June 22, 2016 - Comments Off on Milburn Lewis – Making the Move Blog. Part II – Geneva, CH

Milburn Lewis – Making the Move Blog. Part II – Geneva, CH

Last week, Milburn Lewis launched our Making the Move Blog (which can also be found on our website, www.milburnlewis.com) with a look at one of Europe’s hidden gems, Luxembourg. This week we continue our series by traveling south to Switzerland.

Given that Switzerland is a significant market for Milburn Lewis, we’ve decided to dedicate Part II and Part III to the two major cities in Switzerland. Today, we start with Geneva.

Welcome to Switzerland

The Swiss Confederation is considered one of Europe’s most beautiful countries. Similar to Luxembourg, it offers professionals the chance of fantastic career progression, excellent work/life balance, and easy access to the rest of Europe.

Switzerland is a mountainous country in Central Europe. It is landlocked and borders Liechtenstein and Austria to the East, Italy to the South, France to the West, and Germany to the North. Given its location in Europe, Switzerland gives professionals the opportunity to work in some of Europe’s largest markets.

Compared to other major European countries, Switzerland is a relatively small country at 41,285 km2. The total population is around 8,211,700, with about 28% classified as immigrants.

There are four official languages: German (63.7%), French (20.4%), Italian (6.5%), and Romansh (0.5%). English is not an official language, though it is widely spoken throughout Switzerland. Interestingly, language is a geographical divide in Switzerland.

Switzerland is a federal directorial republic consisting of 26 cantons, with Bern as the seat of the federal authorities, called Bundesstadt (“federal city”). The diverse use of language and cultures throughout the cantons arguably makes Switzerland one of Europe’s most eclectic countries.

The Swiss economy is considered to be one of the most stable in the world. Its long-standing policy of ensuring long-term monetary security and political stability has made Switzerland a safe haven for investors, creating an economy that is increasingly dependent on a steady tide of foreign investment.

Switzerland is also home to two global and economic centres: Zürich and Geneva.

Living and Working in Geneva

Geneva is the second most populated city in Switzerland, with over 195,000 residents. It is the first most populous city in Romandy, which is the term used to denote the French-speaking parts of Switzerland. It is known for its beautiful scenery, weather, and a very high standard of living.

The canton of Geneva is one of the smallest in Switzerland, ranking 21st out of 26th when ranked by area. The city of Geneva is spread across 15.93 km2, which makes it one of Europe’s smallest cities.

The official language of Geneva is French. Due to immigration flows in the 1960s and 1970, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish are also spoken by a considerable proportion of the population.

Although one can survive on English only, it is not recommended and immigrants are encouraged to develop their French skills if a long-term move to Geneva is likely. In recent years, the Executive of Geneva and Federal Council of Switzerland have voiced their concerns over the lack of proficiency in French of English-speaking expatriates (even after years spent in Geneva).

There is a significant immigrant community in Geneva, with 62% of residents coming from a “non-Swiss background”. This is largely due to the large number of international organisations that reside there, which attracts professionals from all over the world. Geneva therefore offers a relatively smooth transition for those seeking a career move, especially those who have a proficient grasp of the French language.

As always the weather is an important factor for those considering a move. In most inhabited regions of Switzerland, the weather is generally moderate. In Geneva, the hottest month is July with an average temperature of 20 degrees. Not surprisingly, the coldest month is January with an average temperature of 2 degrees.

Living and Working in Geneva

Financial services make up a significant percentage of Geneva’s economy. All the major international accountancy firms have a strong presence in the city. Milburn Lewis has very strong relationships with all of the Big 4 firms in Geneva. The feedback we often receive is that all Big 4 firms in Geneva offer a great deal of career advancement.

Geneva has some of the world’s young, dedicated, and hard-working professionals and they have to decompress. The city is home to myriad restaurants, bars, and a host of other social events. Geneva is also home to a renowned sporting culture, offering opportunities to get involved in a range of activities including skiing, snowboarding and snowshoeing, hiking, canoeing, mountaineering, cycling, mountain biking, golf, wakeboarding, windsurfing and paragliding. This gives new arrivals ample opportunities to socialise, integrate, and make new relationships.

Practicalities: Right to Work

The right to work in Geneva is controlled at a Federal level. Since 1998, Switzerland has a dual priority system for the issuance of work permits. This means priority is given to workers from EU member states and a more restrictive admission policy is operated for non-EU citizens.

Switzerland is not a member of the European Union but since 2002, a bilateral agreement between the two entities has made it easier entry for EU national, as well as citizens from Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein. This was extended in 2013, which gave EU citizens full freedom of movement. EU citizens are free to travel to Switzerland, and to live and work there for up to 3 months.

For those who have longer term plans, however, they are required to obtain a residence permit and register with the communal authorities in the place they reside before taking up work. This will almost certainly be the case for professionals seeking employment within one of the Big 4 firms.

Citizens from countries outside of the EU are referred to as “third-country nationals” and the restrictions on their right to live and work are more stringent. If a professional is offered employment in Switzerland, the prospective employer must submit an application to the cantonal immigration or labour market authorities.

The following requirements apply to employment of third-country nationals:

  • Persons are admitted when it is in the general economic interest.
  • Authorisation is only granted if established quotas have not been used up.
  • Third-country nationals may only be hired if no one with equivalent qualifications can be found in Switzerland or in an EU/EFTA member state.
  • Only managers, specialists and other qualified workers will be admitted. “Qualified workers” are primarily the holders of higher education qualifications (i.e. from a university or university of applied sciences) who also have specific technical expertise and several years of professional experience. Integration criteria will also be taken into account when issuing residence permits: ability to adjust to a new occupational and social environment, language skills and age.
  • Salary and working conditions must also be equivalent to those that apply to Swiss inhabitants.

The Practicalities: Cost of Living in Geneva

Geneva is a very small city, compared to the cultural advantages it offers. The feedback we receive from professionals we’ve placed is that there are no bad, stay-away-from neighbourhoods in Geneva. However, given its relatively small size, it can be very expensive to rent and buy in Geneva.

This being said, the professionals that Milburn Lewis have placed in Geneva say that the high cost of living is offset by the low tax rates and exceptionally high salaries awarded.

Given its close proximity to France, a large number of professionals are electing to live in neighbouring French towns and commute into Geneva. Bordering French towns like Ferney-Voltaire, St. Julien-en-Genevois, and Annemase offer a smaller population and lower cost of living.

In order to live in France and work in Geneva, you are required to gain frontalier status. The benefits can be significant. Frontaliers benefit from the higher level of remuneration without the significant cost of living in city centre Geneva.

Frontaliers are subject to a complex tax arrangement, however. There are different rules and process for the different cantons of Switzerland. People who work in Geneva and the surrounding canton are taxed at source. They are required to declare their income to the French authorities and note how much tax was already paid in Geneva. The French tax then calculates what further tax is required. Geneva and France exchange the finances as per their agreement at the end of the whole process.

It is up to the individual to decide what option is best for them when consider where to reside.

Concluding Remarks: Geneva, Switzerland

Geneva, Switzerland, has a great deal to offer young, mid-career, and senior professionals wanting to advance their career. If you’re committed to a move to Geneva, or simply curious to know more about our clients and the roles they are hiring for, email info@milburnlewis.com.

Published by: Ian James in Blogs

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