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What's it really like living in Switzerland?

Posted on February 29, 2012 at 3:48 PM Comments comments (28)
Many people think of Switzerland as a country full of mountains, watches, chocolate, banks, gold, and people loaded with money. To a large extent those swiss stereotypes are actually quite true; Switzerland is indeed a beautiful mountainous land, swiss watches and chocolates are some of the finest in the world, and Switzerland's stable government combined with successful banking, insurance and pharmaceutical industries have given rise to a large middle to upper-middle class.

The prospect of a safe and wealthy life in a land of great natural beauty, culture and clean streets lures many foreigners into seeking permanent establishment in Switzerland. But do these foreigners get what they come for and are they happy with their new lives? Really it depends on a little luck and a lot of effort, but for many people the answer is no. The main stumbling blocks are cultural integration and money.

Is it really that hard to integrate successfully with the swiss and the swiss way of life? Swiss people in general are sincere and hard-working but fairly reserved and not very outgoing. Most swiss people will be happy to talk to you if you ask them a question, but don't expect anyone to come up to you and start a conversation in a bar, and don't expect to be invited to dinner by workmates. Most foreigners quickly give up on forming strong relationships with the swiss and instead fall back on the support of their expat communities - and that's normally where they stay. Of course one's chances of integration are much better if one learns to speak the local language, but that's no mean feat in the german speaking part of the country since there are many dialects of swiss-german and swiss-german itself is a spoken-only language.

But friendship making isn't the only social or cultural difficulty experienced by most foreigners. The swiss have many rules and idiosyncrasies and most of them aren't written down! Things like extreme punctuality and cleanliness, being forbidden to make any noise after 10pm, starting work at 7am, and not being allowed to do any work at all on sundays (including cleaning your house). Many neighbours wont hesitate to call the police if you temporarily park in their parking space. Add to that the fact that non-europeans need to wait 10 full years before applying for permanent residency or 12 years before applying for naturalisation. This means that they can't start their own businesses, they need to re-apply for residence permits when changing jobs, they need special permission before purchasing residential property and they aren't even allowed to live outside of the district where they are first granted work.

With all of the cultural difficulties when living in Switzerland, surely there should be one thing that isn't a problem; money. But despite Switzerland's great wealth, many immigrants find themselves to be financially stressed for their first few years in the country. Jobs tend to be fairly well paid by international terms, but swiss cities are some of the most expensive in the world and swiss people have already had many years to establish themselves financially.

This article isn't intended to scare you away from considering a move to Switzerland! Rather it aims to highlight the fact that coming to Switzerland isn't an express ticket to riches, happiness and a perfect life. Many economic immigrants decide to pack up their bags and go within their first few years in the country. But there are many more that learn to adapt to the swiss way of life and once they've done that they can be truely happy here. Switzerland is, and always will be, a country full of mountains, watches, chocolate, banks, gold, and people with money






Swiss Customs Forms and Information

Posted on February 27, 2012 at 5:03 PM Comments comments (41)
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Swiss customs forms.pdf (PDF — 325 KB)
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

National & Public holidays in Switzerland

Posted on February 27, 2012 at 4:57 PM Comments comments (50)
National and public holidays in Switzerland 2012
Here are some important dates in the Swiss holiday calendar.Public holidays in Switzerland are taken very seriously, with almost all shops and public institutions closed. If a public holiday falls on a Tuesday or a Thursday, workers commonly take either the Monday or Friday off too, for a long weekend.

National and public holidays in Switzerland 2012

1 January -New Year's Day (Neujahrstag)
2 January* - Berchtold's Day (Berchtoldstag)
6 January* - Epiphany (Heilige Drei Konige)
19 March* - St Joseph's Day(Josefstag)
25 March - Daylight Saving Time starts
6 April* -Good Friday (Karfreitag)
9 April* -Easter Monday (Ostermontag)
1 May -May Day (Tag der Arbeit)
17 May -Ascension (Auffahrt)
28 May* -Whit Monday (Pfingstmontag)
7 June* - Corpus Christi(Fronleichnam)
1 August - Swiss National Day (Bundesfeier)
28 October - Daylight Savings Time ends
1 November -All Saints' Day(Allerheiligen)
8 December - Immaculate Conception (Maria Empfangnis)
25 December - Christmas Day (Weihnachten)
26 December - Boxing Day (Stephenstag)



The Swiss National Day
Every year on 1 August, Switzerland celebrates the founding of the Swiss Confederation in 1291. Each Swiss commune offers a day of federal unity with firework displays, concerts, public speeches or presentations. Thousands of people attend festivities in the largest cities (Zurich, Basel, Geneva, Bern and Lugano). The main celebrations take place at the Rhine Falls near Schaffhausen and at the Ruetli Meadows alongside Lake Lucerne.

Residence & Work Permits for Switzerland

Posted on February 27, 2012 at 4:54 PM Comments comments (175)
Residence and work permits in Switzerland
How to apply for a residency or work permit in Switzerland for you and your family.Related Articles
Switzerland has a high migration rate. Foreigners now make up more than a fifth of the Swiss population, with the number of foreigners increasing more than five-fold since WWII, compared to a total population increase of 60 percent.

Residence and work permits
Anyone who works during their stay in Switzerland or who remains in Switzerland for longer than three months requires a residence permit, issued by the Cantonal Migration Offices. A distinction is made between short-term residence permits (less than one year), annual residence permits (limited) and permanent residence permits (unlimited).

There are three aspects to consider when applying for a permit. First, Switzerland is a federal republic consisting of 26 cantons (regions). Each canton has Cantonal Migration Offices which are responsible for issuing residence permits, and Cantonal Labour Offices which are responsible for work authorisation. Although all cantons operate under the same federal law, each canton has some autonomy over immigration into the region. Therefore, individual cantons are the first resource for information regarding requirements for work and residence permits. See the Swiss Confederation website at www.bfm.admin.ch for contact details of the various cantons.

Second, obtaining a work permit differs according to your place of origin. Switzerland has a dual system for the admission of foreign workers. For employed nationals from EU/EFTA states, the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons applies (to varying degrees; see below) leading to a straightforward permit process not subject to quotas. Only a limited number of management-level employees, specialists and other qualified employees are admitted from other countries.

Third, your type of employment (local hire, assignment, period of employment) can determine whether you are granted a work permit.
 
Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons
In 1999, the EU and Switzerland signed seven two-way agreements including the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons, which began in 2002. The agreement allows Europeans in Switzerland access to the Swiss employment market, regardless of their qualifications. The agreement was later changed to gradually introduce ten new EU member states beginning 2006. Because the agreement is still being implemented, transitional measures still apply to some member states.

For citizens of the EU-17/EFTA (France, Germany, Austria, Italy, Spain, Portugal, the UK, Republic of Ireland, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxemburg, Greece, Cyprus, Malta, Norway, Iceland und Liechtenstein) the Free Movement of Persons fully applies.

Work and residence permits issued to citizens of the EU-8 (Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Slovenia) are subject to quotas and additional regulation - unlike citizens of EU member states as restrictions for those EU countries have been lifted, effective 1 May 2011.

The Free Movement of Persons Agreement applies to nationals from Bulgaria and Romania from 1 June 2009.

Labour / Work permits

In general, EU-17/EFTA nationals working in Switzerland may stay in Switzerland without a residence permit for three months (90 days) in a calendar year, although their employer must register them with the Cantonal Labour Office. The employer may go to www.meweb.admin.ch to do this online. It is also possible to obtain a 120-day permit with sporadic in and out trips for all EU nationals including the new Eastern European member states, which are not subject to quotas.

People who work in the construction, hospitality, cleaning, surveillance, security and travelling sales industries must register with the authorities from the first day of their activity, regardless of its duration.

Any non-Swiss national who works in Switzerland for longer than three months requires a permit.

G permit: Cross-border commuter

Workers receive this permit if they are EU/EFTA residents and work in Switzerland. They may stay in Switzerland, but must return abroad at least once a week and register their Swiss residence with the communal authorities. For EU-17/EFTA nationals, no border zones apply; residence can be anywhere in the EU/EFTA and the workplace can be anywhere in Switzerland. For EU-8 nationals, residence and workplace must lie within designated border zones. (Contact your cantonal labour market authority for details.)

The following guide provides a timeline for the required types of permits:

EU-17/EFTA nationals
  • 9 - 90 days of employment: registration (no permit required)
  • 120-day permit with sporadic in and out trips
  • 3 - 12 months: L permit (short-term residence permit)
  • 12 months or more: B permit (residence permit)
  • 5 years or more: C permit (settlement permit)
  • 8 days per calendar year: in general without permit and registration
  • Cross-border Commuter Permit: G permit
  • Work permit for family members of an international civil servant: Ci permit

EU-8 and other country nationals
  • 120-day permit with sporadic in and out trips (for EU-8 nationals, not subject to quotas)
  • Up to 12 months of employment: L permit (short-term residence permit, quota)
  • 12 months or more: B permit (residence permit, quota)
  • 10 years or more: C permit (settlement permit)
  • 8 days per calendar year: in general without permit
  • Cross-border Commuter Permit: G permit (for EN-8 nationals)
  • Work permit for family members of an international civil servant: Ci permit

Within eight days of arrival and before beginning work, nationals of EU-17/EFTA states must register with the communal authorities at their Swiss place of residence and apply for a residence permit; a valid ID (such as a passport) and written confirmation of employment must be presented. Further documentation requirements can vary according to your type of employment and canton of residence; contact the respective communal authorities or the cantonal migration authorities for specific requirements. You will need the following standard required documents for a work and residence permit application:

  • A copy of passport (for the employee and any accompanying family members)
  • A current résumé (CV)
  • Copies of higher education certificates
  • Copy of signed employment contract
  • Copy of birth certificate
  • Copy of marriage certificate
Most third country nationals do need a visa in order to legally enter Switzerland and to take up employment. The visa needs to be picked up at the Swiss Embassy in your home country before entering Switzerland.

In addition, non-EU nationals usually need to provide the competent authorities with a Criminal Record. This document is a compulsory requirement for the work permit and residence application.

While there are similar work permit requirements for nationals of EU-8 and other countries, the Swiss authorities will generally require that you also fulfil the following conditions:
  • Local worker priority: No local equivalent worker (Swiss national or foreigner already in the Swiss labour market) is available to fill the position.
  • The wage and working conditions must meet local, professional and industry standards.
  • The canton's quota for that permit must not be exhausted.
For third country nationals, the applicant must demonstrate his/her relevant qualifications, such as graduation title and relevant work experience.

Bringing family members

Family members are defined as spouses, children and grandchildren under the age of 21, and parents and grandparents who are financially supported by the worker. Family members of EU/EFTA employed nationals are granted an EU/EFTA permit even if they are non-EU/EFTA nationals but live permanently in an EU/EFTA country. The validity of the permit is limited to the duration of the main holder's position. Family members may work, but must notify the cantonal authorities before doing so.
More information
Federal Office of Immigration, Integration and Emigration
http://www.bfm.admin.ch/bfm/en/home.html


Visa Information
www.passportsplus.com/visa_switzerland.html

5 books on living and working in Switzerland

Posted on February 27, 2012 at 4:48 PM Comments comments (21)
5 books about working and living in Switzerland
 
Living and Working in Switzerland, 11th Edition: A Survival Handbook
Written in an entertaining style with a touch of humour, Living and Working in Switzerland is designed to provide newcomers with the practical information necessary for a relatively trouble-free life. It contents include finding a job, permits & visas, health, accommodation, finance, insurance, education, shopping, post office and telephone services, public transport, motoring, TV and radio, leisure, sports and much, much more. It is packed with vital information and insider tips to help minimize culture shock and reduce the newcomers rookie period to a minimum. Living and Working in Switzerland is essential reading for anyone planning to spend an extended period in Switzerland.
Order this book in the Expatica online store


Why Switzerland?
Why Switzerland?, first published in 1976, offers a unique analysis of the structures that make Switzerland work and provides a short, concise "working model" for the visitor or student. Linking an analysis of the micro economy to the major features in politics, history, religion and language, it shows how a "bottom up" society has survived in a world of "top down" states. For this new edition Jonathan Steinberg has completely revised and extended his text, and a number of unusual and attractive illustrations have been added.
Order this book in the Expatica online store



Geneva: Residents' & Visitors' Guide
A guide for visitors and residents, this book begins with an overview of Geneva and Switzerland. It discusses the economy, demographics, environment, culture, money, and media. It describes places to stay and methods to get around. A detailed section for new residents follows, which focuses on documents, licenses, finding work, housing, utilities and services, health, education and transportation in Geneva. The section titled Exploring Geneva features museums and cultural sights in and near the city. It lists parks and beaches, tours, and sightseeing. Many activities are described, such as most sports, health spas, leisure facilities and clubs and classes. Extensive suggestions for shopping and dining complete the guide.
Order this book in the Expatica online store


Living Among the Swiss
This book describes the author's experiences during the past eight years of living and working among the Swiss. It examines several aspects of the Swiss banking system from the viewpoints of consumers, investors and employees. It depicts cultural differences as well as the practical difficulties confronting the new immigrant as he seeks to put down roots. It seeks to edify the vicarious traveller as well as those seriously considering relocation here. Finally, it celebrates in some detail the beauty of this relatively simple and honest land, with especial emphasis on the cantons of Berner Oberland, Graubllis, as well as the environs of Z the observations focus on the German-Swiss, they are surprisingly applicable to the French-and Italian-speaking cantons as well.
Order this book in the Expatica online store


The History of Switzerland
This charming and spirited story of the extraordinary European nation begins with the fall of the Roman Empire and the rise of the Swiss people amongst the challenging landscape of the rugged Alps, and follows their tale through the development of feudalism, the struggle for control by warlords, the Thirty Years War, and into the aftermath of the French Revolution. First published in 1832, this is a tale of dramatic splendour performed by captivating personalities-here is a work of classic history that will delete Europhiles and students of the past alike. Scottish author JOHN WILSON (1785-1854) sometimes wrote under the pseudonym "Christopher North" for Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine. He is also the author of Lights and Shadows of Scottish Life (1822), The Trials of Margaret Lyndsay (1823), and The Foresters (1825), among other works.
Order this book in the Expatica online store


Finding a home in Switzerland

Posted on February 27, 2012 at 4:45 PM Comments comments (30)
Finding a family home when living in Zurich
To ensure you and your family really feel at home while living in Zurich, there is a lot to take into consideration when looking for your new house. Expatica spoke to expert Priska Hutterli, Zurich branch manager of Network Relocation, to get the best tips and latest info to help with the house hunt.Priska describes Zürich as a very family-friendly city with various options for expats looking for the right place for them. She says while there is no particular area specified for families, many internationals tend to settle near the two main schools on either side of the lake - Kusnacht and Zumikon on the right side (known as the “gold coast”), and Kilchberg and Thawil opposite (the “silver coast”).

“While it is difficult to find homes with gardens in Zürich city, there are nearly always children's play parks and public areas close by,” says Priska. She recommends the Dolder Forest, the Zoo area, Irchel, Landesmueseum by the River Limatt, and the Uetliberg.

“Ground floor apartments will have small patios, or some apartment houses have shared garden or barbecue areas. Houses with gardens are found outside of the city and generally cost more than apartments,” she says.

The average size of a home is between 120 - 150 m2. However, large homes with 5 or 6 bedrooms are very scarce. “Space always costs more, no matter where you live and Switzerland is certainly no exception,” says Priska.

“The further you live from the city the cheaper the land becomes, and if you are looking for more outdoor space this is an option - but be careful not to live too far away as you may feel isolated from the international community.”

Typical houses in Zürich city are of a 1920s design with a very modern renovated interior. Such buildings are mostly found in districts 1 (the old town), 2 (by the lakeside, near to the international schools), and 7 (Zürichberg).

Sometimes they are under historical monumental protection and therefore have very high rents. But new and very modern apartments are also expensive. Cheaper places can be found in either the industrial district areas of 4, 5 and 12, or 15 minutes away from the main city railway station in districts 3, 9 and 10, or nearer to Zürich airport. However all are easily accessible with public transport.

Priska says renting is the norm in Switzerland. “We would recommend that anyone considering buying in the country first of all talks to a tax expert, then the bank. With property prices moving by between 1 and 2 percent per year for many people, purchasing a property is not an effective way of creating more wealth, unlike in other countries.”
She says while buying is a relatively simple process, selling is a totally different challenge. “With most people looking to rent, there are very few buyers out in the market place. It could take a year or more to sell a property.

“Banks welcome investors and are very supportive in home buying, however, clients must be credit-worthy and have good records.”

There are special rules concerning changing property. For instance, on signing a rental contract, one year fixed rental is expected. Three months notice must be given and moving dates are March, June and September (December is not permitted). It is also possible to move before, but follow-up tenants must be found and a rental contract signed. The main message is that you have to leave it as you found it, says Priska.

Naturally if you have school-age children, you will want to take into account the best school to suit your family. Children must attend their local school, which is dependent on where they live. Swiss schools are the responsibility of the cantons and state schools refer to non-fee paying schools, which are funded by the canton.

“Local schools are generally of a high standard and worth considering for German-speaking families,” says Priska. There are two major international schools - the Zurich International School situated on the Silver Coast (Wädenswil, Kilcheberg, Horgen). On the Gold Coast there is the InterCommunity School, which follows the IB program and has approximately 700 children, all situated on the one campus (the final two years take place a short walk away). In Gockhausen there is the French school, Lycée Français de Zurich. There are also a number of smaller international schools and bi-Lingual options.

Many of the schools offer a bus service for the collection of younger children, but the older ones tend to either be driven or make their own way using the excellent public transport system.

A great way to find a home is through Network Relocation, by conducting a direct search via the internet, or through individual estate agency homepages.

Visit Network Relocation: www.network-relocation.com

Anna Tuson / Expatica

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