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!