How to move to Switzerland with a partner you’re not married to and no (Swiss) employment

Phew, that was a ridiculously long title! Every word of it was necessary for completeness though. Anyway…

While I was doing research on the move to Switzerland, I found it almost impossible to figure out whether I would even be allowed to live here without a job. There are forms to download if you want to bring your family members to Switzerland, which point out in practically every sentence that they are talking about a marriage partner – emphasis on the married – and dependent children, but no website seemed to want to tell me whether it was possible to move to Switzerland with a partner who is not your spouse without having a job waiting for you in Switzerland. So now I actually have my residence permit (which is called a Bewilligung in Swiss German, as opposed to an Aufenthaltserlaubnis in every other German-speaking country (except possibly Lichtenstein)), I thought I’d do my tiny little bit to remedy the situation.

Here, before we start have a picture of Switzerland to break up the text and remind you of why you even want to go through the procedure I'm about to describe
Here, before we start have a picture of Switzerland to break up the text and remind you of why you even want to go through the procedure I’m about to describe

Disclaimer: this is what worked for me, as an EU national living in Basellandschaft. I cannot speak for the French or Italian-speaking areas of Switzerland (I’m assuming the German bits are roughly the same).

The first thing you have to do on arriving in Switzerland is go and register with your Gemeinde (=municipality, or the local authority thereof). In the French part that would be you Commune. You will need to take with you: your passport, 2 passport photos, your rental contract for your home in Switzerland and (if you previously lived in a country where you had to register) your deregistration certificate (deregistration is a word, right?). If you are still in employment outside of Switzerland, you should also bring your employment contract (or a copy) with you at this point. The person at the Gemeinde will ask you some questions, including your date of birth, place of birth, nationality and parent’s names then print out a registration form for you. You should keep hold of this – you might need it in the future. You should also tell them that you’re here to be with your partner (or, ideally, you and said partner will be registering together anyway – I came a month later than Jan for various reasons). The Gemeinde will then contact the Amt für Migration (migration office) on your behalf. Then you wait.

A few days or a week later, you will receive a letter in the post along with a Verpflichtungserklärung (declaration of commitment – I don’t know what it’s called in French or Italian, but it’s a Swiss-wide thing so you’ll definitely need it in the other parts). Your partner needs to fill this in – basically he or she agrees to act as guarantor for you and to pay any costs that should become necessary, including for health insurance, accident insurance and also to cover your costs to leave the country again if necessary. You then need to take the filled in and signed Verpflichtungserklärung to your Gemeinde/Commune or to the Amt für Migration, depending on which canton you live in. For Basellandschaft, it’s the Gemeinde. Basel-Stadt is the Migrationsamt, but your letter will tell you that. What the letter doesn’t tell you is that you also need to bring proof that your partner is capable of meeting the obligations he/she has committed to. This is because what constitutes proof differs from place to place. We had to provide proof that Jan had 30,000 francs in his bank account. Needless to say, he does not! Some places also want a Betreibungsauszug (an extract from the debt collection register). If your partner is Swiss, this won’t be a problem. If they’re German, the equivalent is the SCHUFA-Auskunft. Any other nationality I have no idea whether an equivalent exists. If you’re rich, your tasks end here. You take your Verpflichtungserklärung and your proof to the responsible place, they tick the box saying “yes, the guarantor can support this person”, you retrieve your now stamped form, pay a fee (mine was 10 francs, but that may differ by Gemeinde), send the form back to the Amt für Migration and soon you’ll receive a “welcome to Switzerland” letter informing you about what kind of Bewilligung you’re getting. Congratulations, rich person! You can stop reading now.

More Switzerland... it really is worth the effort!
More Switzerland… it really is worth the effort!

If, like us, you’re not rich and therefore do not have 30,000 francs lying around, you may be in trouble. However, if you’re still employed in another country (and intend to continue working there, either by crossing the border or by telecommuting) you may be in luck! Along with my Verpflichtungserklärung, where the lady from the Gemeinde had oh-so-kindly ticked no, I had to send the Migrationsamt 1) a letter from my employer confirming that I am working there full time and have a permanent contract that neither side has terminated and 2) copies of my last 12 wage slips. I then waited for 2 weeks then, just as I was about to phone them, a letter arrived informing me that my permit had been approved and I was invited to a welcome meeting where I could pick it up (the “invitation” is more of an order though – although it can be rearranged if you have a really good reason. Having to work probably doesn’t count by the way – they actually include a letter for your employer telling them why they should let you go to the appointment). And voilà, you are officially, legally a resident of Switzerland.

Foreigner's ID - the residence permit is inside
Foreigner’s ID – the residence permit is inside

If you’re self-employed/freelance, providing evidence of a regular income from freelancing would probably work, provided the authorities decide it’s enough to live on If you are neither rich nor employed I’m afraid I can’t help you. But as an EU citizen you are allowed to stay in Switzerland for 3 months with neither a job nor a guarantor, so that should buy you some time to go job hunting. And hey, this is already more information than I was able to find before I moved!

84 thoughts on “How to move to Switzerland with a partner you’re not married to and no (Swiss) employment

    1. Haha, thanks. It’s not that difficult, just annoying having to go back and forth because nobody actually tells you everything you need the first time so you can just bring it all at once!

  1. Hey! Nice blog. I’m a fellow Brit about to move to the German-speaking part Switzerland so I’ll be following your blog closely 🙂

    1. As long as there is someone who can sign the “Verpflichtungserklärung” (and who earns enough for the Swiss authorities to agree that they can support another person) I would imagine so. You would have to contact the Gemeinde in question to see what they would consider evidence though – I’m not sure whether EU/non-EU makes a difference there. I guess I will find out in a few years when Britain is no longer EU…

      1. Thanks Bev! Your article was really helpful. We are going to try the same in November and we’ll keep the group updated to see if that is all possible 🙂

  2. Thank you so much for this! I was trying to figure it out, but as you said the internet is very specific when talking about married couples, and very vague about anything else! Do you need to go through all this if you’re married too?

    1. I *think* it might be easier if you’re married. I know there’s a different form to fill in if you want to bring your spouse and children with you. And I’m almost certain that you don’t have to go through the Verpflichtung rigmarole because they assume that by getting married you’ve already agreed to support the other person.

  3. I did in in Austria and it is also called an Aufenthaltsbewilligung and the card itself is a title entitling you to residency and work called the Aufenthaltstitel. So perhaps Germany is the oddball?

    1. No, in Germany I didn’t need them because it is in the EU and I am (was?) from the EU. All EU citizens have an automatic right to reside/work in the EU. I also lived in Austria for a year and didn’t need any permits. In Switzerland I need a residence permit because Switzerland is not part of the EU (and neither will Britain be soon).

  4. My ex husband is swiss, and i am american. We want to gey back together but we want to take thinhs slow, and date for awile. I moved back to the U.S after the divorve. However, i want to move back there to be with him as hes girlfriend… he doesnt want to come here, so i have to go there.
    The process you explained seems easy; however, do we need to prove he had 30,000 chf ? He’s swiss so does this apply to him as well? When I was living there, I was not working, but I am now working a part time job in the states. So he would be supporting me until I find a job there. Would we be able to be together as boyfriend and girlfriend?

    1. Everybody who agrees to support someone has to prove they can even if they are Swiss, but how they prove it differs. We were told to bring copies of bank statements but when I asked the Migrationsamt about it they said what evidence you needed was a matter for the Gemeinde, so whether you need bank statements will depend on where you live. We also provided a copy of my boyfriend’s contract stating how much he earns per month – that is enough in some places. My advice would be for you to contact your Gemeindeverwaltung (or the equivalent in French/Italian cantons) and ask them what they will need as evidence.

  5. woow great article! I am not from the EU and my girlfriend is swiss. I’ve been in Switzerland 2 times (Lausanne), and she has come to visit me as well. We’ve been dating for almost 4 years and we would like to be together and get married in the future. We will try to do the same you did and will update you if it works.

    Just a question, what is exactly a deregistration certificate? Thank you so much in advance.

    1. I hope it helps! 🙂

      You only need the deregistration certificate if you’re from (or living in) a country that makes you register when you move. I know Germany and Austria do, but Britain doesn’t. If your country doesn’t do that the place where you register (“Gemeindeverwaltung” in German-speaking Switzlerand, not sure what it’s called in Lausanne) should know about that and you shouldn’t need anything.

  6. This is by far the best and most helpful article I’ve read about moving to Swiss when you’re not a Swiss residence and your partner is! Thank you very much!

    My boyfriend is helping me apply exactly what you did, and now we’ve received the reply after the first form submission – next step would be to provide mthe remaining documents you mentioned. But I’m just wondering if the process you described applies to other nationalities too? Or is it slightly simpler because you’re from the EU? I am from Malaysia by the way.

    1. I think it might be slightly easier if you’re from the EU, but I’m honestly not sure. The bit where your partner has to prove he can support you applies to everyone but there is a chance they might ask for something additional if you’re not from the EU. It is easier for people from the EU to move here to work because of an agreement with the EU that says they have to let people in, but if you’re not moving for a job (which I wasn’t) there shouldn’t really be a difference. Good luck to you!

      1. We finally submitted everything, Phew! That was a lot of documents. May I know how long did it take for them to grant you the pass after you’ve submitted your documents? Nervously waiting now. :/

    2. Hi im from philippines and my fiance has just started putting up is own business in switzerland. can this be a proof that he can be able to support me here? we were both working in dubai and he decided to go back to switzerland so we can start planning for our wedding ther,,

      1. He would have to prove that he makes enough income from his business, which might be difficult if he’s just starting out. Alternatively if he has savings he can provide a statement from the savings account to show he has enough to support you both until the business takes off. As far as I know it doesn’t matter whose name the apartment is under. Nobody even asked me whose name our apartment is under! I just had to give the address where I’m living.

      2. Thank you so much for your response. I do hope he’ll be successful in the food business within few months time as we are planning to do the processing early next year. I have visited switzerland two times and thank u for telling me regarding the apartment. They have a big house in Moutier so maybe our only problem is the proof of support coz i dont think he has 30,000 francs on his account

      3. We didn’t either, but the Migrationamt ended up accepting my boyfriend’s work contract as evidence (even though our local Verwaltung didn’t). If you’re unsure maybe your partner can call the migration office and ask what they would accept as evidence apart from 30,000 francs in savings.

  7. btw my partner is a swiss..regarding the apartment, does it have to be under his name? coz he is living in a house where his mom lives and its only the 2 of them there,, and its 3 bedroom.. thank you!

  8. Thank you so much for writing this!
    I am just about to go through the same process. Whilst I am Australian through and through, I am fortunate to hold a British passport also which I will use for my application. I am hoping being a dual citizen does not create any complications.
    I was just wondering, how much does the whole process cost from start to finish? Whilst my partner is Swiss and is returning home, his new job is covering the cost of me moving to a point.
    Thanks again so much!

    1. Hmm… I’m trying to remember whether we actually had to pay for anything. I think the stamp from the local community might have cost something like 30 francs. If the residence permit itself cost anything then it can’t have been very much otherwise I would have remembered! Our main expense was the removal company (which my partner’s company eventually paid back) and the deposit for the apartment, but we would have had to pay those regardless of nationality.

      1. Hi!

        Did they require any evidence that you were indeed in a longterm relationship? Like I don’t know, pictures or papers that you have lived together or other stuff like that?

        We want to apply for the same thing, he has 30 k in his account, that is not problem, but we cannot prove we lived together or that we’re together for more than a year. Does it matter if I want an L permit, not a B? I want it for max a year, since I am coming for Masters in Zurich in one year anyway.

        We are EU, both of us, he has an L already.

      2. They didn’t even ask us for anything like that. Since you are both EU I assume it will be the same for you – as long as he signs the form and agrees to support you it’s fine (by signing he also agrees that if you split up he will pay for you to leave the country again, so I guess they are covered by that). Good luck!

  9. This is excellent Bev! I’ve been planning my move for the last six months and this is by far the most straightforward info I have received! I’m now here and moved from 7 years in Oz, but born and raised in the UK, yippie!

    I merrily trotted off to the local canton office to register when I arrived, but got turned away as I don’t have a permit yet! I’m currently job hunting and plan on coming in and out of the country up to 3 months at a time as I believe that doesn’t require a permit, however, I’m confused if I still need to register during this time, and if this messes up getting a visa (when I finally get a job!)?

    Any insight you might have would be great! Thanks 🙂

    1. It’s weird that you got turned away because you didn’t have a permit – I assume by that you mean a residence permit? I couldn’t have got my residence permit without registering because it was the people I registered with who informed the migration office that I was here and needed a residence permit! You do, however, need an address to register. If you mean a work permit it’s possible that you need to have the permit before you can register. I don’t work here so I don’t actually have a work permit (and my residence permit actually says I can’t work – although if I find a job I just send it in to be updated) but my reason for being in Switzerland is listed as “staying with partner”

      Officially the 3 months is for tourism and technically you shouldn’t be job hunting in that time but I suppose people do come for 3 months and job hunt anyway. I’m pretty sure it’s 3 consecutive months in 180 days though – so after the three months you would have to leave for three months before you could come back.

      I hope this helps 🙂

    1. Basically you register as a resident of your community. If you change address you have to inform them as well. Swiss people have to do itself as well – the authorities want to know exactly where all their residents live. A totally alien concept to Brits but a lot of countries do it (Germany and Austria definitely).

  10. Hi thank you for your post, we were in the same situation sort of. My partner is German and I’m from the Philippines. I am applying for national visa and were not married, its gonna be 8 weeks tomorrow and really hoping to get it soon.

  11. Hello! Is your partner from the EU? I am in a similar situation myself, my girlfriend is an EU Citizen but i am a foreign country citizen. Do you think the same process would apply to us as well, if i have the 30,000 francs ?

    If not, would us being married help? I know that she would get an L-permit right away, i am talking about a B-permit for her and one for me as a dependent.

    Thanks!

    1. Yes, my partner is German. The form we completed was for anyone regardless of nationality so as long as your girlfriend is entitled to a residence permit she would be able to complete the form for you too stay in Switzerland with her. If you have the savings or can prove some kind of income I assume you would be approved.

  12. Thank you! Do you think this process would be the same if
    1) I’m from the US
    2) I have regular income not from work?
    My partner is Swiss and I’m trying to figure out how I can join him without necessarily having a work permit.
    Thank you for all your hard work!!!!

    1. I’m sorry I didn’t respond before. I’ve had a difficult few weeks.

      Yes, I would think the process would be the same. He will have to fill in the form saying he will support you, but as long as you provide proof of your income it should work in exactly the same way it did for me – the form is for all foreign nationals. The only difference is your permit wouldn’t be EU/EFTA so it’s possible you’ll get an L permit (valid for a year) first and have to renew more often. I honestly don’t know how that works if your partner is Swiss though, as my permit is based on my German partner’s so I just got what he has.

  13. Like everyone else, I’d like to say thank you for this article!

    I’m just wondering if any of those saying they’d update once they got a response ever got in touch with you to let you know if they were successful?

    I have a similar story, I’m South African and my boyfriend is Swiss (from the french part), we’ve been dating long distance, travelling back and forth for two years. We’ve tried the study visa route but it’s proving to be tougher than I initially thought. I’m wondering if this may be the better option. Also wondering if after all this time whether you have any more information on how this works in the French region?

    1. I know the form the guarantor has to fill in exists in a French version so that part is the same throughout Switzerland. The exact evidence they want that you can afford it differs by town though so I can’t really help there, except to say even though my town said now the “Ausländeramt” didn’t agree with them and said we were fine.

      Somebody who read this post wrote about their process of getting a visa for Switzerland here: https://transportedbyliebe.wordpress.com/2018/12/11/how-to-apply-for-a-national-visa-switzerland/ She is Filipino and lives in Valais which is French/German so you could try getting in touch with her for more information on the French region.

  14. Really amazing post. Well done ! 🙂
    Basically as you said going around through the different forms they have online are not referring such kind of situation.

    Do you have any idea though in case you were unemployed (with your employed partner), which steps you should follow to get a residency permit ?

      1. I see. Thank you.
        Although is there any way to get more detailed information from a Canton ( Zurich ) service for such kind of situations ? ( Phone / Email )

      2. I emailed the Baselland Migrationsamt and they told me to provide my last 12 months of wage slips as proof I had my own income as well, so contacting the Zurich one is definitely worth a try. They should have a website with contact information.

  15. Hi everyone, me (French with a B permit and working in Switzerland) and my girlfriend (Russian) got refused by the Zurich migrationsamt, we had tons of documents, pictures, etc… but missing was the rental contract in both our names, since we were travelling allot without getting papers to proove our time together. Visa stamps were not enough. we did a crazy work to try to proove, but they refused. Just a warning for non-maried, non-eu couples.

    1. Thank you for your comment. I’m sorry you were refused. Can you try again? Hopefully your comment will be helpful for other people in your situation since I can only speak for my own, and we had a rental contract in both our names before applying.

  16. Hi, your article is very useful.
    Do you know if all Cantons/Gemeinde offer this type of Visa, or only some?

    I’m an EU citizen, but my girlfriend is Chinese, and currently we are in a long-distance relation, travelling back and forth once in a while.
    I don’t have a rental contract under her name, because so far she has only visited me in Germany as a tourist, staying at most 1 month.

    1. The form my boyfriend completed to say he would support me is available in all cantons. The ultimate decision of whether a residence permit is actually granted is up to the migration authority of the individual canton but the option is available in all cantons. I hope that helps. (The visa to actually enter the country is separate and not something I have experience with.)

  17. Hi Bev,
    Thanks for this super helpful blog. My boyfriend lives in Zurich Canton, (recently naturalised Swiss Citizen) and I, (United Kingdom Citizen) have been together for 1.5 year. I visit him in Zurich quite often and also we’ve been on few holidays together. I am looking to relocate to Switzerland to live with him at the end of March this year. I’ve given my resignation letter to my employer in the UK.
    I initially wanted to move there for 90 days to look for employment. However, we want to see if i’ll be able to apply for some sort of resident permit that will allow me to find work in Switzerland. But the issue is that we both don’t have CHF30000 in our accounts. Any advice for my situation?

    Many thanks again.

    Regards,

    Eva

    1. Hi Eva, my boyfriend and I didn’t have enough savings either so my “Gemeinde” said I didn’t meet the requirements. What I did was email the migration authority for my canton and ask what evidence they would accept as an alternative. I actually have a job (just not in Switzerland) so they had me send my last 12 wage slips. I assume your boyfriend works? So perhaps they would accept copies of his wage slips as evidence he can support you? The best thing would be to contact the Migrationsamt for Zurich. Good luck!

    2. Hi Eva,
      According to my UK friends who have done it, as a UK citizen you can apply for an L permit (short-term residence visa) which allows you to stay and look for a job for up to a year, renewable once. Then once you find a job, they can get you a B or C permit (residence/work permits).

      However! As the UK will no longer be in the EU after tomorrow, I’m not sure what will happen. It’s worth asking at the UK embassy though!

      1. Hi Estelle, thanks for your comment. I got my B permit straight away (and never planned to look for a job in Switzerland) so this is good to know and will hopefully help Eva and anyone who comes across this in the future 🙂

  18. Hi all,

    Many thanks for your brilliant comments. You’ve been very helpful. Yes, with the Brexit situation, it might not be that straight forward anymore for UK citizens, even though we have the transitional period till the end of this year, I’m not sure if that counts.
    For the past year, I’ve been actively looking for an English-speaking job in Zurich and the surrounding Cantons, but it’s very challenging given that I do not speak German. However, my boyfriend and I are looking for other alternatives. I’ll keep you posted when I get further information.

    Regards,

    Eva

  19. Hi Eva! I am in a relationship with a UK/Swiss citizen who lives in Zürich and I am a Mexican/US citizen. First of all, thank you so much for your post! It’s super helpful. Second, I was wondering, if we go through this process, will the permit I get allow me to work in Switzerland? Or would I just have residency without an option to work? I am doing an online degree and would love to move in with him but I don’t want to be a freeloader. Thanks!

    1. The residence permit itself doesn’t allow you to work. You have to find employment then you get a work permit through your employer (the work permit is tied to a specific job). My residence permit actually says I’m not allowed to work in Switzerland because I have a job in Germany but they told me if I do find a job here I just have to send in that page and they will replace it with one saying I can work here.

  20. Hi !
    I’ve been trying to look for more information online and even from the embassy, however it’s been a bit of a nightmare ! So thanks a lot for posting this useful information !

    My situation is a bit different though, and I was wondering if anyone here can help me with more information.

    My boyfriend is from the UK and we have been living together for a bit over one year now.

    I am Colombian with a permanent residence in Chile and we both live and work here . However, he has been offered a job in Zurich, starting June 2020.

    We are not married but have a de facto non registered relationship, this morning I called the embassy in Chile and they told me the only way I can be on his visa is if we are married . Yesterday I came across a post from 2015 talking about the “concubine “ visa/permit , and asked about it to the person at the embassy, and he said “no, the I my way is if you are married” .

    I’m very lost in all this process, as I understand there are certain requirements : first he will have to apply for his visa, get the registration, have his job contract, have the lease of a place in Switzerland and then he goes to the canton registration office closer to where he is and then “apply” for my visa (or something like that) and then I’ll have to wait either in Chile or Colombia for at least 3 months before being able to move there .
    We have enough savings and also his salary is good enough to be my sponsor , so that won’t be an issue , but my question is more related if anyone has an aides of what the process would be for me being a Colombian national?
    Does anyone know how this works ?

    On the other hand, it was mentioned her that you have to prove you “deregistered” where you used to live, this only applies for the EU?

    I really hope anyone here can help me as I’m a bit frustrated with the lack of information either online or directly from the embassy .

    Thanks a lot !!

    1. The deregistration only applies to places where you have to register your address with the authorities – it’s actually not the case for the UK but I was coming from Germany. You can definitely get a partner visa without being married (“concubine” as you said). It’s at the migration authority’s discretion to an extent but if you have the savings and your partner can prove income (work contract) it should be fine. We were able to get the form for him to apply to be my sponsor without waiting three months – they actually told me we could have registered together to start with – but at the time I was an EU citizen so I’m not 100% sure how that would work for you.

  21. Hi,
    I have found your page very interesting, thanks for sharing!
    My partner and I, both EU – Italians, moved from Toulouse, France to Geneva because jobs were limited for me, my French still not fluent enough to work. So we’ve just moved with my partner (not married) here, he got a very good job but I have been unemployed since June 2018. I have register into the Canton of Geneve for my Permis they have mentioned that would take 3 months or more. Today we went there to register new address so we could make our health insurance, because I could not register myself at Labor Offices without this AVS. So, they have mentioned that I should do this “FORM O” because I would get faster my Permis card, so we’ve made it. But I don’t understand exactly why, if my boyfriend was already taking my expenses (like paying my insurances, bills, etc), is this because I could be included into the Swiss Offices (Like Labor Office, insurance maladie, pensions etc)? Is still not clear to me, I wanted to register myself into the regional employment centre (RAV) but they requested the insurance number that should come with the Permis. I know it’s little bit complicated, information are mixed.
    1) I just wanted to know after this application as Guarantor would really make it easier for me somehow have the Permis and to have this number to register myself into Labor Offices?
    2) Would I have some benefits from this, as unemployed? It something will be deducted from his salary etc if I have done this?

    If you have more info let me know! 🙂 Much Appreciated!
    Aline Zonta

    1. I’m so sorry, I don’t know anything about this. I have a job (in Germany) so I didn’t need to register with the unemployment office. I don’t know what the “form O” is, but even if your boyfriend already pays all your expenses he still has to complete the declaration of commitment (Verpflichtungserklärung – I think it is Déclaration d’engagement in French) and provide evidence that he really can support you. They won’t just take his word that he is paying already. The permit can take a while – 3 months sounds about right. Mine came faster but it depends how busy they are.

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