What You Need to Know About Relocate to Switzerland

Swiss wages are more than enough for a comfortable lifestyle. For example, a Swiss engineer would most probably earn more than his American counterpart. If you are looking to get employment in the country, expect to be asked for a higher education diploma and significant work experience in the same field. Knowing how to speak German, French, or Italian gives you an edge over other applicants. Self-employment is welcome but requires special permission from the cantonal authorities.


Expect stiff work competition when it comes to Switzerland. Of its over 7 million residents, over 2 million are foreigners, with expats occupying most executive positions in companies.

Foreign workers are very much welcome in Switzerland. As long you have the right qualifications and can speak any of its four official languages, then landing a job in Switzerland isn’t impossible.

You will be pleased to learn that the average Swiss salary ranks amongst the highest in Europe and that taxes are quite low. Employees work an average of 45 – 48 hours a week but indulge in their passions during the weekends. It is not uncommon for example, for a Swiss employee to be adept at two sports.

So do your research, find the right people that can help, and your diligence will pay off!

The following are required documents you must submit when applying for a job in Switzerland

  • CV: Your CV should list all of your educational qualifications as well as your work experience. Do not forget to include references, a professional headshot, and a personal statement at the beginning of the CV.
  • Cover letter: Standard one-page cover letter explaining why you are the best candidate for the job. Expertise and significant work experience are highly valued in Switzerland- make sure to highlight them.
  • Educational degrees: A university degree is requisite for a Swiss work permit. Be prepared to present your employer with a certified true copy.

Language Requirements for Swiss Jobs

The four national languages in Switzerland are German, Italian, French, and Romansh. You are required to be able to communicate efficiently in at least one of the said languages for you to be eligible for employment in Switzerland. Unless you are explicitly asked to use English, make sure to fill out the forms in the language in which it is written. The same applies with interviews.

Much of what we need is online and finding a job is no different. So, if you are looking at getting a job with a perpetual view of the Alps, then begin by looking online. If you want to be proactive the Swiss-way, it is perfectly acceptable to write to your company of interest and state your desire to work with them, even if there are no advertised job openings.

Interview Tips

If you want to stand out in a job interview in Switzerland, make sure you are prepared to the hilt. This means researching about the company’s mission, vision and even work culture. You must look the part too, so avoid very loud colors, and stick to the classic shades.

Networking Tips

If you plan to do some old-fashioned but effective networking in Switzerland, then you need to know the specific behavior nuances. For one, being pushy is frowned upon in Switzerland, so act in a reserved but friendly way. Dress in a professional manner too, especially if you are attending a networking event.

Job Opportunities in Switzerland for Foreigners

There are many opportunities for expats in Switzerland, but only the highly skilled have a chance to find the right employment. The good news is, most high level and upper management positions are held by expats.

Professions where foreigners can find good jobs:

  • Engineering;
  • IT;
  • Hospitality industry;
  • Financial services;

Minimum Wage and Average Salary

Next only to Luxemberg, Switzerland has the second highest wage in Europe. This is admirable considering that the country does not have a standard minimum wage. The average minimum wage is about 55 CHF (55 USD) per hour. Swiss salaries may be high, but so are the goods and services that you need to live comfortably. The four most expensive cities in Switzerland are Bern, Basel, Geneva and Zurich. Listed below are the salary estimates each expat or family of expats need to live comfortably: Single Expat Living in a One-Bedroom Apartment in the City Center


2,310 CHF

2,360 USD


2,580 CHF

2,630 USD


3,290 CHF

3,360 USD


3,300 CHF

3,370 USD

Family of Four Living in a Three-Bedroom Apartment in the City Center


6,780 CHF

6,930 USD


8,040 CHF

8,210 USD


8,620 CHF

8,800 USD


8,920 CHF

9,110 USD

Listed below are the most in demand jobs and their prevailing salaries

Job Position

Salary CHF

Salary USD

Top management and top public service



Doctors, nurses, medical assistants, and pharmacists



Auditors and tax advisors









IT/software engineer



Skilled technicians







To start your own business in Switzerland, you will need to prove that you have been successfully self-employed in the past. You may be asked to present receipts, invoices or any documents that prove your success. 12% of its workforce are Self-Employed. You would need to get approval from the federal government and your canton before you can operate your own business.

Requirements to be Self-Employed in Switzerland

  • Be prepared to have an official business address in case cantonal authorities ask. You can opt to work in a co-working space.
  • A business plan for your work permit.
  • Knowledge of any of the local languages such as German, French or Italian even if English is spoken throughout the country.

5 Tips to remember about Swiss Working Culture

  • Language: English is widely spoken in Swiss business culture, but it is important to know German, Italian, or French as well.
  • Punctuality: Be on-time. Being late is considered rude and unprofessional. Better yet, arrive early.
  • Hierarchy: Workers in Switzerland expect respect based on their rank and educational achievements. Be sure to address business colleagues formally unless instructed otherwise.
  • Gifts: Gifts are not expected in business relationships and functions, but if you are invited into someone’s home, be sure to bring something thoughtful like wine, flowers or chocolate.
  • Greetings: It is expected to shake hands when meeting people for the first time. It is not common to hug or kiss on the cheeks.

Social security is divided into three pillars:

  • First pillar- a state pension plan that consists of various schemes meant to assist residents through retirement, disability, or if they are widowed or orphaned. This is required of all workers even expats.
  • Second pillar- this covers accident insurance and unemployment and is mandatory for all employees except self-employed workers.
  • Third pillar- optional retirement account.

Social Security is handled on a federal and cantonal level, as there is no national security system in Switzerland. The Switzerland social security number is called the AHV (Alters- und Hinterlassenenversicherung) or the Old-Age and Survivors’ Insurance. All Swiss workers nationwide contribute to this fund which serves as the retirement fund for all.

Applying for a Social Security Number in Switzerland

It is a must to get a social security number through the cantonal compensation funds within your locality. Every canton may have its own process and requirements to be sure to check before hand, or better yet, hire a relocation expert to assist you.

Social Security Benefits in Switzerland

Having social security in Switzerland means insurance for you and your family, access to finances if you get injured, sick or even unemployed. It also assures you of a pension when the time comes to retire.

Social Security Benefits in Switzerland

To claim maternity and paternity leave you must satisfy three criteria-

  • You must have had social security for nine months prior to the baby being born.
  • You must have worked for five months out of your pregnancy.
  • You must be employed or self-employed at the time of the birth.

Maternity leave covers 98 days of paid leave, while 80% of the mother’s wages are paid but cannot exceed 196 CHF (200 USD) per day. No law covers paternity leave in Switzerland, but the private sector does allow mothers and fathers a number of hours or days off to attend to their families. This varies depending on your employer.

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