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READER QUESTIONS

READER QUESTION: Can I live in Switzerland without registering at the commune?

If you come from a country with fewer regulations surrounding your residency, then Swiss rules may seem to be unnecessarily onerous. Here's what you need to know about registering with the commune.

READER QUESTION: Can I live in Switzerland without registering at the commune?
You may be able to register your arrival online. Photo: Pixabay

One of the first things you may have learned as a newcomer to Switzerland is that there is a huge amount of paperwork you need to fill out and file with appropriate authorities when settling in.

Getting registered in your place of residence is one of them.

Every person living in Switzerland, whether Swiss or foreigner, must announce their arrival to their local communal or municipal authorities within 14 days.

There is no way to circumvent this requirement; you can’t move from one location to another and stay pretty much under the radar. That’s because Swiss authorities want to know who is living in their country and where.

One of the reasons for this requirement is to be able to find you in case of need, but there are other reasons as well — for instance, for statistical purposes, so that local governments know how many residents there are in each of their communes.

This is important for calculating tax revenues, health infrastructure, emergency plans, and other logistics.

Being a rebel and not registering with your commune (even if you manage to be undetected, which is doubtful in a small and well-organised country like Switzerland), will eventually backfire.

Local authorities will find you anyway sooner or later — probably sooner — and impose a hefty fine on you, the amount of which will depend on the reason why you didn’t register in the first place.

There will be certain situations when you will be asked to show the proof of residence document (Wohnsitzbescheinigungen/ Attestation de domicile / certificati di residenza) in your commune — for instance, in connection with tax and social security contributions, or when renewing your driving licence.

The requirement to register in your town or village can be likened to the obligation to buy a health insurance policy: you must do it whether you like it or not.

READ MORE: What happens if I don’t renew my Swiss health insurance?

How do you register?

In some cantons, you can do this procedure online, while in others you must come to your local residents’ registration office (Einwohnerkontrolle / Contrôle des habitants/ Controllo abitanti) in person.

Whether you register online or in person, you will need the following documents:

  • A passport or ID card for each member of the family, in addition to a passport-sized photo for everyone
  • Documents about your family status — whether you are single, married, with or without children
  • Your work or residency permit 
  • Your rent contract or proof of home ownership.

The entire process will have to be repeated when you move to another home, even if you remain in the same commune. You will have to de-register your old address and register the new one.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: How to register your address in Switzerland

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For members

LIVING IN SWITZERLAND

How employees in Switzerland can take more holidays in 2023

If you work in Switzerland, you are entitled to take four weeks for holidays, either at once or in smaller time periods. There, is, however, a way, to extend your time off — if you plan ahead.

How employees in Switzerland can take more holidays in 2023

Four weeks (20 days) is the strict legal minimum for people working 41 hours per week, which counts as a full-time position.

However, many companies offer their employees more than the legal minimum; the exact number of days or weeks is outlined in an employment contract.

For part-time work, the four-week period is pro-rated according to the number of hours an employee works each week.

However, there is an astute way of extending your vacation time without taking off too many additional work days. This is how.

The “bridges”

As Christmas Day (December 25th) and New Year Day (January 1st) are public holidays, some businesses close down during the entire period between the two holidays, giving their employees the days between the two dates as holiday time (in addition to the statutory four weeks).

This year, however, both Christmas and New Year fall on a Sunday, so you don’t really gain anything. However, if they fall on, say, Friday or Monday, then in the very least you get a nice long weekend.

There is a movement among Swiss labour unions to provide a compensation day if a public holiday falls on the weekend, as it does this year, but so far there has not been any response from the employers’ associations.

READ MORE: Swiss politicians call for ‘lost’ public holidays to be replaced

Another longish “time off” period is around Easter: Good Friday (April 7th in 2023)  is a public holiday nearly everywhere in Switzerland, except in Ticino and Valais, as is Easter Monday (April 10th), with the exception of Neuchâtel, Solothurn, Valais and Zug.

So if you live anywhere in the country except those cantons, you can take the Thursday before and Tuesday after Easter as two “holiday” days and enjoy an almost week-long vacation which will “cost” you only two days from your 20-day yearly allowance.

You can do the same with other public holidays — for instance, next Ascension Day in on Thursday, May 18th, but many companies don’t work on Friday, making it a four-day weekend.

Again, if you take at least another day off either before or after — that is, Wednesday May 17th or Monday May 19th, you will have a five-day holiday for the price of one day from your yearly allowance.

So far, with the above combinations, you have lost three days out of 20, but have gained six and five days of holidays, respectively.

You can also do the same around other public holidays as well, either national ones or those specific to your cantons.

Why do the Swiss have so little time off anyway?

Many other European countries give their workers longer vacations — in France and Austria, for instance, employees are entitled to five weeks.

But the Swiss themselves are to blame for their briefer leave: in a 2012 referendum, 67 percent of the country’s voters rejected (yes, rejected) the proposal to extend the mandatory leave to six weeks.

They did so because they believed longer holidays would cost the economy billions of francs each year, and the money-conscious Swiss just couldn’t allow that.

As the media reported at the time, the outcome showed that Swiss voters had realised “something which sounds nice at first, on closer look brings many disadvantages” and that “citizens have kept a sense of reality.”

READ MORE : Everything you need to know about annual leave in Switzerland

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