So, the Evil Family is moving. We’re just moving to a different suburb of Basel, but it means a change in town.

In the US, you pack up and you move. You change your driver’s license address and your car registration and all that jazz, but there’s no official reporting in and out.

In Switzerland, that is different.

Yesterday, I went to our current township office to deregister. I presented our residency cards and the woman disappeared for about 30 seconds and came back with a file folder for our family.

Yes, our town had a file folder on us. In this was all the immigration paperwork we filled out nine years ago. It had copies of our passports, the children’s birth certificates, our marriage license, and who knows what else. She clicked a few buttons and printed out a sheet of paper for me to review that contained all our pertinent information on it. Turns out or marriage date was off by one day in their system, but since she had the marriage license right there, I pointed it out and she corrected it.

I signed it. She signed it, stamped it, and gave me a copy and told me I had 14 days to register in the new town.

I then went over to the new town hall to register. There was a very nice lady there as well, along with a teenage intern who was clearly new to the job. He was adorable and I love the internship system here.

Anyway, I messed up because I didn’t have enough documents to register completely. While I had my husband’s residency permit, I didn’t have his passport or his insurance card or his work contract. She made new copies of all our permits and the passports and insurance cards for me and the children and gave me her email address to have my husband email her copies of his information. I also had to provide her a copy of our rental agreement for our new house.

The only thing this doesn’t do is change our drivers’ licenses, which we can do online, she told me.

She said that anyone who wants to can come in and get a print out of all the information on anyone in the town. If we’d like to have our information private, we have to tell her. I said yes, please, keep that private.

This isn’t just because we’re foreigners, by the way. The Swiss have to register when they move as well. Although, I doubt they have to present work contracts when they do so. (Switzerland doesn’t have at-will employment like they do in the US. Everyone has a contract.)

With this system, the Swiss know where everyone is, all the time. For foreigners like us, it makes it much more difficult to overstay your visa because you’re super easy to find. (The new town was able to pull our electronic records from the old town. This may be because we didn’t change cantons, so it might be a cantonal thing. I don’t know.)

I was fortunate to have a Swiss friend, whose first name is Lukas, which causes all sorts of hilarity, come with me. He does professional relocation assistance for his job, so he knows the ins and outs of most everything.

The whole process was quite smooth, but I don’t know how I feel about it. I know Americans would never stand for it, but it didn’t feel invasive. It was weird, though, that there was a paper file on us. Of course, the Swiss LOVE paper. They love it. Teachers rarely use email to communicate and still rely on 9 years olds to get notes to parents rather than leaving them smashed in the bottoms of their bookbags.

As for me, right now, I should be packing, but I thought this was infinitely more fun. The movers come on Tuesday and I’ve already packed 3/4 of the kitchen. My teen said, excitedly, “does this mean we get to eat junk from now until we move?” I said no, but the real answer is probably yes. Thank goodness for pizza delivery.

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12 thoughts on “Swiss Saturday: Moving

  1. We also have this system in The Netherlands. A big advantage is that the government never needs to waste money on a census because they have all the data they need available at any time. There is also a centralized website where you can access all services in one place, like the deeds of your house, tax, car registration, benefits, etc… I like this system because it makes administrative tasks simple and convenient but I understand foreigners can find it intrusive.

  2. I had no idea nor even thought about the process you just described. Thank you for educating me.

  3. I know your from America and yes as a fellow American I would NEVER want any government office knowing where I am at any given time. It’s my option that kind of system would take away even more of our freedoms that our military fights for us to have.
    On the other hand I believe having that sort of system in place for people coming into America on a visa would be a good thing. Maybe if America had that system in place, 9/11 may have never happened. Who knows?

  4. Okay I am going to give a reaction based on an American who is a descendant of immigrants who came here to USA via Ellis Island entry in the early 1900’s.
    Based on reading your blog, I gather you have retained American citizenship despite the fact you live and work abroad. You are what we call in US the work visa for foreign workers but in Switzerland. Basically anyone who is not a citizen of any country should be on a data system for record keeping but not for intrusion of privacy. Which is why there’s a file on you and your family in Switzerland, as apparently they actively keep track of everyone in the country.
    Here in the USA , entry into the country since the closure of designated entry points during the 1950’s to visas which do have time limits but eliminated follow up mandatory procedures which made it easier to just stay here in USA without legal permission as long as one remained under the radar by not doing any criminal activity. I fully understand the lure of coming to the USA and I don’t wanted place any block to someone who wants to stay here. But I know for a fact that I couldn’t live freely in another country without proper paperwork as most countries don’t treat their non-citizens well.
    What I see here in the USA is many foreigners living here ( for whatever reasons they have) and don’t feel they have to follow the laws of this country because they live off grid. Those who get green cards which enable one to live and work here don’t proceed further to become citizens because they don’t want to give up ties to country they came from but want to live here permanently without paying full tax burden like anyone else.
    I have been researching this problem because I know what process and discrimination my grandparents faced and overcome but they overcome those obstacles to become citizens without losing their cultural ties.
    In this age of technical knowledge of all our activities via our tech identities can be faked very easily so there are many individuals here who live under a fake identity because it’s too easy to not be found and the liberals don’t care because they are not directly involved on a daily basis on a personal level.
    Perhaps in Switzerland, there aren’t businesses who pay extremely low pay to workers they import into the country illegally. But here in USA, we have many methods of fraud occurring. Perhaps a bit more monitoring is needed to eliminate these problems. I am not asking for a 1984 novel method but more transparency. Too many people here hide off grid but use as much welfare benefits they can get away with without paying into the system as a taxpayer. Sorry for the long comment but there is too much abuse on the system here ignored by the ultra liberals. We need radical changes to our immigration program to improve everyday life for all of us.

    1. There is no difference in tax liability between American citizens and green card holders. Both pay exactly the same in taxes. Furthermore, green card holders are not eligible for welfare benefits.

  5. We moved a few weeks ago within the same town (Kanton Zug) and also had to go through the paperwork (minus the work contract stuff). The other thing is that you should expect a bill from their office. I’ve learned that they charge for things such as these seemingly small paperwork items, using a public toilet, etc, rather than have them be free. The idea is the person pays for what they use rather than tax everyone for things they may not use.

  6. Is anyone else worried about Parker? It has been almost two days since this was posted and no comment from him.

  7. Americans wouldn’t stand for a file folder is way off. Case: Edward Snowden. He exposed massive spying and Americans hate him. I love the guy, but many do not…

  8. Another American in Switzerland, i really don’t mind,them having a file on me, it is a small trade off for the insane bump up in quality of life compared to living in the US.

    When i moved from Canton Vaud to Canton Zurich, the file wasn’t electronic so i think it might be a cantonal thing.

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