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Project Expat
  • Project Expat
  • Jul 20, 2023

The 4 Best Expat Cities in Switzerland

If you’re considering a move to Europe, let us tell you about the best expat cities in Switzerland.

Eager to immerse yourself in the country’s breathtaking landscapes, renowned quality of life, and thriving economy? Look no further! We’ll be delving into the Swiss immigration landscape, providing you with valuable insights into the requirements and timelines of various cities.

№1. Bern

The capital of Switzerland is surprisingly not the city with the highest number of international companies, as is the case for most other countries. Bern is still a political and cultural centre of Switzerland and is home to several industries and federal organisations.

This makes Bern the 5th most populous city in Switzerland (behind Zurich, Geneva, Basel and Lausanne) with an expat population of around 34%.

The immigration authorities in the canton of Bern have quick processing times, streamlined processes and are easily accessible for any queries. They are well known for their friendliness and willingness to help.

It is no surprise that processing times are fast in Bern, and applications are handled within approximately 2-4 weeks from the document submission stage.

Bern Switzerland Aerial View best expat cities in Switzerland

№2. Zug

Nestled in the canton of Zug lies a hidden gem for expats. Renowned for its robust pharmaceutical industry, Zug’s cantonal immigration authorities have honed their processes to cater to the influx of applications from highly skilled individuals. Their responsiveness and straightforward approach make for a seamless experience, allowing expats to navigate the immigration journey with ease.

Queries and concerns are met with exceptional responsiveness, ensuring expats feel supported throughout the application process. The processing time for a residence permit in Zug averages approximately 4 weeks, enabling expats to swiftly establish their new lives in this hub of efficiency and innovation.

Zug Switzerland Aerial View
Zug Switzerland Aerial View

№2. Zug

Nestled in the canton of Zug lies a hidden gem for expats. Renowned for its robust pharmaceutical industry, Zug’s cantonal immigration authorities have honed their processes to cater to the influx of applications from highly skilled individuals. Their responsiveness and straightforward approach make for a seamless experience, allowing expats to navigate the immigration journey with ease.

Queries and concerns are met with exceptional responsiveness, ensuring expats feel supported throughout the application process. The processing time for a residence permit in Zug averages approximately 4 weeks, enabling expats to swiftly establish their new lives in this hub of efficiency and innovation.

№3. Geneva

Geneva, a true melting pot of cultures, stands proudly as one of the most international cities in the world, with an expat population comprising around 45% of its total inhabitants. With a rich history and stunning lakeside setting, Geneva has long been a sought-after destination for those seeking to settle in Switzerland.

However, with such popularity comes administrative challenges. The migration office in Geneva grapples with an incredible influx of work and residence requests daily.

Consequently, processing times in Geneva are generally above average compared to other cantons, with a minimum waiting period of 8 weeks for work permit applications. It’s important to note that the high volume of requests may lead to less responsiveness from the authorities, and phone lines can often be busy.

While efforts have been made to streamline services and move processes online, the pace remains slower for most types of applications, particularly for non-EU nationals. Patience and planning are key when navigating Geneva’s administrative landscape, ensuring a smoother transition into this vibrant international city.

View over Lac Léman and the Jet d'Eau in Geneva, Switzerland

№3. Geneva

Geneva, a true melting pot of cultures, stands proudly as one of the most international cities in the world, with an expat population comprising around 45% of its total inhabitants. With a rich history and stunning lakeside setting, Geneva has long been a sought-after destination for those seeking to settle in Switzerland.

However, with such popularity comes administrative challenges. The migration office in Geneva grapples with an incredible influx of work and residence requests daily.

View over Lac Léman and the Jet d'Eau in Geneva, Switzerland

Consequently, processing times in Geneva are generally above average compared to other cantons, with a minimum waiting period of 8 weeks for work permit applications. It’s important to note that the high volume of requests may lead to less responsiveness from the authorities, and phone lines can often be busy.

While efforts have been made to streamline services and move processes online, the pace remains slower for most types of applications, particularly for non-EU nationals. Patience and planning are key when navigating Geneva’s administrative landscape, ensuring a smoother transition into this vibrant international city.

№4. Zurich 

Zurich, the bustling economic heart of Switzerland, reigns supreme as the most populous city in the country, with approximately 1.5 million residents, of whom 25% are expats. The city’s vibrant lifestyle, world-class amenities, and excellent job opportunities continue to draw individuals from all corners of the globe.

From an immigration standpoint, Zurich’s authorities strive for efficiency, diligently following streamlined processes.

However, due to the high demand for work and residence permits, the labor market authority tends to exercise stricter requirements for non-EU nationals, resulting in a more intricate application process. The same applies to family reunion requests, which often necessitate document compliance, legalizations, and filings through the Swiss Embassy abroad. Consequently, processing times can range from 6 to 8 weeks.

The sheer volume of permit card requests may lead to additional delays, extending processing times to up to 2 months, even for EU nationals. Despite these challenges, Zurich’s allure remains unwavering, offering a rewarding expat experience for those willing to navigate the administrative landscape.

Zurich City Guide Things to Do
Zurich City Guide Things to Do

№4. Zurich 

Zurich, the bustling economic heart of Switzerland, reigns supreme as the most populous city in the country, with approximately 1.5 million residents, of whom 25% are expats. The city’s vibrant lifestyle, world-class amenities, and excellent job opportunities continue to draw individuals from all corners of the globe.

From an immigration standpoint, Zurich’s authorities strive for efficiency, diligently following streamlined processes.

However, due to the high demand for work and residence permits, the labor market authority tends to exercise stricter requirements for non-EU nationals, resulting in a more intricate application process. The same applies to family reunion requests, which often necessitate document compliance, legalizations, and filings through the Swiss Embassy abroad. Consequently, processing times can range from 6 to 8 weeks.

The sheer volume of permit card requests may lead to additional delays, extending processing times to up to 2 months, even for EU nationals. Despite these challenges, Zurich’s allure remains unwavering, offering a rewarding expat experience for those willing to navigate the administrative landscape.

With a comprehensive overview of the best expat cities in Switzerland, you’re equipped with essential knowledge to embark on your Swiss adventure. Bern, with its streamlined processes and friendliness, welcomes expats with open arms. Zug’s efficiency and innovation provide a seamless transition into Swiss life. Geneva, while posing administrative challenges, offers an unparalleled international flair. Finally, Zurich, the economic powerhouse, rewards those who navigate its processes with incredible opportunities.

Embrace the beauty, embrace the opportunities, and embark on your Swiss adventure! The best expat cities in Switzerland are ready to embrace you with their unique charm and exceptional quality of life.

Fragomen offers English-speaking Immigration Law services. They are the largest exclusive immigration and visa service provider in the world. With a team of German and English-speaking experts, as well as an additional 19 language capabilities, they are ready to serve clients from all backgrounds and nationalities. Whether you are driven by lifestyle reasons or looking for new opportunities, Fragomen is here to provide comprehensive solutions and a smooth immigration experience for you and your family throughout the world’s 170 countries.