Importing your belongings

The idea of importing your belongings can seem like a massive undertaking. However with a little knowledge and planning, it can be one of the easier jobs you’ll undertake when moving to Switzerland. First things first, most of the work will have to be done before you arrive in Switzerland. There is no point arriving at the border and start filling out your forms there.

Transfer of domicile

The most important thing you need to do in order to import your household goods, pets or vehicles, duty free to Switzerland is your transfer of domicile. What’s a transfer of domicile? This is a document that proves that you are relocating to Switzerland, the most common forms used are a residential permit, rental agreement or an employment contract. Immigrants from the 25 initial EU states and from the EFTA states do not have to provide assurance of a residence permit, but need proof of the transfer of domicile using other means.

Your next step will be to compile an inventory of every item you intend to bring with you. Now this might be a bit labour intensive depending on the amount of goods you wish to bring with you. However it will make your processing through customs run a lot smoother and hopefully quicker too!

What are the rules on items I want to import?

There are a few conditions to the items that you will want to import duty-free, these are:

  1. that you must have used the goods for at least six months prior to your arrival;
  2. that you intend to continue to use them after importation.

If you wish to import items that are less then six months old, then you will need to have the receipts for all these items.


Students are the except to this rule. They can import household goods, personal effects and educational materials all duty free, even if the domicile is not transferred to Switzerland.

Crossing the border

As you cross the border into Switzerland, you must present the completed application 18.44 form, along with your inventory, to the customs office of importation. Make sure you cross the border with your belongings during regular opening hours, at a crossing point which processes commercial goods.

Registration of your car 

For registration with a Swiss licence plate, the customs office issues a proof of customs clearance form, when you enter the country. This form is for the cantonal agencies and/or the Federal Office of Civil Aviation. To find where your local cantonal agency is, check out this page. You will need to bring your resident permit, customer clearance as well as your old licence plates. Your car will need to be inspected, to see if it is roadworthy, and you will need to switch your driving licence from a foreign to a Swiss one.

Also don’t forget you will need a motorway sticker or ‘vignette’ on your car windscreen, to pay for use of the motorways and dual carriageways. Currently the sticker costs CHF 40. It is valid for 14 months and is valid from 1 December of the year prior to that printed on the sticker through to 31 January of the year following that printed on the sticker i.e. 01/12/15 – 31/01/17.  Stickers for a day, a week or a month do not exist.

Just married?

If, after getting married you wish to move to be with your spouse, who is already based in Switzerland, then you may import the following items duty-free, as long as you received them abroad.

  • Household items
  • Wedding trousseau (including vehicles)
  • Wedding gifts

This also applies to same-sex couples who have entered into a registered partnership in accordance with the Swiss Same-Sex Partnership Act. You must import your wedding trousseau within six months after the marriage or partnership was entered into.

Inherited goods

If you are a resident in Switzerland and inherit items such as; personal effects, household effects, vehicles and animals then you can import them into Switzerland, duty-free. This is only applicable if the deceased’s last place of domicile was abroad. You will need to fill out a form known as 18.46. Take a look here for further details on this matter.

For any further queries, take a look at the FAQ’s section on the Swiss Customs Administration website.

This post is an excerpt from our latest magazine, which you can read online here.

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