Moving to Switzerland from Ireland: Everything you need to know

Gabrielle Figueiredo

Switzerland is known for its stunning mountain scenery and the high quality of life enjoyed by its people. These factors combined with the possibility of earning a higher salary make it an ideal destination for some Irish who’re looking to move overseas.

In this article, we’ll explore some of the key things involved with moving from Ireland to Switzerland including visas, healthcare, employment and housing.

We’ll also let you know how Wise Account can help you with the move by allowing you to manage +40 currencies, including Swiss Franc.

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Facts about Switzerland

  • Total population: Approximately 8,670,300¹
  • Capital: Bern
  • Currency: Swiss Franc (also written as CHF)
  • Official languages: German, French, Italian and Romansch
  • Number of Irish expats: Approximately 8,000 ²
  • Biggest cities: Zurich, Geneva, Basel, Bern³

Do Irish citizens need a visa for Switzerland?

In Switzerland, citizens of countries in the European Union (EU), including Ireland, have the right to live and work without needing to get a work permit.⁵ This makes moving there a little bit easier.

If you intend on working in Switzerland or staying longer than 3 months you will need to notify your local Commune (Gemeinde) within 14 days of arriving in the country and before you start working.

There are a few different types of Swiss residence permits which are available to EU citizens. These are the 3 that are most commonly issued⁵:

  • Short-term permit (EU/EFTA Permit L)
  • Initial residence permit (EU/EFTA Permit B)
  • Permanent residence permit (EU/EFTA Permit C)

Short-term permit (Permit L)

The short-term permit (Permit L) is issued to EU or EFTA citizens who are working in Switzerland for at least 4 months and no longer than 1 year.

Initial residence permit (Permit B)

If you’re planning to stay and work in Switzerland for longer than a year and you have an employer who will back that up, you can be issued an initial residence permit (Permit B). For Irish citizens this permit is valid for 5 years.

Permanent residence permit (Permit C)

After 5 years of living and working in Switzerland you may be eligible for a permanent residency permit (Permit C). Once you’ve obtained this permit you have the right to live and work in Switzerland indefinitely.

Read more: Moving from Ireland to the UK

Cost of living in Switzerland: what is the cost of moving from Ireland?

move to swtizerland money

Unfortunately, Switzerland is generally a far more expensive country to live in than Ireland. The good news however, is that the wages are also significantly higher.

If you’re planning to move to Switzerland from Ireland for a work opportunity it’s a good idea to crunch the numbers and see if the money you can earn working there is enough to cover the increase in expenses.

Here’s a table comparing the difference in the average cost of common items in Ireland as opposed to Switzerland.

Cost of living Switzerland vs IrelandCost in Ireland⁴Cost in Switzerland⁴
Meal at an inexpensive restaurant15.00€24.38€ (25 CHF)
Pint of local beer from the pub5.00€5.85€ (6 CHF)
Loaf of bread1.61€2.92€ (2.99 CHF)
Monthly transport pass100.00€78.03€ (80 CHF)
Monthly internet49.31€52.83€ (54.17 CHF)
Monthly rent for a 1 bedroom apartment in the city centre1480.62€1608.68€ (1649.29 CHF)

Finding a job in Switzerland

Finding a job in Switzerland as a foreigner can be a little tricky depending on your skills and circumstances. Here’s a few factors that contribute to the competitiveness of the Swiss job market⁶:

  • Average salaries are the highest in the world
  • Very favourable working conditions
  • There are often quotas on the number of foreign workers
  • Most job vacancies are for skilled workers

As an Irish citizen you have access to the EURES job search portal, where you can search for a job in Switzerland and learn more about working there.

You can also try searching a public jobs board online to see if any positions available match your skills. Here’s a few to get you started:

Can I work in Switzerland if I only speak English?

Switzerland is a multilingual country with four official languages: German, French, Italian and Romansh.⁷ Many inhabitants are multilingual and the dominance of each of the four official languages varies in different parts of the country.

Only being able to speak English could be a disadvantage in Switzerland. To give you an idea of why, here’s an approximate breakdown of the percentage of workplaces that use German, French, English and Italian on a daily basis⁷:

  • 60% speak Swiss German
  • 30% speak Standard German
  • 30% speak French
  • 20% speak English
  • 10% speak Italian

💡 Keep in mind: Many workplaces will function in two or more languages, and the languages will vary depending on which part of Switzerland you’re in.

Here’s some websites that may be able to help you find Swiss employment as an English speaker:

How to open a bank account in Switzerland

Switzerland is well known for their banking system and as an Irish citizen it’s relatively easy to open an account, especially if you’re already in Switzerland.

Here’s some of the documentation you might be asked for when you go to open an account⁸:

  • A valid passport
  • Proof of the origin of your income
  • Confirmation of your address
  • ID documents

Depending on the bank you choose, you may also need to fulfil the minimum balance requirement.⁸

There are many traditional banks to choose from in Switzerland so here’s a few suggestions to get you started:

  • UBS
  • Credit Suisse
  • Raiffeisen
  • Post Finance

You can also look to see what local banks are available in your canton.

Unlike Ireland, Switzerland doesn’t use the Euro. This means you’ll likely need to convert your Euros to Swiss Francs.

With Wise, you can send money from Ireland to Switzerland without having to worry about hefty exchange rate markups or hidden fees. Wise converts your money using the real, mid market exchange rate, the same you see on Google.

Alternatively, you can open a Wise multi-currency account and hold both Euros and Swiss Francs in a single account.

You'll be able to start spending in the local currency as soon as you arrive in the country. You can open an account in Swiss franc and use your Wise debit card to pay for your daily expenses.

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Healthcare system in Switzerland

Switzerland has a universal healthcare system but it isn’t free.⁹ Instead, Swiss residents are required to individually pay for a basic health insurance policy which they can then choose to upgrade.

To keep it fair and affordable, there are rules in place to ensure you aren’t penalised with higher premiums based on past claims or pre-existing medical conditions.

As an Irish citizen moving to Switzerland you are required to get a Swiss health insurance policy if you will be in the country for more than 90 days.⁹

Two of the bigger health insurance companies operating in Switzerland are Allianz and Cigna.

Read more: Moving to Sweden from Ireland

How to rent an apartment in Switzerland

moving to switzerland

Depending on where you want to live in Switzerland you may find the rental market a little competitive.¹⁰ To find a property you’re best to look online - these websites might help:

Once you’ve found a property you’ll need to apply to be considered for tenancy. The applications are often quite detailed¹⁰ and you may be asked for additional documents such as proof of residency, a letter of recommendation or a letter from your employer.

If you’re accepted by a landlord you’ll generally be asked to sign a rental contract and can be asked to pay up to three months of rent as a deposit.¹⁰

Something to keep in mind is that if you are moving to Switzerland for work, you don’t necessarily have to live in Switzerland. Instead you could join thousands of other cross border workers⁶ who live in neighbouring countries such as France, Italy and Germany.

Average rent in Switzerland

As we mentioned before, the rental market can vary depending on where you want to live. Here’s a comparison of the average rental prices for one bedroom apartments in four of Switzerland's largest cities.

Rent in Switzerland's largest citiesApartment (1 bedroom) in City CentreApartment (1 bedroom) Outside of Centre
Bern¹¹1237.50 CHF911.911 CHF
Zurich¹¹1955.50 CHF1471.92 CHF
Geneva¹²2170.79 CHF1783.33 CHF
Basel¹²1475.00 CHF1166.67 CHF

Moving to Switzerland? Save on your relocation costs with Wise

If you decide that moving to Switzerland is the right choice for you, you may want to check out Wise as a viable way to move money around.

As we mentioned earlier, Wise can facilitate money transfers abroad or support your global banking needs with their multi-currency account.

The Wise multi-currency account gives you the ability to convert and hold more than 40 currencies, including the Euro, British Pound and Swiss Franc, all through a single account.

There’s no monthly maintenance fees to worry about and your money is exchanged using the real exchange rate, just like you see on Google.

With the account you can also order a Wise debit card. The card works in 200 territories around the world and makes spending money in foreign currency simple.

To see how Wise could work for you check out the pricing calculator for yourself - a few minutes now could save you money on fees down the line.

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Sources used:

  1. Federal Statistical Office - Population
  2. Embassy of Ireland, Switzerland - Ireland-Switzerland Relations
  3. World Population Review - Switzerland
  4. Numbeo - Cost of Living Comparison Between Ireland and Switzerland
  5. Embassy of Ireland, Switzerland - New to Switzerland?
  6. Expatica - Guide to finding jobs in Switzerland
  7. Discover Switzerland - Language - facts and figures
  8. Study in Switzerland - Banking in Switzerland: How To Open a Swiss Bank Account [2022]
  9. Study in Switzerland - Health Insurance in Switzerland
  10. Study in Switzerland - Renting in Switzerland: Costs, Laws, & More
  11. Numbeo - Cost of Living Comparison Between Zurich and Bern
  12. Number - Cost of Living Comparison Between Geneva and Basel

Sources last checked on date: 1 May 2022

This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from Wise Payments Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.

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