Moving to Switzerland
Moving to another country is exciting but, with the many formalities involved, can also seem daunting. This chapter explains what to expect when you come to Basel to visit, work, or live long-term.
Before You Arrive
The local Swiss consulate or embassy in your country will be pleased to provide information about the terms and conditions of entry to Switzerland, as well as details about visas, passports or ID requirements. For longer stays in Switzerland, newcomers are recommended to bring with them the most important original documents, such as birth and marriage certificates, insurance policies, employment references and entry permits, academic certificates, medical prescriptions, etc.
Visa, passport, ID card
A valid travel document (ID or passport) is required to enter Switzerland. Citizens of EU/EFTA countries can enter Switzerland upon presentation of a valid ID. For entry from all other countries, a valid passport is required. Tourist visas or working visas are issued by Swiss consulates.
Anyone entering Switzerland may be subject to an inspection by customs.
After entering the country, newcomers must report to the Population Services and Migration Office within 14 days, with their passport, a passport photo (non-EU/EFTA citizens do not require a photo) and their entry permit/visa. We recommend that persons from non-EU/EFTA countries who require a visa also report to their embassy or consulate. Newcomers to Basel will receive a comprehensive information package from the Canton of Basel-Stadt upon registration. Some neighbourhoods organise special welcoming parties for newcomers.
Moving to Basel
Importing household goods
Once you have obtained a Swiss entry permit, you can bring furniture and other household items into the country either by airfreight through EuroAirport Basel-Mulhouse-Freiburg or by road. It is advisable to report major shipments in advance. As a rule, offices at the major customs crossings are open from 7 am to 5.30 pm. In general, no duty is charged on used goods. A complete list of the articles being imported must be provided and any goods less than six months old will be subject to duty. Personal ID documents as well as an entry permit, lease for a flat or house, employment contract, or confirmation of notice of departure from the country of departure must also be provided.
Importing private vehicles
Private cars must be declared at the border and then registered with the Motorfahrzeugkontrolle (vehicle licensing authority) within 12 months of arrival. Owners are automatically called to register their car before the deadline. In the case
of older or more exotic vehicles, please check the terms of registration in advance. If the car is less than six months old, customs duty must be paid. Further information is provided by the Swiss Federal Customs Administration. All vehicle papers and insurance documents must be kept in the car at all times and the driving licence must always be carried with you. Foreign driving licences may be used for up to 12 months and must then be exchanged for a Swiss driving licence.
Importing problematic goods
The import of problematic goods, such as exotic plants, is subject to special regulations. You will find more details in the leaflets issued by the Swiss Federal Customs Administration. For information about importing pets, please consult the Veterinäramt (Veterinary Office).
A longer-term stay
If you plan to stay in Basel-Stadt longer term and definitely for more than three months, you need to submit an application at the Einwohneramt (Residents’ Registration Office) within 14 days of arriving in the country.
As a rule, companies submit work permit applications directly to the cantonal authorities on behalf of their foreign employees. In the case of employees from non-EU/EFTA countries, the application has to be passed on to the federal Staatssekretariat für Migration SEM (State Secretariat for Migration).
Newcomers must report to Bevölkerungsdienste und Migration (Population Services and Migration Office) within 14 days of entering Switzerland. Employees are then issued an Aufenthaltsbewilligung B (B permit). EU citizens with employment
contracts for more than one year have to renew their residence permit every five years. Non-EU citizens need to renew it every year. L permits are granted to persons who reside in Switzerland for less than one year and for a specific purpose (usually gainful employment). Cross-border commuters are foreigners who live in the Schengen area (EU/EFTA nationals) or the foreign border zone (third-country
nationals). They receive a cross-border commuter permit. Cross-border commuters must return to their main residence abroad at least once a week.
Bringing family members or a partner to Switzerland
Foreign nationals who wish to bring close family members to Switzerland must submit an application to Bevölkerungsdienste und Migration (Population Services and Migration Office) well in advance of the planned date of arrival. As a rule, the family members in question are then issued a B permit. Entering Switzerland for the purpose of preparing a wedding can also be approved; during this period, however, the partner is not permitted to work. Unmarried partners of EU/EFTA citizens can be granted residency under certain conditions. Unmarried partners of non-EU/EFTA citizens cannot be granted residency; the partner would need to find employment in Switzerland first and then submit a separate application for residency. The spouses and children of Swiss nationals, as well as those of persons with a residence or work permit, may take up self-employed or employed work anywhere in Switzerland without additional authorisation.
Permanent residence permits
Depending upon a person’s country of origin, a Niederlassungsbewilligung C (type C permanent residence permit) may be issued after five or ten years. It is not subject to special conditions, is not issued for a fixed duration, and is renewed at five-year intervals.
In order to obtain Swiss citizenship, a total of 10 years residence in Switzerland are required, 3 of which must be in the last 5 years before submitting the application and 2 years in the municipality (Basel, Riehen or Bettingen) within the Canton of Basel-Stadt from which the application is being made. A permanent residence permit (C permit) is required. The naturalisation process usually takes about two years. The process is less demanding for applicants who are married to a Swiss citizen: they must have lived in Switzerland for a total of 5 years, and have been married for 3 years.
Nannies, au pairs, babysitters
Nannies who have been working with a family for a long time can apply for a B permit. Special rules apply to au pairs: only applications for au pairs from EU/EFTA countries, the U.S., Canada, New Zealand or Australia are accepted. The focus is on learning the German language and the local culture. The au pair may carry out normal household chores and take care of the children for a maximum of 30 hours per week. Au pairs must not be left alone at home all day; therefore, at least one parent has to work less than 22 hours per week. Babysitters or household help can be found through job advertisements. Domestic staff must be hired following the usual procedures, make contributions to the AHV and be insured against accidents.
Books about Living and Working in Switzerland
Living and Working in Switzerland
Survival Books, London 2013 (14th edition). David Hampshire.
Understanding Swiss Culture
Bergli Books, Basel 2011 (2nd revised edition). Margaret Oertig-Davidson.
Mix & Remix
Swiss History in a Nutshell
Bergli Books, Basel 2010. Grégoire Nappey.
Basel City Guide
Friedrich Reinhardt Verlag, Basel 2007 (2nd revised edition). Hannes Bertschi.
Ganz schön Schweiz.
in Survival Guide.
Bergli Books, Basel 2017. Sergio J. Lievano und Wolfgang Koydl.
Das neue Hoi Zäme.
Schweizerdeutsch leicht gemacht.
Bergli Books, Basel 2016. Nicole Egger und Sergio J. Lievano.
Der Expert Guide für Glück und Erfolg in der Schweiz.
Bergli Books, Basel 2020. Diccon Bewes (Hg.).
Leben und Arbeiten in der Schweiz.
GD Publishing Ltd., Berlin 2007. Rolf Breiner.