Last Updated on by Rodrigo @ OutofYourComfortZone
Are you thinking of moving to Switzerland (one of the most developed countries in the world)? And are you unsure about getting health insurance in your new home? Continue reading below for all you need to know to make sure you’re covered and safe in case of emergencies!
There’s a lot of things you need to think about when you prepare to move overseas – finding a place to live, applying for jobs, sorting out your paperwork, buying your flights, learning a new language…
But one often overlooked detail to take care of is dealing with your health insurance.
Although Switzerland generally has great healthcare, you are actually required by law to have health insurance to access it (which is exactly what the list of international health insurance companies below can help you with).
But beyond talking about your options for international health insurance to cover you as an expat in Switzerland, we’ll first talk a bit about how the Swiss healthcare system works, what the difference is between travel insurance and expat insurance, who these health insurance policies can cover, and more.
(And be sure to stay until the very end of the article for more information about the types of visas that you can get to live, study, and work in Switzerland!)
How does the Swiss healthcare system work?
No matter where you’re moving, you want to make sure you have an understanding of how the medical system works there. Especially in a place like Switzerland, where the divisions of the country are quite unique.
The healthcare system in Switzerland is organized by each of its various states, or what the Swiss call “cantons.” This means that each Swiss “canton” takes over the responsibility of healthcare for their specific territory.
The health system is both private and public, with private insurance offering both free and basic services while following the standards of the Federal Office Public Health (FOPH) and the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA).
Beyond this, the cantons divide up which services are offered in which locations. This is the benefit of having private insurance – you can get care at the hospital that is most recommended for what you need.
Although the healthcare system in Switzerland is universal, it’s not free even for citizens and it does tend to be on the expensive side for Europe (though the quality of the care is top-rated and it’s still much, much cheaper than a place like the United States!).
Because of this, private health insurance is a requirement for all individuals residing in Switzerland (and it’s one that you are required to meet within 3 months of beginning your residency there).
Why should I get an international health insurance plan to immigrate to Switzerland?
You might be wondering if health insurance is mandatory in Switzerland. And it is! As I said above, having health insurance is a requirement that you must meet within 3 months of beginning your residency in Switzerland.
So obviously this is an important reason to make sure you have a policy like one of the below 🙂
But beyond this, having an international health plan can also give you a lot of peace of mind. You are, after all, in a country that’s different and far from your own with laws, systems, and a language that you may be familiar with.
Because of this, having an international health insurance policy will make sure you’re covered with any unexpected health concerns or emergencies. Plus, there are a few other benefits to having an international plan (as you can see in the next question).
As an expat in Switzerland, should I get an international health insurance plan like those on the list below? Or is a private Swiss health insurance plan better?
Ultimately, this is up to you, your specific medical needs, what you need your insurance to cover, the length of your stay in Switzerland, and the options available to you for private Swiss plans.
Both an international health insurance plan and a private Swiss plan should meet your requirement for health insurance in Switzerland (though if you do choose to get an international plan, be sure to check with the Swiss government to see what the minimum insurance coverage is).
I can’t personally speak on your options for private Swiss plans as I’ve never lived in Switzerland, but I am very familiar with the companies below and am focusing on them for this article.
With this in mind, here few of the reasons you may want to choose an international health insurance plan instead of a Swiss plan:
- International health insurance may have cheaper monthly payments
- International health insurance may be easier to get if you only have a short stay in Switzerland
- International health insurance gives you more flexibility (this is especially important if you’re not sure yet how long you’ll be in Switzerland since you can easily renew, extend, and cancel your policy)
- International health insurance offers coverage in other countries, not just Switzerland (that’s why they are considered “international” health plans)
Who do these international health insurance plans cover?
The types of health insurance companies I’ll recommend below are for the following citizens that live in Switzerland as expats, immigrants, workers, or even students:
- Citizens of the European Union (Portuguese, French, Germans, Dutch, Spanish, Polish, Belgian, Swedes)
- British (English, Scottish, Welsh, Irish)
- New Zealanders
- And for citizens of almost any other countries
Beyond expats/immigrants that reside in Switzerland, these policies also work for residents that live in:
- The United States
- Europe (both the European Union and the United Kingdom)
- And for expats that live in almost any other country in the world
In general, because the plans and companies I recommend below are international, they can be used by just about any person just about anywhere in the world because they offer worldwide coverage.
Why can’t I just get travel insurance when I move to Switzerland? What’s the difference between travel insurance and expat insurance?
Travel insurance is essential for any trip because it won’t only cover you in the case of medical problems but also for unexpected travel issues like lost baggage or canceled flights.
However, it’s important to know that travel insurance is not meant for expats. Although it is possible to get travel insurance for long periods, it’s only for people with temporary stays in one country. Travel insurance policies are not valid for someone who has moved long-term to another country.
Because of this, you’ll need to choose an insurance policy that covers expats specifically. And that’s exactly what you’ll find below.
What are the 7 best health insurance companies for expats and immigrants in Switzerland?
I know finding the right health insurance plan can be a little overwhelming. To help make your decision easier, take a look at the following table with a comparison of the companies I’ll recommend on the list below. This way, you can quickly see the pros and cons of each and choose the one that’s best for you.
After the table, you’ll find a detailed breakdown of each of the companies, their policy options, benefits, and more!
As always, the tip I give is that you make a quick online budget with all these companies I suggest here below. It may take a little time, but you may end up saving a lot of money at the end of the day!
Worldwide Medical Insurance / Comparison Chart*
Part of the table courtesy of Tokio Marine HCC
Note: This article and table were created with information that was accurate at the time of its publishing. This information is subject to changes and updates.
In my opinion, the best international health insurance companies for immigrants are:
- Global Underwriters
- Foyer Global Health
With more than 60 years in the insurance industry, Cigna is one of the most well-known insurance companies and has more than 170 million clients around the globe. We’ve used Cigna personally when Nikki (my partner) needed an insurance policy to get her residence card in Sweden.
As you might expect from a large insurance company, Cigna has a lot of plans for you to choose from…including plans for immigrants that will work for you in Switzerland.
If you’re moving to Switzerland, you can choose from family or individual plans. One nice benefit of Cigna’s plans is that you can add benefits to your plan based on the type of medical care you need covered. You can choose from the Silver, Platinum, or Gold plan, all of which offer coverage in more than 200 countries and territories.
If you’re looking for a cheaper insurance plan for Switzerland, one good option is the Close Care plan. This particular plan is the cheapest Cigna offers as it will only cover you in your home country and the country you plan to reside in.
Pros of an international health insurance plan with Cigna
- 24/7 customer service
- Flexible plans that you can control the coverage of
- Includes coverage for Covid-19 treatment, including PCR tests
- No need to register or give your email to get a quote
- Access to a digital portal where you can easily find the hospitals and clinics closest to you
- The company will generally pay the health providers directly so you don’t need to request a reimbursement
Cons of an international health insurance plan with Cigna
- Not all of their plans cover maternity care
Another well-known name in the world of international insurance is IMG. IMG has been around for more than 25 years and has 3 subsidiaries worldwide.
IMG has tons of plans to choose from, both for immigrant individuals or entire families. They also have plans made for specific types of travelers, such as expats. You’ll find plans for long stays of 1-year or more, as well as short-term plans.
IMG’s website is easy to navigate with filters for dates, plan length, destination, and more to help you in your search. Alongside these filters, you’ll also add in a few personal details like your age and specific coverage needs.
This way, the company can give you a detailed quote that will let you compare plan and coverage options to see which is best for you. Just be careful when reading through the details of each plan as IMG doesn’t cover all age groups and not all of their plans include Covid-19 coverage.
Pros of an international health insurance plan with IMG
- 24/7 customer service
- Very flexible plans and customizable coverage limits
- More than 17,000 doctors available in their network
Cons of an international health insurance plan with IMG
- Not all of their plans offer coverage for Covid-19
- Don’t offer plans for individuals above 75
3. Aetna (acquired by Allianz)
Aetna is a leader in the field of international insurance and is often the winner of industry awards. So if you’re looking for a safe and trustworthy option to get insurance from before you move to Switzerland, Aetna is a choice to consider.
Although they don’t offer a large variety of plans, all of their plans are flexible and allow you to add on complementary coverage (like dental care). Their plans also include extensive coverage of up to USD 5 million in some cases.
You can choose from family or individual plans, and you have the option to include coverage for repatriation and medical evacuation.
As an immigrant, I recommend Aetna Pioneer. This plan offers a basic coverage of up to 1.75 million USD. If you’re interested, just fill out a form on their website to see an exact quote and get detailed information on the available plans.
Pros of an international health insurance plan with Aetna
- 24/7 customer support
- Mobile application where you can easily locate medical services and providers when needed
- Short-, medium-, and long-term plan options
- Coverage for maternal care
- Pre-trip support to answer questions about things like vaccinations and prescription medications
Cons of an international health insurance plan with Aetna
- Not a large variety of plans to choose from
- Prices are higher than the other options on this list
GeoBlue has spent the last 20 years offering insurance plans with worldwide health coverage.
But keep in mind that GeoBlue only offers health insurance for citizens and residents of the United States. So if you’re not an American citizen or resident moving to Switzerland, you can skip this option.
GeoBlue has health insurance plans for all types of people, including immigrants. In which case, the Xplorer Essential is the plan that I generally recommend since it’s a long-term plan with unlimited coverage.
If you’re looking for a shorter plan, try GeoBlue’s Voyager plan. To get a quote and more detailed information about the plans, you’ll have to fill out a form or contact an insurance broker.
Pros of an international health insurance plan with GeoBlue
- 24/7 customer service
- App available with tech and telehealth resources
- Some plans include coverage for pre-existing conditions
- All plans include unlimited coverage
Cons of an international health insurance plan with GeoBlue
- Plans only available to American citizens and permanent residents
- Plans aren’t very flexible
- You need to fill out a form or contact an insurance broker for more information or quotes
SafetyWing is one of the most popular insurance companies for digital nomads since the company offers insurance plans specifically for remote workers and companies, immigrants, and digital nomads.
One benefit of SafetyWing is that their policies tend to be a little more accessible than the others on the market. They also offer free coverage for children aged 2-10 if their caretakers have a plan.
The cost of each plan depends on your age. The cheapest plan doesn’t cover pre-existing conditions, but does have coverage up to 250,000 USD. But you can also add pre-existing condition coverage if you need it.
My favorite benefit is that SafetyWing offers 30 days of coverage for free in your home country for every 90 days that you use your plan in Switzerland.
Pros of an international health insurance plan with SafetyWing
- Modern, intuitive website where you can easily access all the info you need
- 24/7 customer service
- 30 days of free coverage in your home country for every 90 days of coverage overseas
- Offers covid-19 coverage and treatment if recommended by a doctor
Cons of an international health insurance plan with SafetyWing
- Plans are a little more basic than the others on the list
- The prices shown on the site don’t include all taxes and fees
Global Underwriters is another well-known company when it comes to insurance. They have policies that serve immigrants, students, digital nomads, and expats with plans to start a life in another country.
For someone moving to Switzerland, I recommend the Diplomat Long Term or the Diplomat International plan. Both include complete coverage and generally include all that an immigrant might need in their new home.
Pros of an international health insurance plan with Global Underwriters
- 24/7 customer support
- Up to $1 million in coverage for the plans mentioned above, plus an additional $1 million in coverage in cases of accidental death or dismemberment
- Option to add coverage for emergency dental, medical evacuation, and repatriation of mortal remains
Cons of an international health insurance plan with Global Underwriters
- The Diplomat Long Term plan doesn’t cover travelers to Iran, Afghanistan, or Cuba
- The Diplomat International plan doesn’t offer Covid-19 coverage
- Don’t offer plans for residents of Australia, Iran, South Dakota, Maryland, or New York
Foyer Global Health is a specialist in international health insurance plans for travelers, immigrants, digital nomads, and expats.
Not only is it a trustworthy company (it’s part of the larger European Foyer Group), it’s also a company that offers some of the largest variety of plans you’ll find anywhere.
Pros of an international health insurance plan with Foyer Global Health
- 24/7 customer service by phone and email
- All plans offer dental surgery, appointments, and treatments
- Pre-trip support for vaccinations and the preparation of first aid kits
- Potential to add on coverage for evacuation and repatriation
Cons of an international health insurance plan with Foyer Global Health
- The limits of coverage aren’t clear on their website
Types of visas you can apply for to live, work & study in Switzerland
If you’re planning to move to Switzerland, one of your most important tasks will be to research and apply for a visa.
As an expat coming for work, your company will likely offer support with your move, including applying for a visa and, in some cases, finding a new place to live.
But regardless, what’s most important is to pay close attention to the types of visas that you can apply for, what documents you need to apply, and what the timelines are for your visa to arrive. And if other members of your family are going to be moving with you, then you’ll also have to review what type of visas they need.
In Switzerland, visas are issued by cantons (or what we might call “states”). But make sure you contact your local Swiss Embassy for any specific questions you have.
Take a look below for the 3 types of visas most commonly used by new expats to gain entry into Switzerland.
Swiss work visas
As many people move to Switzerland for work, we’ll begin with this visa.
You have two options when it comes to Swiss work visas. The first is for citizens of the European Union and European Free Trade Association member countries. This visa allows you to come to Switzerland without a job contract since it grants you 3 months (with the possibility to extend to 6 months) to find a job.
The second type of work visa is for citizens of other countries. This type of visa requires you to have a signed work contract before your arrival. Family members – including your spouse, children under 21, and other dependents of any age under your care – can reside in Switzerland with you on this visa.
The Swiss L visa is for short-term residents. It covers work contracts of up to 1 year. In special cases, it can be extended for up to 24 months.
The Swiss B visa is for a temporary residence permit that you need to renew annually. There are a limited number of B visas released each year. They are also tied directly to your employer, meaning you will have to stay with the same job if you wish to keep this visa.
The Swiss C visa is a permanent residence permit that can be requested after 5 years for citizens of the United States and Canada, and 10 uninterrupted years in Switzerland for citizens of other countries.
Swiss tourist visas
Swiss student visas
The visa for someone who wants to study in Switzerland may fall under the categories above (L, B, and C visas), as well as the D visa. The D visa is a “long-stay” visa for students and workers. International students also have the option of getting a 1-year Schengen visa (with the possibility of extension).
If you’re a citizen of the European Union, you don’t need a visa to study in Switzerland. The only documentation you’ll need is a registration from the local authorities in the city you plan to live in as well as the acceptance letter for your educational institution. You should have both of these at least 14 days before you begin your studies.
For citizens of other countries, you’ll need to present:
- A valid passport or ID card
- A filled out and signed residence authorization request form
- A certificate or letter of acceptance from your university
- Proof of funds to support yourself during your studies (such as bank statements)
- Your CV or resume
- A written declaration stating that you will leave Switzerland after your studies finish
Here are the 7 best health insurance companies for expats and immigrants moving to Switzerland:
- Global Underwriters
- Foyer Global Health
I know moving overseas can be a big decision…so I hope the article helps! If you still have any questions about getting health insurance for your move to Switzerland (or about moving abroad in general), let me know in the comments area below and I’ll get back to you!
Planning your next trip?