Moving to Basel: Part I – Registering with the Canton

My Arrival 15 years agoMoving to Basel eBook

When I first arrived in Basel in late December of 1997, I didn’t speak the language and didn’t know anyone. It was a few days before New Year’s Eve and it was a Sunday, so nothing was open in the city.  Just taking the taxi from the airport to the flat my company had arranged for me, cost me a good chunk of the money I brought with me to last me till my first payday. The tram machines were indecipherable at the time (they are much easier now) and I didn’t have a computer or internet access to find out where interesting places might be! I probably should have been better prepared before I arrived, but there weren’t any resources for people moving to Basel to consult in those days.

After starting my job at the beginning of 1998, getting established in Basel was an additional challenge.  I hope this, and the next few posts will give you a head start on what you need to do in your first couple of weeks of moving to Basel!


Registering with the Canton

Once you’ve got the job, and been promised a permit, you’ll be asked to send your passport to a Swiss embassy/consulate in your home country, which will issue your visa, if you need one (this visa is different than your residence permit). You’ll need to organize a temporary (or permanent) residence (usually done with the help of your employer), before you enter the country.  If you are bringing your spouse or family with you, you need to apply to the Population Services and Migration Office, well in advance of your arrival!

After arriving in Switzerland, you must register with the local authorities at the Einwohneramt (the Resident’s Office of the local city/town/village where you live), in person. This should be done within the first week of your arrival.  Most people will be residing in the Canton of Basel-Stadt (Basel City). The Einwohneramt office is in the middle of Basel (Spiegelgasse 6-12, right near the Schifflände tram stop).When you get in, be sure to take a number from the machine, and to keep an eye on the digital board where your number will come up when it’s your turn. If you have any questions regarding the system there is an information desk inside. Most clerks at the counters will speak English, and if they don’t, they’ll find someone who will. Most of the people are polite, but you do run into the occasional grump. Just remember, be nice, these are the people who will give you your permit! If you are living in another Canton (Basel-Land, Lucerne, Zurich, Solothurn, Aargau, etc), you should go to their specific Resident’s office, even if you are working in Basel.

You need to bring along:

  • The completed registration form (available in several languages)
    • This will have some relatively personal questions on it, including your religion and marital status
    • There is a religion tax in Switzerland, which you may have to pay, if you fill in your faith!
  • The completed security check /  background check form (Vorstrafenerklärung) (in multiple languages)
  • Your passport, and the passports of any family members
  • Birth certificates for all applicants
  • Marriage certificate, if applicable
  • Two passport photographs for each registrant
  • Your employment contract
  • Proof of health insurance
  • Entry permit/ Visa
  • If you are coming as a student valid registration and proof of parental (financial) support or scholarship certification
  • Money – The listed cost is 25 CHF (but bring extra coins for the photo machine as they are very picky and will sometimes make you retake them).

Exactly which of these documents you need to bring differs depending on where you are from. You can check the exact requirements here, but they are only available in German. In Switzerland, it’s a good idea to bring all documents you think may be relevant, to this kind of appointment. After all the paperwork is completed, they will provide you with a residence certificate, which you’ll need to open a bank account, as well as a welcome pack with maps, coupons, information and other treats.


What Happens Next?

Your paperwork will be sent to the Canton, who will issue you a residence permit – This is either a relatively large, passport size document, or a wallet card, depending on your country of origin. Non-EU/EFTA residents living in Switzerland get the credit card format for L, B and C permits. It usually takes a month or two before the actual residence/work permit is sent to you,and you can expect it to come with a bill of about 150-200 CHF/permit depending on the permit type. In the meantime, you will receive a document certifying that your permit is being issued. You should always keep the temporary document (and your permit once it arrives) on your person when you are not at home. Be sure to talk to the Einwohneramt, if you plan to leave the country with a temporary permit; re-entry into Switzerland may not be permitted!

In the next series of posts, I’ll discuss opening a bank account, getting your health and flat insurance set up, getting a tram pass and train travel discount card (if you want them), how to find an apartment and get internet/telephone/cable set up and the best places to get furniture and appliances.

8 thoughts on “Moving to Basel: Part I – Registering with the Canton”

  1. Hi,

    Congrats, this is a very very useful site of yours. I am moving to Basel next January and this has been a remarkable source of information.

    I do already have the contract signed (it is all I already have done) and the company is not helping much with the rest of paperwork.

    What do you mean with “been promised a permit”, right in the first sentence of the second title? Is this the residence permit?

    Thank you in advance for the help!

    1. Hi Francisco,

      Sorry I’ve not been able to get back to you before this, that time of the year again! Congrats on the new job!

      When you are promised a permit, the HR dept of your company is in touch with the canton. There are quotas of some permit types, depending on your point of origin, and whether you’ll be a student, trainee, or in a full time position and how long you plan to stay. From what I understand, these are by the year and if early in the year, there are lots of new hires, they can run out. I think many of the larger companies are allocated a certain number a the beginning of the year, but smaller companies are often impacted by these quotas.

      Even if they ‘run out of permits’, generally the company shifts your contract by as many months as necessary, till there are new permits available. They should be able tell you this beforehand (hopefully), so that’s what I mean by ‘promised a permit’

      There is an article here: that might interest you

      Make sure you check out the ‘Moving to Basel Ebook’ for more info on your move to Basel:


  2. I would just like to thank you for putting up such an useful information source. I moved to Basel recently with my wife and so far things have happened pretty smooth.

    1. Thanks Ricardo! If you (or anyone else out there) likes or finds the site helpful please be sure to ‘like’ or ‘tweet’ or ‘pin-it’ using the social media buttons on the right!

  3. Its been one and half months now since I registered in the canton. But I have not received my work permit yet.. What to do? What are the consequences if I don’t receive it on time?

  4. This website is very useful I must say, everything is explained very well!
    I just have one question, in the registration form they ask you for your apartment information ..
    Since we aren’t registered yet, we couldn’t rent anything yet. Is a temporary adress enough?
    Thank you!

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