – 25K per annum.

The International School of Geneva offers an IB curriculum in English and French, to pupils from the ages of 3-18. Fees are between US$20K – 36K per year. Similarly Lemania College Lausanne offers the IB, but at secondary level from 15 – 18. Its fees are between US$20K – 30K annually.

Also in Lausanne is the Institute Monte Rosa, which is a boarding facility offering an American/International curriculum for pupils from 9-18. Annual fees here are around US$69K.

St George’s International School in Lausanne offers a British curriculum and the IB for ages 3- 18 and charges around US$29K – 44K per year.

The International School of Lausanne, founded in 1962, is a non-profit, English language, IB World School in Le Mont-sur-Lausanne. Fees are US$27K – 39K per year.

Some Swiss schools in the private sector may have a religious orientation (for instance, Catholicism) and you will also find alternative educational systems such as Montessori.

You may find that you need to make one-off or regular payments such as capitalisation fees or enrolment fees: these can vary considerably between establishments so do check with the school and make sure that you are aware of what you are paying. You may be able to pay in termly instalments. Check if there are any sibling reductions.

Enrolment policies will vary from school to school, but your child may be asked to take a proficiency test (for example in English or maths). Some schools do not impose entry tests. You can also check the accreditation of your selected school: for instance, with organisations such as COBIS (the Council of British International Schools).

Homeschooling is possible in the country and has been becoming more popular in recent years. However, it is subject to the regulations of the local canton and may be tied heavily into the Swiss curriculum: it therefore may also have to be conducted in the language of your particular region.

 

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