Perhaps you’re no longer so much a Geneva “newcomer”, but now it’s time for you to pack up and move away. I recently moved back to the U.S., and below you can find out about my experience.
The first thing I would suggest that you do is to notify OPCM of your departure and to request an attestation de départ. This document is essential for many other processes, such as cancelling your Swisscom contract without penalty. It costs CHF 25 per person and can easily be requested online.
Did you announce your arrival when you came to Switzerland? For folks with CDLs, it isn’t necessary, so you might not have. I believe this is a necessary step before requesting the attestation de départ. Good news is that you can do it at any time (even just before you leave as was the case for me).
Contracts & Subscriptions
You should be able to easily get out of all of your subscriptions and cancel contracts.
For example, I was able to break my Swisscom contract with no penalty simply by providing them with my attestation de départ. You can request Swisscom cancellation here.
You can also request refunds for most (if not all) insurance policies if you paid a full year but are leaving early. This was the case for our car insurance, pet insurance, rental insurance and rental assurance. For the latter two, they will need confirmation from your régie that you have moved out, so this will happen after your état des lieux. Those two are effective as of the date of your move-out, so any delays in getting information to them is not an issue.
We have left our UBS account open after leaving for last-minute payments and refunds, but it’s super easy to close remotely. You just need to send them a message inside your online account with this information:
- First & Last name of the beneficiary
- Address of beneficiary
- Account number with IBAN or SWIFT code of the beneficiary
- Your phone number where we can have a confirmation
Forwarding your mail
Swiss Post will forward your mail to an international address for 12 months for CHF 90. While I cannot know if we have missed things, we have received items fairly quickly, so it does work.
Moving your stuff
We moved our stuff in three different ways: (1) things we needed immediately by suitcase on a plane, (2) a few boxes by post, and (3) furniture and tons of boxes by shipping container though a moving service.
If you’ve made an attempt to investigate moving services, you’ve probably learned two things: (1) many have sketchy websites perhaps made in the 1990s and (2) their online reviews are awful. Of course, nothing brings about the desire to write a review than terrible service, so there are likely many pleasant experiences as well. And with the impact of COVID on shipping container delays, it’s understandable that people have been very frustrated.
After reading such awful things about their competitors, I only reached out to ReloSwiss. After speaking with them, I was content and just went with it. In short, they’re incredible. Very helpful and accommodating. Some details:
- Do the walkthrough with them. You’ll show them all of your stuff through FaceTime, and they’ll provide a good estimate of the costs. The estimate they did for me was exactly what they ended up charging me.
- Unlike other companies where you have to fill half or a full shipping container yourself (often costing CHF 15,000 or even more), ReloSwiss packages your stuff with others moving in the same general direction as you. You only pay for the space you take up. (On the other hand, this can slow the process while they wait to pair your stuff with others.)
- You can buy insurance for your items. You just provide a roughly itemized list of your possessions (“men’s clothing – CHF 1,000”, for example) and their value, and you pay 2.5% of the total valuation. Deducible is CHF 500.
- There are quite a few forms to complete, but they help you through the process.
- You don’t pay anything until your items are loaded into the shipping container.
- Throughout the process, everyone is going to warn you about potential fees that may come up. For example, U.S. Customs can charge significant fees for inspections. In my case, there were no additional fees. I never had to pay anything other than what was initially quoted (except, as I mention below, for having items delivered to two different locations).
A few things to know about the process:
- On the day the movers arrived at my apartment in Geneva, I greeted them through my intercom system with a “bonjour”. They responded with a “Guten Tag”, and I knew I was in trouble. The crew didn’t speak French or much English, but we managed.
- Here’s the timing for our stuff:
- 16 October – pick up in Geneva, transported to their faciliy in Switzerland
- 13 November – loaded in container, sent to Rotterdam
- 20(ish) November – I forgot to note the exact date, but it left about a week later than expected
- 6 December – arrived in New York
- 27 December – arrived at my new home about 900 miles from NYC
- When they come to move your things, they’ll break down your furniture. Two notes, though:
- When it arrives at your new home, they will not necessarily put it all back together. For us, they only put together our bed, so the rest was up to us. Be sure you know what you’re doing on that end.
- They do not break down bookshelves by default. Honestly, this just seems like such a waste because of the space that a wrapped bookshelf takes up. Just be sure the value of the bookshelf is worth the cost of shipping them.
- I highly recommend buying your own zip-up mattress protector. I asked about this before the pickup, and I was told that there was no need. However, it was stained during the transportation, so I regret not buying one.
- My new apartment was considerably smaller than my old one, so I needed to have some of the items brought to storage. This was all arranged mid-shipment, and the cost for the second location was only $150. If you need to do this, be sure to keep track of the numbering system they use on the Swiss side. All of your items will be given a number, so you can just tell them how to deliver things on the other end (such as 1, 3, and 4 go to location A and 2, 5, and 6 to location B).
We shipped so many breakable items. We haven’t unwrapped everything, but so far, nothing was broken. When you think about the work that was done to transport everything, the cost was entirely reasonable (even as cheap as I am), and I am 100% satisfied with the service.
Our plan was to ship a few boxes through Swiss Post a couple weeks before our departure so that they would arrive before us. Well, things happen, and it ended up being fairly last minute. That was our first mistake.
First, I’ll say that the process with Swiss Post was as efficient as possible. However, you’re advised to complete the forms online. It makes the process much easier and ensures you can fully itemize your packed items, which is essential for insurance purposes. If you don’t want to do it online, you can also pick up the forms, complete them at home, and return with the packages.
The second mistake was that we did not use the best boxes. Get double-walled or even triple-walled boxes. As they are transported overseas, they will absolutely be destroyed. Some of our items fell out of the boxes because of the huge holes that were made in them. Oh, and tape the box well – at least where you tape the box up, go around the full exterior of the box. Use all of the tape.
Of the 4 boxes we sent, 2 of them made it to the U.S., through U.S. customs, and to their destination within about 10 days. That was not the case for the other two, which took about 45+ days. I filed investigations with USPS and Swiss Post. Honestly, I have no idea if either did any good, but I guess it made me feel better about it.
One of the delayed boxes had a Costco bottle of Ibuprofen in it. I imagine a huge bottle of pills looks weird on an x-ray scanner, so perhaps that’s the explanation there. The other box was just clothes, so no idea on it.
Getting a dog to the U.S. from Switzerland is an incredibly simple process. We got paperwork from our vet, but it wasn’t necessary on this end.
Our dog has all of the anxiety, in general, and hates being in a crate. It’s a bit pricey, but we highly recommend K9Jets, which is like Uber for private jets specifically for flying you and your cat or dog overseas in the cabin. One note, though – the nearest K9Jet flight leaves from Paris. We drove a rental car to Paris. Getting a rental car from Switzerland and leaving it in Paris is about $1500. Getting a rental car from the French side of the Geneva airport and returning it in Paris is about $500.
Selling your car
We contacted Autociel in Lausanne for selling our car and had a great experience. They provide an offer based on your description of the car and pictures, which can change based on later observations. They come to you to pick up the car and take it to Lausanne, which is really nice when you’re in the final days of moving.
Selling (or giving away) your items
There are several services for selling or giving away your items, but I had the best luck with Anibis. Just be careful as there are a lot of scams. A lot of people want you to ship items and/or ask to pay through some weird online system.
My suggestion: take payment through TWINT so you don’t have to worry about lots of change or depositing money in the bank. You’re notified of payment immediately, so it’s easy to confirm.
You may be thinking that you can simply file your Swiss taxes next year during the normal filing period, but that is incorrect. In fact, you must not only complete your current year taxes forms before departure, but you’re required to physically take them to the tax office at least 14 days BEFORE you leave.
Visit the tax office’s website to learn the details. You can schedule an appointment for your visit at the Hotel des Finances, and it’s ridiculously efficient (seriously, this place has 4.7 stars because of how quick it is!). Just know that most people working there do not speak English.
One note: you configure your taxes based on the days worked in Switzerland and not on the payments received in Switzerland. For example, if you’re paid $5,000 a month and worked half of the month in CH, you pay taxes on $2,500 regardless of whether you are paid that before leaving the country.
For completing your OCAS payment, you’ll need to contact them to let them know about your departure. Before they can calculate your final payment, they’ll need your final paystubs.
You likely have many items that you want to throw away before you leave, but they’re bulky items that cannot find in the regular dumpster. The canton has two really great solutions for that.
- Schedule a pickup appointment here. You place your items in the designated location (usually a nearby street corner) the night before the appointment, and they handle the rest. You can do up to 7 items per week per household. Note that there are some limitations on the types of items you can leave out. For example, on our last morning, we had an old mattress to dispose of, so we woke up early and got it to the street for pickup.
- Visit a cantonal facility with your items, including the banned items for street pickup. Note the hours as they are a bit odd.
For your electrical items, any store that sells a similar item is required to take that type of item back for recycling. If, for example, a store sells refrigerators, then you can walk in with an old refrigerator, and they are obligated to take it back. It’s incredibly easy and quick, you just hand it over and leave.
For Apple products, they have a great trade-in / recycling service where they will send you a postage-paid box to your house for recycling items.