for reasons of asylum, it is theoretically possible to become a resident
of Switzerland if a person:
Is under age 55
with independent means and has invested directly in a Swiss company. Perfect!
I received a modest retirement pension each month so I considered myself
fitting nicely into the category of having ‘independent means.’
Actually, I rather liked the way it rolled off my tongue.
Marries a Swiss
citizen; Nix that - I didn’t know anyone to have a date with, much less
Already has a
work contract in Switzerland; Nix that - getting a job would defeat the
purpose of being retired.
Is over age 55
with independent means; Nix that - I was not yet even fifty years old.
As I discovered,
no government official would admit how much money one had to have to be
considered ‘of independent means’. Nonetheless, I quickly
got the message that unless one was super rich they need not apply. So,
nix that idea, too.
Then to make
the possibility of successfully getting a Residency Permit even slimmer,
recent bi-lateral legislation was enacted to favor EU citizens over the
rest of the world. Americans slipped further down in the stack. It
was starting to look hopeless.
to Try to Live in a Country That Did Not Seem to Want Me?
is because Switzerland is simply gorgeous. The majestic snow-covered
Alps can be seen from almost everywhere in the country. The many
scenic lakes are crystal clear. The little chalets perched on impossibly
steep slopes look exactly like a music box I coveted as a child.
Even the milk-chocolate colored cows grazing contentedly in the meadows
are picturesque. The whole country is a living postcard and I wanted to
be in it.
Switzerland is a healthy place to live. Only scant amounts of
chemicals or engineering are allowed in the food sources, if at all, and
there is no pollution. Health care is of the highest quality and
remarkably caring on a personal level. There are no HMO’s - only
private physicians. Health insurance in mandatory for everyone; but
it is private instead of nationalized, although it is heavily regulated
to be affordable. My monthly premium costs about $200 per month for coverage
of health care, including medical prescriptions. Unbelievably, spending
a couple weeks at a spa would also be covered.
I was not willing to give up trying was that one of my great passions in
life is travel. Being located in the middle of Western Europe is
absolutely ideal for travel to far-flung places like South Africa, China
or Russia. The fascinating Eastern European countries that
have not yet become over-touristed are only short flights away. Closer
to home, Austria, France, Germany, Liechtenstein and Italy are merely day
trips. Without sounding pretentious, I can say things like, “Shall
we pop down to Italy for lunch?” or “I am out of hand crème,
I think I’ll dash over to that little shop in France to pick some up.”
Add to all
this that Switzerland is extremely safe, clean, friendly, and English is
accepted. The public transportation is relatively inexpensive,
reliable to the minute, and covers the entire country. One does not
need to own a car in Switzerland. In a nutshell, Switzerland functions
as well as an expensive Swiss timepiece and has perhaps the best infrastructure
and quality of life in the world. And not just for the rich but for
all other possibilities for obtaining a Residence Permit, I finally ended
up founding a small consulting company. Founding a company proved
to be relatively easy to accomplish, not terribly expensive and had some
interesting tax benefits. However, the company has to be a legitimate
business, pay taxes and such, so this solution would not work for most
employment in Switzerland is possible, and in particular for specialists.
Naturally it would improve a person’s chances if they spoke German or French.
But I do occasionally see advertisements seeking English speaking employees
at Nestle, for example.
you don’t live in Switzerland, an interesting possibility is to visit Switzerland
for three months as a tourist. No visa must be obtained for citizens
of most countries; it is the entrance date into Switzerland that is proof.
There are lots of fully furnished apartments available for short-term rentals
at reasonable prices that would cost only a tiny fraction of what a hotel
would charge. Many Swiss take really long vacations every now and
then, up to a year sometimes, and they like to rent out their apartments
while they are gone. You can make arrangement though an agency or by getting
in contact with the ex-pat community to learn about private sub-leases.
Cost of Living
Once I had
the authorization to live in Switzerland, what remained to be seen was
whether it would be possible to live in such a wealthy country on a modest
What I discovered
was that living in Switzerland is actually quite affordable. To begin
with, social and income taxes are less than in the USA, for example, and
significantly less than other EU countries. Sales taxes are the lowest
by a wide margin in Western Europe.
in Swiss cities live in apartments their whole lives, and rents are on
the high side. I pay CHF 2100 for a two bedroom, bath-and-a-half
apartment with a parking space in the garage. On the other hand,
utilities are cheap. Restaurants and groceries seem shockingly expensive
at first, but one adjusts by eliminating waste. Instead of driving
to a grocery store every week and loading up the car trunk and back seat
with purchases, I walk to the store a couple blocks away with my rolling
carry home what you buy, you buy a lot less. Now that I am shopping
for fresh groceries two or three times a week, I never throw food out anymore.
Food doesn’t have time to sit around in the refrigerator long enough to
become boring or out-of-date.
the cost of living is high in Switzerland, I simply do not spend as much
as I would if I lived in the USA. Not having access to so many
consumer goods on such a wide scale basis does have its merits. There
is less temptation.
we are not harangued with endless marketing schemes. The Swiss
do not tolerate bothersome unsolicited telephone calls, so companies know
better than to make them. We can refuse to receive junk mail and
the refusal is respected. The TV stations have only a couple commercials
once an hour or so. And the long distance companies don’t offer chances
to win a car and when you fill out the form, you have unwittingly changed
carriers. It is refreshing to live in an environment where people
are not bombarded with suggestions to consume more.
I ended up living and retiring in Europe is not a road map for anyone else
to follow. It is just one woman’s story. I am the first
to admit that I was lucky to be in the right place at the right time. But
my situation does show that it is possible to live quite comfortably on
a small fixed income in a wealthy country. True, for people who are not
millionaires it may be harder to get residency than in poor countries,
but with creativity, research and perseverance it is possible. For
example, I heard recently that anyone who could prove they had German ancestors
could get a five-year residency permit.
there are lots of cheaper places to live, but one does not have to live
in an impoverished third world country in order to live well. When
one considers the freedom to be safe and secure, and the quality of life,
my money is on Switzerland.
and Working in Switzerland, by David Hampshire
one source for short-term furnished apartments
Provides immigration service for the rich and famous, but also has useful
information for the rest of us.
Official tourist information
If you would
like to contact Bonnie Burns write the following: firstname.lastname@example.org