Skip to main content

Pack your bags and off you go?! Going to live abroad takes careful planning and preparation


Going abroad: whether you’re setting off for a short trip to study a language abroad or leaving Switzerland to live abroad more long-term, the adventure begins months before you depart with the preparation at home.
 

Going to live abroad ranks near the top of many people's bucket list. You might want to live abroad to find your dream job, spend time studying overseas, study a language abroad, find an internship or even finally take that long-awaited break from work. There are many reasons for travelling, sometimes it's personal, sometimes professional, but hey, do you always have to have a reason? No! You might just simply want to live somewhere else for a while. Every year approximately 28,000 Swiss people opt to live abroad. Most return at some point, some leave forever. Out of Switzerland – into the adventure. And preferably sooner rather than later. Hold on, not so fast. Trips have to be organised and you need time to prepare for studying overseas or going to live abroad. The Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs have produced a guidebook called "What to do now?", it is full of helpful information on how to prepare for your trip.
 

Have you thought of everything? Then you’re ready to go and live abroad

Every trip is unique, and so is the preparation. It has been proven time and again that the better you prepare, the smoother everything will go. By the way, going to live abroad or study language abroad isn’t just for people in their twenties, others make the decision much later in life. If your grandma, for example, is fond of travelling then get her to check out Granny Au Pair. Here, families from all over the world are searching for nice grandmas. But regardless of whether you’re young or old, the following applies:
 

1. A valid passport is required for entry into another country. Sometimes a national ID card can also be used. Check the expiration date. Some countries require that the passport is valid for at least six months beyond the date of departure!
 

2. Depending on the destination, you will need:

  • Electronic entry permit
  • Visa (does it correspond to the length of your stay?)
  • Vaccinations
  • Do you need a work permit?
  • What are the entry requirements for the country you are visiting? Pay attention to any differences in requirements for tourists, students and paid and unpaid work!
     

3. Studying overseas and language study abroad:

  • What do you need with you to study or take courses in your host country?
  • Are your degree/school certificates and vocational qualifications recognised?
  • Do you need to have them translated/certified in order to work in the host country?
  • The guidebook “Language Studies Abroad” provides lots of information about studying overseas and answers questions about who you need to notify, compulsory insurance,
  • recognition of qualifications etc.
     

4. Sort out your insurance (health, accident and liability insurance are essential when you’re abroad!) Important: take out additional insurance such as international medical insurance in case you become ill or have an accident.
 

5. How are you going to manage your money when abroad? Not all Swiss banks let you keep your account if you live abroad for an extended period. Ask if you can keep your account, if your credit card will remain valid and what fees you will incur when using your account abroad. You can find out more about Swiss banking services from the OSA.
 

6. Want to drive or rent a car abroad? Is that possible with your driving licence or do you need an international licence?
 

7. Customs – which rules apply when going to live abroad (particularly in regard to relocating with your household effects)? Which documents are required?
 

8. Make a copy of your most important documents such as your passport, visa, confirmation of deregistration and store them in the cloud (Dropbox, Drive, iCloud) in case of emergencies.
 

Deregister from Switzerland: yes or no?

When preparing to travel or live abroad there is one crucial question: should I deregister or not? However, this can’t be answered with a simple yes or no. Sometimes deregistration makes sense, it is often compulsory and therefore unavoidable. Here's the rub: you don't necessarily get to decide for yourself – your local municipality will have something to say on the matter!

In general, the following principle applies: if you decide to travel or live abroad for more than three months, give up your accommodation and don't plan on coming back anytime soon, then you will need to deregister at the residents’ registration office.

However, there are always exceptions to the rule! Some municipalities and cantons deal with it differently or turn a blind eye (or two!) if, for example, you still hold on to your apartment or job in Switzerland. Then you might be able to travel for longer than three months without having to deregister. Is that the case in your area? How long can you live or travel abroad for without having to deregister? Three months, six months, more? You can only find out the answer at your local residents' registration office. If you want to travel or live abroad for longer than a year, then deregistration is usually compulsory!
 

Preparation also includes: weighing up the pros and cons

The bad news: deregistration is a lot of effort and involves filling in a lot of paperwork. This needs to be done well in advance. The good news: if you move back to Switzerland, you will already be familiar with the process and the effort required won't be as big a shock the second time round.
 

Advantages of deregistration:

  • No tax obligation
  • Termination of contracts and insurance
  • You can cash out your pension fund or private pension pillar 3a retirement savings
  • Freedom
     

Disadvantages of deregistration:

  • Administrative burden when deregistering and re-registering
  • The conditions for health insurance, accident insurance and other contracts change, and sometimes not in your favour.
  • The same applies to your Swiss bank account, depending on the bank's cooperation.
  • Any tax due must be paid in full before deregistration.
  • If you no longer pay OASI (AHV) contributions, there will be gaps in contributions.
  • If you do not work, you will be excluded from the pension fund.
  • Who will be responsible for your official transactions while you're away? When you deregister, you have to appoint a named representative!
     

Find out about the exact reporting obligations from your local residents’ registration office. It is always best to be on the safe side and ask – remember to get everything in writing. And don't leave it until just before you're about to leave! It is important to look into whether you need to deregister, otherwise you might have difficulties at the border, especially with your belongings! Only when all the formalities are complete, the documents have been submitted in a timely manner (!) and all taxes have paid is there nothing left to stand in your way of living or studying overseas. Well, almost nothing…
 

Au pair, internship, language study abroad, voluntary work
Or: short-term stays abroad for a few weeks – but what’s going to happen to your digs while you live abroad?

Do you want to live abroad for a few weeks or perhaps months and then return to your old life? If you don't have your own apartment and live with your parents, you've got it easy. Your room will probably stay just the same as it has always been and you don't need to do anything else. If you rent a shared apartment or your parents want to use your room while you're away then you will need to free up some space. No problem! In both cases, a storage unit is the ideal solution.

Everyone that rents has to make the decision: give notice on your flat or room (warning: notice period is often 3 months) or keep renting it? If you can afford to pay rent, possibly two – here and abroad – then everything can carry on as normal. But if you're planning to live abroad for longer or want to travel for a few months or even a year and could do with a bit of extra cash, then subletting could be an option.
 

Have you registered in your host country? Your rights and obligations as a Swiss citizen living abroad.

Swiss citizens living abroad are Swiss nationals that live temporarily or permanently outside of Switzerland. The Swiss Abroad Act (or ASG) governs the fundamental rights and obligations of Swiss citizens living abroad. If you have deregistered from your municipality, you must register with the relevant representation abroad (embassy or consulate) in your new place of residence and be entered in the Register of the Swiss Abroad within 90 days. To register, you will need your passport (or ID), confirmation of deregistration and, if available, your certificate of residence. This also applies when using the FDFA online desk. FDFA is the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs. It helps with the preparations for migration and return migration and offers a registration service for trips abroad (including business trips) in order to locate and contact you more easily in a crisis situation.

Checklist for living abroad

Survival guide: subletting your apartment
Are you planning a longer trip or do you want to live abroad for a few months? Congratulations! That’s what many people just dream of. But what will happen to your apartment while you're away? The best option is subletting! No risk – no fun! We have put together six subletting survival strategies - for you and your apartment. 😉

Relocating: make your move easy
Is your moving day imminent? Are you starting to feel overwhelmed? Don't panic! Moving day chaos is only for people that are stressed out and don't have a plan. By following these tips, you can remain calm and take the stress out of relocating.