I am writing this while waiting for my plane back home from Vienna. Since I’m was here to take care of my visa, one of the last things I have to deal with before moving on Sunday, I thought it was a perfect time to write a few things regarding all the paper and administration work you need to do if you plan on moving to Switzerland.
Even though Croatia is in EU, we are still not a part of the Schengen. We can go to any country in the EU without the visa if we intend to stay for less then 3 months. However, If you plan on working or studying there you have to get a residence permit/visa. The best way to find out whether or not you need a visa for the country you’re moving to is to find an embassy’s website and find all the info you need. Swiss embassy has a really useful site where you can choose the country you’re from and you will immediately find all the regulations and kinds of visa you can get. You can check everything on the links I’ll put below. Residents of Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Czech Republic and Hungary however have another “problem”. There are no local Swiss embassies in these countries and we are all under a regional embassy in Vienna. There is no way to submit all the necessary documents by mail or post so if you are a resident of one of these countries, you have to make a trip to Vienna (twice). From Zagreb you can take a night bus (since the embassy’s working hours are from 9 to 12 you have to get there in the morning, unless you plan on staying the night), train or a plane. Embassy works most of the year, they have few holidays but still make sure you don’t come exactly on those dates. The embassy is not hard to find and Vienna is an amazing city where there’s plenty to do once you’re finished with the embassy business. There are a lot of documents you need to enclose and you have to submit all the originals and three copies. Plan at least a week to collect everything you need, you have to have an official translation for all the documents in your native language and translating can take some time and money. You also have to write a motivation letter, they explain every topic they want you to include in it, but it also takes some time and work. Also bear in mind that it takes from 6 to 12 weeks in order for the embassy to issue your visa and there is a possibility that you will be asked additional questions via email once an immigration office of the city you’re moving to checks all your documents. So all in all, you have to plan in advance. Once your visa is done you will have to go back to the embassy to pick it up. If you’re applying for a student visa you won’t have to pay anything at the embassy but once you arrive to Switzerland you have to go to the immigration office with additional documents such as a contract with a landlord if you’re renting an apartment, your passport and a photo for a passport and pay a certain sum (hopefully no more paperwork after that).
When you fill out the form you will see they ask for your address in the city you’re going to move to. And so we come to another problem. Housing.
I don’t know if that’s the case everywhere in Switzerland, but in Bern and Biel there are no dorms. (In Bern there is an option of renting a cheaper apartment for students in a student complex). You can rent an apartment but not before you get there. They have a strict policy regarding renting and they won’t make any contracts or deals before you come and see the apartment. I am going to be staying in an Airbnb rented apartment for a few days and will have to go apartment hunting when I get there. The other thing is that it is almost impossible to rent an apartment with furniture. Thankfully, Ikea is not far away and I’m not one to complain if I have to make a little trip there😉 There are other possibilities like renting or buying second hand furniture.
If you want to contact a renting agency or house owners, the best and cheapest way is to buy 10 euros for your Skype account and call them. Email communication can be slow and sometimes you have to wait for several days (in one case I got an answer one and a half months after my first email) and lose an apartment you wanted in the mean time because somebody had called first. It is possible to have someone visit the apartment in your name but make sure you have more than one option. Some apartments have fixed visiting dates and days, for others you can make an appointment. Be persistent, you may have to call several times during one day or even several days in a row to get a response. Also be ready that many people don’t speak English (agency employees mostly do, but current residents or owners not so much), so prepare for Italian/German/French conversation. I would recommend Italian or French options if you know one of those languages because they understand “hoch” German that we learn in school, but Swiss German is different and I had some troubles understanding it. But I’m sure you will find a way (especially since even my hoch German is not so great :P), everyone I talked with was really nice and helpful, I didn’t have any awkward or negative conversations.
I hope this helps, if you have any other questions or advice (or need one) feel free to comment or send me a message🙂
Here you can find links for the embassy and different pages that you can use for finding an apartment in Switzerland. Hope they help!
Regional consulat in Vienna : https://www.eda.admin.ch/countries/austria/de/home/vertretungen/rkc-wien.html