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RETIREMENT

EXPLAINED: How to get a visa to retire in Switzerland

Depending on your nationality, obtaining a Swiss residence permit is not a simple matter. But it can be done if certain conditions are met.

EXPLAINED: How to get a visa to retire in Switzerland
Retirement in Switzerland can be sweet — if you have money. Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko from Pexels

Foreign nationals who have lived and worked in Switzerland for many years may want to remain here after they retire.

Then there are those who have never lived here at all, but once they become pensioners in their own countries, decide to move to Switzerland.

Whether or not this is possible depends on what nationality they have and other circumstances.

EXPLAINED: Everything you need to know about retiring in Switzerland

It is much easier to retire in Switzerland for foreigners who have worked here and are holders of a B or C permit.

As they paid into the social security and pension scheme during their years of employment, they are entitled to the same benefits as Swiss citizens — provided they don’t renounce their permits after they retire and move out of Switzerland.

The most important distinction is between citizens of EU / EFTA states and third countries

If you are a citizen of a EU / EFTA nation, you must have adequate financial resources to cover the cost of living in Switzerland after retirement — the exact amounts are determined on cantonal basis; you can check out what conditions apply in your region here.

You must also take out a health insurance policy that includes accident coverage.

Stays in Switzerland for up to 90 days within a six-month period don’t require authorisation. For longer stays, you will have to register with the cantonal migration office as a non-employed person.

EXPLAINED: How to get a work permit in Switzerland

The rules for third country nationals are stricter

If you come from outside the EU / EFTA, you must apply for a visa with a Swiss diplomatic/consular mission in your country of residence.

They will check that you don’t have any criminal records.

You must be 55 years of age or older to move to Switzerland from abroad in order to retire. The Swiss retirement age is 65. 

You’ll need to demonstrate a close link to Switzerland. 

This can be past residency, family ties, frequent holidays in Switzerland or real estate. This is then a decision for cantonal authorities and is often highly discretionary, with simply owning property not necessarily enough. 

Also, in order to be considered, you must prove that you have enough financial resources to live in Switzerland without having to work or claim welfare benefits.

As part of the deal, you’ll need to transfer the bulk of your financial interests to Switzerland. You can transfer your pension to Switzerland provided there’s a bilateral arrangement with your country of origin. More information is available here. 

And like your EU counterparts, you must have Swiss health and accident coverage.

What about UK citizens?

From January 1st 2021, UK citizens planning to retire in Switzerland are no longer eligible for the same facilitated access as nationals of the EU.

Rather, they will be subjected to the same requirements as third country nationals.

Wealthy retirees have an advantage

A little-known article of the Swiss law — Article 30 of the Federal Aliens Act — allows wealthy foreigners from outside Europe to move to Switzerland.

Cantons can issue residence permits B to these people, if local authorities deem that there is a “significant fiscal interest” in such a move.

What exactly does “significant fiscal interest mean?” 

This term is defined by each canton.

For instance, the lowest annual tax rate for a non-EU foreigner is 287,882 francs in Valais, 312,522 francs in Geneva, and 415,000 Vaud. 

Every year, around 40 to 50 people ‘buy’ their way into Switzerland this way, as reported by TagesAnzeiger, which used the numbers published by the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM).

Cantons don’t release the identities of these wealthy foreigners, justifying the lack of information with data protection laws.

What is known about this select group of people is that most of them live in canton Geneva. Next are Ticino, followed by Vaud, Zug and Bern. 

READ MORE: Which Swiss canton has the most millionaires?

Just how much does it cost to live in Switzerland after retirement?

Again, this depends on your canton of residence, as cost of living will be higher in Zurich or Geneva than in central rural cantons.

As The Local wrote on Tuesday, “This question obviously depends a lot on your personal circumstances and lifestyle, however a recently completed study (from 2021) found that you should save around 14 percent of your [Swiss] salary in order to retire in Switzerland”. 

You can get more information about whether you are qualified to retire in Switzerland from your canton or SEM website.

EXPLAINED: Why are major Swiss cities so expensive?

Please note: As with all of our explainers, they are intended as a guide only and do not constitute legal or financial advice. Please discuss any financial decisions with a certified expert in the field. 

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For members

LIVING IN SWITZERLAND

How to dispose of unwanted furniture or whitegoods in Zurich legally

Got an unwanted mattress, fridge or sofa? Here’s how you can legally get it off your hands in Zurich.

How to dispose of unwanted furniture or whitegoods in Zurich legally

If you’ve bought a new piece of furniture in Zurich or a mattress, you may be faced with the problem of what to do with the old one. 

This is particularly the case in cities like Zurich, where space is at a premium and you may not be able to kit out your spare room with the old furniture. 

While there are waste disposal centres, even getting there without a car can be a problem. 

One man’s trash…

First things first, think about whether you really need to get rid of the thing in question. 

While you may not want it, there may be someone out there willing to take it off your hands – particularly if you aren’t going to charge them. 

The first point of call is to ask your friends and colleagues if they’re interested, with social media the perfect place to ask around. 

If you live in an apartment complex, you might try placing the item in a common area with a note saying “zu verschenken” (to give away) or ‘gratis’ (free). 

After that, there are several online options like eBay, Facebook Marketplace, Free Your Stuff Zurich, Ricardo, Anibis, Craig’s List and Tutti. 

Some of these sites will charge a fee – even if you’re giving something away – so be sure to read the fine print first. 

Another option is to donate the goods to a charity organisation. They will usually charge you money to pick it up and prices can vary dramatically. 

Caritas charge CHF35 per 100kg plus transport costs, while Sozialwerk Pfarrer Sieber will pick up small items of furniture for a flat fee, although you’ll need to send them pictures first before they give you a quote. 

Can I put old furniture on the street in Zurich? 

Although less common than many other European cities, occasionally you will see furniture out on the street in front of homes and apartment blocks in Zurich. 

While it might clutter up the sidewalk, it is technically not illegal – provided you only do so for a maximum of 24 hours. 

You also need to make sure it doesn’t block cars, bikes or pedestrians. If it does – or if you leave it out for longer – you risk a fine.

Entsorgungstram: Zurich’s recycling and waste disposal tram

One option is the Entsorgungstram, a mobile recycling centre on rails for all Zurich residents. 

This tram weaves its way through several parts of Zurich, picking up old bulky waste including electrical devices and furniture. 

If you are lucky to live near an Entsorgungstram line, just check the timetable and bring your waste items along to meet the tram. 

There are some rules, as laid out by the Zurich council. 

“The delivered items must not be longer than 2.5 meters (exception: sofa/upholstered furniture can be no longer than 2 meters) and no heavier than 40 kilograms per item. Separate the material beforehand according to its composition: flammable, large metal and landfill”. 

Unfortunately, only pedestrians and cyclists can use this service, i.e. you cannot drive from elsewhere and deposit the stuff. 

More information including route details can be found at the following link. 

Regular waste disposal

Your next option is to see whether you can get rid of it in your usual waste disposal. 

This being Switzerland, there are a lot of rules about what the waste management company will take and will not. 

If you’re throwing away a mirror, for instance, you cannot put that with your other glass waste and will need to dispose of it elsewhere. 

On the other hand, they may take things like carpets and mattresses – although you’ll need to pay a bit extra. 

The exact rules will depend on your municipality, but generally speaking you will need to buy additional waste stickers – which cost money. 

In Zurich itself, every household receives four coupons for disposal of waste (up to 100kg) each. 

When you run out of coupons, you’ll need to pay by the kilo. 

You’ll still need to bring it to the waste disposal facility, or pay a pick up fee of around CHF80. 

This may sound steep, but they do come to your home and pick it up – which will likely be cheaper than a rental car or van. 

In Winterthur, you will need to buy stickers for CHF1.80 from the council, with each sticker letting you dispose of 10kg of waste. 

Check with the retailer where you bought the new item

One option offered by furniture sellers is to buy your old furniture or whitegoods or accept them as a trade in. 

While this is likely to be more common with second hand retailers who might see potential in your unwanted item, it is also a service offered by retailers who only sell new goods. 

One example is Ikea, who will take your old mattress, furniture or electronic device and recycle it. 

This service is available at Ikea outlets for a cost of CHF10 each. 

It is also available when you get something new delivered, although you must pre-book so the driver can be sure to set aside enough space. 

This will cost you CHF80 for furniture, or CHF50 for electronic devices and mattresses. Keep in mind that (at least with Ikea) this service is only available when you buy something new. 

Several other furniture companies offer a similar service, including Schubiger Möbel, Möbel Pfister and Conforama.  

Electrical item retails will often take your old electrical goods for recycling, whether these are small like iPhones or large like fridges and washing machines. 

More information about which goods can be recycled and how in Switzerland is available at the following link. 

Moving companies

Removalist companies are another option – whether you are moving house or not. 

If you are moving house then a disposal service may be included in the overall fees. 

If not, you can still contact the company and get the item taken off your hands. 

While different companies will charge different amounts, you’ll usually pay per 100kg rather than per item, which can be a better (or worse) option than contacting the local council. 

Swiss comparison site Comparis has detailed info about how to find a moving company here

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