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Moving to Switzerland From the UK

Ashleigh Williams

Written by Reviewed by Dave Sayce

23rd May 2023 (Last updated on 13th Feb 2024) 12 minute read

Switzerland is a fantastic company to consider moving to from the UK. It’s one of the most picturesque countries in Europe thanks to its areas of natural beauty. It’s a great place to relocate if you enjoy winter sports, mountain hikes and a cooler climate in general.

Given the high quality of life in the country, it’s easy to see why over 45,000 British expats have chosen to make the move. The education system, employment options and healthcare are particularly great. This has influenced many people to make the move.

In this article, we will be discussing everything you should know before booking your removals to Switzerland.

  1. Why Are People Moving from the UK to Switzerland?
  2. Types of Swiss Visas and Permits
  3. Swiss Citizenship
  4. How to Apply for a Swiss Visa
  5. Cost of Removals to Switzerland from the UK
  6. Property Prices
  7. Work and Salary
  8. Cost of Living
  9. Education
  10. Healthcare
  11. Importing and Registering Vehicles
  12. Culture/Art
  13. Is it Worth Moving to Switzerland From the UK?
Switzerland Facts
  • Average Shipping Costs from the UK- £967
  • Swiss Population - 8.8 million
  • Currency - Swiss Franc (CHF)
  • Main Languages - Romansh, French, German and Italian
  • Number of British Expats - 45,000
  • Number of British Expats Compare My Move Have Helped to Relocate - Over 120 movers
  • Popular Cities for Expats - Zurich, Geneva, Zug, Bern, Lausanne

Why Are People Moving from the UK to Switzerland?

There are many reasons why UK nationals choose to live and work in Switzerland. While English isn’t one of Switzerland’s official languages, it’s still widely spoken by Swiss natives. It’s also taught in schools. This is useful for those looking to move who aren’t yet fluent in German, Italian, French or Romansh.

The standards of living in Switzerland are particularly high and the crime rate is one of the lowest in the world. In addition to this, their education system is fantastic and there are local and international schools to consider.

Switzerland is not short of job opportunities, especially for those looking to work in finance or the IT sector. Jobs are well-paying, which can be a deciding factor for many people looking to relocate.

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Types of Swiss Visas and Permits

With the UK’s exit from the EU, the application process for gaining a Swiss Visa and Permit since the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement has changed slightly. While Switzerland is also not part of the EU, UK citizens no longer have access to the Swiss/EU freedom of movement agreement. While it is still possible to apply, the application process is longer and contains more steps.

There are two visa types to choose from which can be issued by a Swiss representative:

Schengen Visa (Type C) - Short Stay

A Schengen Visa is for those looking to enter Switzerland for a short period. It allows for stays up to 90 days in a 180-day period. This can be for several different purposes, such as a holiday or short-term employment. If the trip is for work purposes, a work permit is also needed.

UK citizens do not currently need a Schengen Visa to visit Switzerland for less than 90 days within a 180-day period. From 2025, all UK citizens will need to register with the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS). This allows UK nationals to visit Switzerland visa-free.

National Visa (Type D) - Long Stay

To stay in Switzerland for longer than 90 days, you will need to apply for a National Visa through the Swiss Government website. There are many options to choose from depending on the purpose of your stay. This includes:

  • Study Visa
  • Work Visa
  • Family Reunification Visa
  • Retirement Visa

Swiss Residency Permits

In addition to obtaining a National Visa, you must also have a valid Residence Permit. There are several different permits you can apply for. Permit B and Permit C are the most common options for British Nationals.

  • Permit B - This allows non-EU/EFTA nationals to live and work in Switzerland on a shorter-term basis. It’s a common option for those looking to work or study in the country. This permit is valid for one year for those who aren’t EU citizens and can be renewed. EU/EFTA nationals receive this permit for 5 years.
  • Permit C - This residence permit is suited for those looking to live in Switzerland permanently. You will need to have resided in Switzerland for 10 years before you can apply for this option and become a permanent resident.

You can apply for a Residence Permit through the Cantonal Immigration and Employment Market Authorities. You will need to choose the authority in the Canton you are planning to move to.

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Swiss Citizenship

There are 3 ways to gain Swiss citizenship - through descent, adoption and naturalisation. British expats can apply for citizenship through naturalisation after meeting the necessary criteria. This includes:

  • Having lived in Switzerland for over 10 years
  • Having a valid Permanent Residence Permit (C permit)

After approval, people can then gain the right to vote in Switzerland. Swiss law allows for dual citizenship. As a result, you won’t have to renounce your British citizenship.

How to Apply for a Swiss Visa

All Swiss Visa applications need to be authorised by the Cantonal Migration Authority in the Canon you’re looking to move to. You will need to contact a Swiss representative to apply for a long-term visa. They will then schedule an appointment to guide you through the application process. This will be carried out in the Regional Consular Centre London. To book an appointment, email london.visa@eda.admin.ch.

As the process can take up to a few months to complete, you will need to send your application off in good time. An application won’t be accepted if it’s sent over 6 months before your scheduled moving date.

The documentation needed to apply for a National Visa will vary depending on the purpose of your application. Some of the documentation you will need includes, but is not limited to:

  • 3 Visa application forms
  • 3 passport photos
  • 2 copies of your valid passport (or your passport depending on the application type)
  • Visa fees
  • Marriage certificate (if required)
  • Proof of finances (if required)

The FDFA website contains additional information regarding what you need to apply for a visa and the steps to take to do this.

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Cost of Removals to Switzerland from the UK

Removals to Switzerland is a fairly straightforward process. Compare My Move’s international removal costs data displays that it will cost around £967 to ship your personal belongings. If you’re looking to use additional services including packing, this will incur an extra cost of around £250.

The total cost of shipping goods to Switzerland will vary depending on factors such as the type of shipping used and the items being shipped.

Here at Compare My Move, we can help connect you with up to 6 verified international moving companies. They are all removal experts within our extensive partner network.

For more information read: Shipping Container Costs From UK to Switzerland

Property Prices

The average house price per square meter in Swiss city centres is ₣14,462.49 (£13,121.67). Outside of the city centre house prices are ₣10,363.79 (£9,402.96) on average. In the UK, a city centre house costs an average of £4,372.17 per square meter. Outside of the city centre, property prices are £3,260.10.

To rent in Switzerland, it costs around 1,321.73 (£1,199.19) for a 1-bedroom property and 2,329.12 (£2113.19) for a 3-bedroom property. In the UK, rental prices are roughly £724.94 for a 1-bedroom property and £1,225.19 for a 3-bedroom property.

It’s important to note that the rental process in Switzerland is far more complicated compared to the UK. The process is longer, requires more documentation, and you need to be more prepared. Renting is more popular in Switzerland compared to other areas of Europe, with around 58% of people renting instead of owning a property. As a result, the rental market is competitive as there is a higher demand for properties.

*Data taken from Numbeo statistics

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Work and Salary

The average salary in Switzerland is ₣60,600 (£54,689.98). ThinkPlutus shows that the average UK salary is £25,971. While the average salary is significantly higher in Switzerland, so is the cost of living. However, workers in Switzerland pay significantly less tax compared to the UK. Therefore, they have a higher amount of disposable income.

Popular roles in Switzerland aren’t too dissimilar to the UK. The most popular roles as stated by The Expatrist include:

  • Healthcare
  • Manufacturing and production
  • Wholesale
  • Retail
  • Education

In the UK, the most popular jobs according to the 2021 census are:

  • Wholesale, retail and motor trade
  • Health and social work
  • Education
  • Construction
  • Manufacturing

There are skill shortages in Switzerland, which is an advantage if you’re qualified in these roles. Jobs in high demand according to I Am Expat include:

  • Nursing specialist
  • Electrician
  • Software Developer
  • Carpenter
  • Sales Advisor

Other skill shortages include in engineering, IT and the financial sector.

Cost of Living

You can expect to pay more for goods in Switzerland as the average cost of living is 41% more expensive compared to the UK. This is a significant difference and something to consider before moving. Switzerland is the 4th most expensive country in the world to live in. You need to be sure you can afford general living costs in addition to rent and other expenses.

Here is a comparison of the living costs in Switzerland and the United Kingdom:

Cost of Living ExamplesSwitzerlandUnited Kingdom

Public transport pass

₣80.77 (£72.90)

£68.50

Utility bills (monthly - one person)

₣131.84 (£119)

£126

Gym membership (monthly)

₣77.89 (£70.30)

£36.30

Taxi (5 miles)

₣35.12 (£31.70)

£14.40

Restaurant meal for 2 people

₣90.52 (£81.70)

£56.90

1 cinema ticket

₣18.39 (£16.60)

£10.80

Beer (0.5L)

₣2.03 (£1.83)

£1.85

Chicken Breast (1kg)

₣23.82 (£21.50)

£6.50

Cappuccino

₣4.87 (£4.40)

£3.21

* Data taken from LivingCost.Org

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Education

The education system in Switzerland is one of the best in the world. Unlike the majority of countries, Switzerland has a decentralised education system. This means that schools can amend their curriculum for their pupils. The primary language in Swiss schools will depend on the region the school is based in. Students are also taught a second national language of Switzerland.

Education is compulsory from the ages of 4-15/16 depending on the region as the age ranges vary slightly in Canton Ticino. This is very similar to the UK. Here are the stages of compulsory education:

  • Kindergarten:Age 4-6 (2 years)
  • Primarschule: Age 6-12 (6 years)
  • Lower Secondary Level: 12-15/16 (3/4 years)

Students can choose to continue their education. There are 3 options to consider and varies depending on the type of job they would like to pursue. These are:

  • Upper-secondary educational institution
  • Baccalaureate school
  • Vocational education and training (VET) school

There are many top-performing schools in Switzerland, many of which are also international schools. These include the International School of Geneva, La Côte International School and Mutuelle d-Etudes Secondaires.

While there are only 12 universities in Switzerland, they provide high-quality education. These universities include:

  • University of Zurich
  • University of Basel
  • Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich
  • University of Bern
  • University of Geneva

The UK has a total of 160 universities, and there is more choice to consider overall. Some of the most prestigious universities in the UK include:

  • University of Oxford
  • University of Cambridge
  • Imperial College London
  • The University of Edinburgh
  • King’s College London

A great advantage of Swiss universities is the lower tuition fees. As Study Portals Masters explains, university courses range between £348.96-£3,227.90 depending on the degree and course. In addition to this, international students can study in Switzerland for free if they’re part of an exchange programme. In the UK, universities cost £9,250 per year on average.

Healthcare

The Swiss healthcare system does vary quite significantly from the UK. While they have a universal healthcare system, it’s not free. Everyone living in Switzerland is required to have private healthcare insurance. British citizens need health insurance coverage within the first three months of moving to the country.

The Swiss Federal Law regulates the healthcare system. As the system isn’t subsidised like in many other countries, healthcare is typically more expensive. It can be a big change for UK citizens who are used to the NHS.

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Importing and Registering Vehicles

Before you import your car to Switzerland, you will need to add it to your shipping inventory of personal effects. This ensures it arrives through customs correctly. You will also need to have the correct documents for importing. This includes but is not limited to:

  • Customs authorisation
  • User manual
  • Registration card

Shipping a car can be expensive and will incur additional costs on top of shipping any household goods. When registering your vehicle, it will need to have a technical inspection conducted to ensure it can be driven in the country.

When driving in Switzerland, you can use your existing driving licence and number plates for one year. After this time, they will need to be exchanged for a Swiss driving licence and number plates to continue driving. You are also required to pay for a Swiss Motorway Vignette sticker. This costs around ₣40 (£36.15) a year. This allows you to use the motorway.

Culture/Art

Switzerland has a varied culture due to it having 26 separate regions that are known as Cantons. These Cantons have different cultural influences based on the language spoken and the location. It’s a diverse and welcoming nation of people.

Skiing and winter sports are particularly popular, especially in the mountainous regions. Switzerland is also well known for its cheese and chocolate. Mountaineering is also popular in the country.

Swiss folk music is popular, and Yodeling and the Alphorn contribute to this. There are several dates celebrated in Swiss culture, such as Swiss National Day and Ascension Day. This involves meditation, long walks and sermons.

There are many areas of outstanding beauty in Switzerland. This includes Lake Geneva, The Swiss Alps and Rhine Falls. In terms of art, wood carving and embroidery are popular past times.

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Is it Worth Moving to Switzerland From the UK?

If you’re looking for a higher quality of life in general, moving to Switzerland could be the better option for you. While the country is more eco-friendly and taxes are lower than in the UK, the renting process is more complicated and the cost of living is higher.

Here are some of the pros and cons of Switzerland to consider before relocating:

Pros:

  • The healthcare system in Switzerland is strong
  • It has a stable democracy
  • Switzerland is one of the cleanest countries in the world to live
  • It is a multicultural nation
  • Switzerland is known to be a safe country to live in
  • Many areas of natural beauty
  • Fantastic education system
  • Great work opportunities
  • Lower taxes compared to the UK

Cons:

  • Switzerland is a particularly expensive country to live in
  • The climate is far colder compared to the UK
  • The predominant language will vary depending on the area of Switzerland you live
  • Renting in Switzerland is more complicated compared to the UK
  • Bank charges are more common in Switzerland

All costs listed in this article are correct at the time of writing. Costs may vary slightly and this is just an estimated number.

Ashleigh Williams

Having written book reviews and content for For The Love of Books for over five years, Ashleigh now creates advice articles for Compare My Move, focusing on all things home-related.

Dave Sayce

Reviewed by Dave Sayce

Owner & Managing Director, Compare My Move

Dave Sayce is the owner and managing director of Compare My Move and has over 10 years of experience in the house removals industry.

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