Moving to Switzerland from the US
Thinking of moving to Switzerland? If so, fantastic choice – Switzerland is one of Europe’s most beautiful places to live. Excellent salaries, world-class healthcare, and breathtaking scenery all make it a highly desirable place for US expats to live.
But there’s still a lot to research before you make your decision – whether or not you’re moving with family, for example.
Fear not, because we’ve done the bulk of this research for you. This complete guide on moving to Switzerland covers everything you’ll need to know.
If you’ve already made up your mind, you could always start the moving process by filling in this form. You’ll get free shipping quotes from our trusted suppliers, who’ll get in touch with bespoke quotes.
Old Town architecture of Lucerne, Switzerland
Cost of shipping to Switzerland
Because Switzerland is a landlocked country, container ships can’t take items directly there. Instead, your belongings will be delivered to a neighboring country that does have a sea port. They’ll then be transported into Switzerland, typically via a truck, or sometimes on a freight train (though this is less likely).
To give you a better idea of what this might cost, we’ve created a table below showing the average rates for shipping from New York and Los Angeles to Zürich. The rates were sourced from CEVA Logistics, and are based on the port-to-port transportation of a 20 ft container of furniture worth $40,000 (the typical value of the contents of a three-bedroom home according to clements.com).
|New York to Zürich||$898||17-31 days|
|Los Angeles to Zürich||$2,569||30-50 days|
Please note: these container shipping costs exclude typical add-ons such as door-to-door delivery, professional packing/unpacking, and basic insurance cover. Our shipping suppliers normally incorporate these services into their prices, so expect some discrepancy between the rates given here and the quotes you receive. These estimates should be used as an indication only.
Select the size of your move to get free quotes
Cost of flying goods to Switzerland from the US
Flying your goods into Switzerland from the US is the more convenient option, but it will come with an additional cost. Shipping costs are generally 12-16 times cheaper than air freight.
The major upside is that flying your items is far quicker than shipping them. So if you need to get your belongings to Switzerland quickly, definitely consider flying them in.
Here’s a handy table showing the prices for flying goods from the US into Switzerland. We sourced these rates from searates.com – but please note that these are estimates only. The rates are based on the airport-to-airport transportation of much lighter goods – 250 kg of household goods, to be precise, worth $40,000 (according to clements.com).
|New York to Copenhagen||$1,100||9 hours 25 minutes|
|Los Angeles to Copenhagen||$1,550||11 hours 40 minutes|
|Houston to Copenhagen||$1,270||10 hours 53 minutes|
Healthcare in Switzerland
Switzerland’s healthcare system ranks amongst the best in the world, with The Lancet ranking it 7th overall. However, it isn’t free – while the universal healthcare system ensures that citizens can access the healthcare they need at a lower cost, there's still a price to pay.
One thing to note is that once you’ve lived in Switzerland for three months, you will need to purchase basic healthcare. You can get this from your local supplier in whichever canton (basically a different word for ‘district’ or ‘county’) you live in.
The same goes for your entire family – they all must purchase the same basic healthcare. You can also choose to purchase supplementary healthcare, which around 6.7% of Swiss residents opt for.
We recommend considering this, as having the additional health coverage will give you peace of mind. That’s why we’ve partnered with Cigna Global, which offers comprehensive health packages designed to cover you in any situation.
You can start building a customized plan from Cigna today by simply filling in a few details. These include a few things about yourself, and where you plan to move to. In a short time, you’ll receive personalized healthcare quotes.
If you want to learn more about Switzerland’s healthcare system, take a look at our helpful guide.
Switzerland's towns and cities are truly picturesque
Cost of living in Switzerland
Switzerland is not a cheap place to live, and it falls in or around the top five in almost every list of expensive countries.
According to numbeo.com, it is around 36% more expensive to live in Switzerland than the US – and that’s with rent included. Without rent, it is 42% more expensive, so it’s important to consider this before you decide to move.
On average, salaries are higher than those in the US. We’ll go into more detail about that further down the page.
The exact cost of living will naturally vary depending on where you live in Switzerland, but to make things simple, we’re going to use the city of Geneva as a benchmark. Check out the table below:
|Furnished accommodation in city center (900 sqft) ||1,512.25 Fr.|
|Meal for two at a typical restaurant in city center||100.00 Fr.|
|Monthly ticket for public transport||80.00 Fr.|
|One pint of beer||6.50 Fr.|
|One liter of milk||1.61 Fr.|
|12 large eggs||5.82 Fr.|
|One liter of gas||1.67 Fr.|
|One bottle of red wine||14.00 Fr.|
Source: Numbeo 2022
Transferring money to Switzerland from the US
Before you move to Switzerland, you need to sort out your finances and convert some of your money into Swiss francs (commonly abbreviated as CHf, Fr., or SFr).
It’s a good idea to compare money transfer services first before going to your local bank, because the latter’s rates will typically be higher.
To help you out, we’ve done the legwork and researched the best money exchange services around. Take a look at our expert ratings and find the best money transfer provider here.
Working in Switzerland
The first thing you’ll learn when working in Switzerland is that paid vacation days are far more generous than in the US. You’ll get a minimum of four weeks paid leave, which is a lot compared to the 10 days typically allotted in America.
And this is just the minimum – it’s not unheard of for some companies to offer up to five weeks.
However, it can be challenging to actually land a job in Switzerland, as competition is high. Additionally, unemployment is very low, meaning available positions are difficult to come by.
If you want to gain an advantage when job searching, definitely consider learning (at least partially) the language of the canton you aim to work in.
Getting a work visa for Switzerland
If you want to work in Switzerland, you’ll need a Swiss work visa.
The Swiss work visa is one of Switzerland’s long-stay visas (also known as a national or D-visa). It allows the holder to work in Switzerland for the duration that the visa is issued.
The process of applying for a Swiss work visa depends on your nationality, among other things. As with other types of visas, different rules apply for EU/EFTA citizens as opposed to non-EU/EFTA citizens.
For non-EU/EFTA citizens (this applies to everyone from the US), you’ll need to meet the following requirements to qualify for a Swiss work visa:
- You are a skilled and qualified worker (manager, specialist) and you have a university degree, several years of work experience, and specific expertise.
- You already have a job waiting for you.
- There is no EU/EFTA citizen who could take the job instead.
- The annual quotas for Swiss work visas allow it.
Average salary in Switzerland
Switzerland, despite not having a national minimum wage, has some of the highest average salaries in the world.
As of 2022, the average salary across all sectors in Switzerland is 60,847 Fr. ($66,241).
Income tax in Switzerland
There’s no two ways about it: income tax in Switzerland is a complicated beast.
Basically, what you pay in income tax will differ depending on which of the 26 cantons you've moved to. This is further complicated by the fact income tax rates can change depending on which town or city you live in!
Income tax can even vary from one part of a town or city to another – don't say we didn't warn you!
The nationwide average income tax rate in Switzerland as of 2022 is roughly 40%, which correlates with its high average salaries.
Job hunting in Switzerland
Finding a job in Switzerland can be difficult, with fierce competition for roles driven by the high average salaries and excellent quality of life.
One ray of hope is the fact that nearly half of all the executive jobs in the country are staffed by foreigners. So if you're highly skilled, Switzerland remains one of Europe’s best places to work.
Here are some of the best job searching platforms for Switzerland:
Climate in Switzerland
The weather in Switzerland is much like many other countries in mainland Europe – the summers are generally warm and winters can get pretty cold.
On average, July and August reach around 65°–82° F, January and February dip to 28°–45° F, and spring and autumn bring temperatures between 46°–59° F.
Does it snow in Switzerland?
Across most of Switzerland, the average annual days of snowfall is 35, with few regions escaping winter showers once the mercury drops.
Once you start climbing into the Alps though, the snow really starts to fall. This makes Switzerland one of the best places in the world for skiing, and the sport is one of the most popular pastimes for Swiss citizens.
The best places to live in Switzerland
Zürich: best for work opportunities
If we had a Swiss franc for every time someone thought Zürich was the capital of Switzerland…
We can understand why though – the city is widely regarded as the economic center of the country. Most major international banks have offices here, as do tons of well-known media companies, so the work opportunities are definitely plenty.
Zürich is also a thriving cultural hub in its own right, with plenty of stylish bars, restaurants, and clubs to choose from for a night out. What’s the downside to all this? The prices. Zürich is well known for its high taxes, rent, and healthcare costs, as well as a few curious expenses such as dog taxes and cycling fees. The flip side is that salaries in Zurich trend towards the highest in Switzerland.
Bern: best for culture
Bern is the real capital of Switzerland, a fact that surprises many expats and tourists to this day. It’s also something a cultural powerhouse, with plenty of fascinating things to see and do.
Visually, Bern is a sublime city filled with postcard-perfect streets, architecture straight out of a fairytale, and a cozy vibe sure to make you feel at home.
During summer, make sure you ride a boat down the turquoise waters of the River Aare. Switzerland is well known for its incredible cleanliness, and the pristine river is a fine example of this.
Geneva: best for education
Whether you’re a student looking for the best university, or a parent wanting to give your children excellent education opportunities, Geneva has plenty of options.
The University of Geneva is widely regarded as one of the best in Europe, with around 17,000 students choosing to study there. While you won’t need to learn another language to enroll, having a passing knowledge of either French, German, or Italian will definitely help.
It also costs a lot less to study at this university than it does in America, with each semester costing around 500 Fr ($538).
As for international schools, Geneva has a number of top choices. These include:
- Institut International de Lancy
- Geneva English School
- Institut Florimont
- International School of Geneva
- Collège du Léman
7 quick facts about Switzerland
- Four languages are officially recognized – French, German, Italian, and Romansh
- It is illegal to recite poetry when skiing (yes, really)
- Switzerland is nearly 10 times smaller than California
- Gun ownership in Switzerland is one of the highest in industrialized nations, but the country also has some of the lowest crime rates around
- Switzerland has the second-highest life expectancy in the world (after Japan)
- There are enough nuclear fallout shelters in Switzerland to accommodate its entire population
- Each Swiss citizen consumes 11 kilograms of chocolate every year
Hopefully we’ve helped make moving to Switzerland a little easier. The next step is to get the ball rolling on moving all of your possessions over there, and we can help.
All you need to do is answer a few simple questions on this quick form, and we’ll pass your answers over to our trusted suppliers. They’ll then get back to you with quotes to compare.