For some of us, the day will come when we leave Basel. That day came for me in February 2022, after three years in the city that I had come to love. While I was sad to leave my new home I took it as an opportunity to learn something new about Basel; what you need to do when it comes time to go.
I hope this guide answers questions for those who find themselves in a similar position. And just a quick note: This guide was developed based on a move out of Switzerland from the Canton of Basel Stadt and into a non-EU/EFTA country. It’s critical you confirm the departure requirements of your Swiss Canton and your new country’s entry requirements.
First things first, make a plan
The first step is to make a list of what you need to do and by when; this will help you manage all the steps and help ease the overwhelming feeling of needing to do everything at once. While your specific timeline will vary based on your personal situation, this article will raise issues to consider, which should help you get started.
Beyond the topics covered here you’ll want to make a list of any other accounts or services you use and make sure you cancel and/or settle up before you go. For instance, if you have a Swisspass you will have to notify them prior to your contract end or they will renew your pass and you will owe it even if you’ve left the country.
In general, I’d set up a plan that includes the action item, start date, due date, status and possibly a category (if you are using a spreadsheet, categories can be helpful for organizing your own thoughts and make your list easily sortable).
Deregister with the Canton
The trigger for your move from Switzerland abroad will be when you deregister with the Canton. In the case of Basel Stadt, this is an easy process requiring you to complete a simple online form declaring when you intend to depart Basel and where you will move.
Once the Canton has received your form they will issue an 'Abmeldebescheinigung' (Certificate of Deregistration), which will be delivered by post mail. This letter will allow you to cancel many service contracts without penalty as well as cancel any insurances you may have. I recommend completing the deregistration form at least 60 days before you go so that you have the letter in hand to use for canceling services.
As you consider what date to put down for your departure make sure you’ve got a plan in place for things like health insurance so you do not have a gap in coverage (your insurance will end on your day of deregistration). Also, given the potential for delays related to COVID you may want to note a departure date that is a bit after when you will actually leave the country. In our case, we gave ourselves another week just in case our flights were delayed.
House and Home
Notify your landlord and understand move out expectations
In the case of leaving a rental home it is essential to understand your requirements regarding notice and move out condition. Review your contract and confirm with your landlord the following:
The notice period and process for giving notice (likely a certified letter)
Expectations regarding move out condition, which will likely require a very thorough cleaning, filling of wall holes, and any necessary repairs
Timing for a move out walk through and the process for receiving any security deposit back
Who is responsible for canceling any utilities.
Arrange for a final cleaning
While you may be able to do your own cleaning, many people hire a professional cleaner for a final cleaning as the expectations for move out condition are typically very high. It is not cheap, but worth it if it means you get your security deposit back.
Make sure to interview a few cleaners to find out what they offer, their availability and their rates. You can find recommendations on Facebook groups like Basel Expats or if you are moving with a company, their staff may have a list of suggestions. As with any service of this kind you will want to confirm a specific list of what they will clean and make sure to check everything carefully after the cleaning to make sure it was done to your expectations.
Make minor home repairs
In addition to the cleaning and depending on your level of home improvement skill, you may need to schedule a handyman to remove any light fixtures and fill in holes in the walls. In our experience, it took some time to find someone who could actually come so make sure to figure this part out sooner rather than later. (Sidenote: it is really easy to fill in wall holes - all the major home improvement stores have a variety of spackle you can use so if you are just required to fill holes and not paint then doing it yourself could be the way to go.)
Address major home repairs
If you know of or find a more significant home repair is necessary, such as the replacement of an appliance, it is best to give your landlord as much notice as possible. Try to come to an agreement on the timing and cost of any repairs prior to your move so that you can see more of your security deposit back sooner rather than later.
Quick tip: Some renter’s insurances cover certain repair costs so make sure to check your policy and know the process to file a claim before you cancel the plan.
Cancel your utilities
With your deregistration letter you will be able to cancel utilities, phone plans and home related insurances and will be able to set the dates of departure so that your service will end on your desired date. Don’t forget to return any equipment like routers!
Kids, Pets and Cars
Give notices to schools and clubs
In the case of your or your children’s schools, make sure to notify any schools of your departure by certified post and make a plan for any final payments or credits due. And don’t forget to cancel any clubs or activities. Many providers have open ended contracts, which means you are required to continue to pay until you give appropriate notice. As soon as you know you are leaving, it’s worth finding out their policies so you can initiate cancellations in a timely fashion.
Prepare your pets
For pets, ensure they are up to date on any necessary vaccinations prior to your departure and have a microchip if required. You’ll also need to think about how they are transported and what you are willing to pay. It’s possible to take a DIY approach to their relocation but, if you can, I recommend using a pet relocation service at least to help navigate the customs requirements. Many offer a range of services from more limited support all the way to door-to-door service. In our most recent move we had a great experience with Global Pet Relocation.
Decide what to do with your car
For those who have a car you will need to determine the process for selling, returning or shipping your car. This step will vary greatly based on your situation. (In case you missed it, check out our post on car options.)
Know how and when to close your bank account
Make sure to know what your bank requires in terms of a closing process (e.g. in person, online, by mail, etc.). When I researched this issue prior to my move I read that some banks will want you to close your account on the day of deregistration. This was not the case with my bank nor would I recommend giving your deregistration letter if not required.
Why? Chances are you will have some outstanding invoices to pay after your departure and it is easier for any rental damage deposit to be transferred to a Swiss account. In my case, I kept one checking account open and maintained a base level of funds to cover our final costs related to items such as final utility bills and medical related invoices.
Make a plan for work related accounts
Depending on your (or your spouse’s) work situation you may have financial accounts to settle, particularly if you are leaving a company. Inventory any work related accounts such as checking, pension and stock options and connect with the relevant contact people so you know how to access or transfer those accounts as required.
Settle your tax bill
You will need to make sure you’ve paid your past year tax bill in full and make arrangements to be able to pay any taxes from the current year when it comes time to file. This process is easier if you are working with a tax preparing service and it is possible to file an extension. If you plan to do your own taxes then ensure you have the relevant contact information for the Cantonal tax offices and know how and when to file.
Insurance and Records
Cancel your insurances
With your deregistration letter you will be able to cancel plans with any insurance providers including health, personal, renters and any others you may have. If your health insurance is paid through your employer’s account and you are leaving the country after your final day with that employer, you will need to ensure you make arrangements to pay for the remaining balance (don’t worry…I’m sure they will send you a bill.) In the case where a credit is due to you, insurers should issue you a refund to your bank account on record.
Request your records
Make arrangements to get records from doctors offices, financial institutions, credit cards, vets, etc. In the case of doctors offices, most requests can be made by email or post mail depending on the providers’ preferences. Some will email records and some may send them by post so make sure to make your requests a few weeks prior to your move if possible.
I recommend downloading any recent banking or credit card statements too. This can be helpful in the case where you need to show a history of rental payments to future landlords or for a future home purchase, or if you need to dispute any final credit card charges. Remember, once you close your accounts those statements can be difficult, if not impossible, to get again.
Phones and Mail
Maintain a phone in the transition
Chances are you will need to cancel a Swiss phone cell number and will be securing a number in your new country. Check your contract and see if it’s possible to add international calling to your Swiss number to cover you when you first move away, and then cancel your contract online or remotely once you have your new phone number in place.
Or, you may want to secure a new phone contract in your next country prior to leaving Switzerland so you have a local plan once you arrive. (In my case, I had kept my old SIM card so was able to use it with a new US number; I simply popped out the Swiss one and put in the US one upon departure.)
Change your post address and forward your mail
It is possible to change your address with Swiss Post in person or online. In addition, you can have your mail forwarded for a reasonable fee.
For any mail you receive regularly, such as magazines, contact the companies directly with your address change so that there is no interruption in service.
Decide on a moving company
There are a variety of moving companies so, if you have a choice, you will want to interview them to understand what they offer, how long it will take them for the move, and their costs. Make sure to discuss with them what you can and cannot move by air and/or sea if both those shipment types are available to you. Likely, they will want to take a preliminary inventory of your goods so that they can estimate how much space you will need.
Moving companies will want you to provide them with a final inventory at least a week or before your move and will have done a walkthrough with you earlier on; it’s better to overestimate what you will bring to ensure you are covered than decide at the end you are bringing a bunch of large items that were not initially included.
Early on make an inventory and plan for your stuff (you will have to do some form of this anyway for your moving company). In that list note:
1) What you will take with you and how (plane, air or sea)
2) What you want to try to sell
3) What you want to give away
4) What needs to be thrown away.
I’d aim to have taken care of items on lists 2 and 3 with a week to spare so you still have time if you need to throw away items or update your list for the moving company. (see our sample Relocation Action Plan which includes a tab for this kind of inventory.)
Find homes for unwanted items
Chances are you will want to get rid of some stuff when you move. There are some different ways you can go about ditching your things:
Brockis: Many of these second hand stores will often accept items if they are in good condition. Make sure to understand what items they will accept and whether you need to arrange for their transportation or whether they can be picked up. There are a number of different Brockis around Basel, which you can read about in our post on the topic.
Facebook: You can use Facebook Marketplace to post items or Buy & Sell Basel if you want to try and sell your items. If you are okay with letting things go for free you can also try on Basel Free Items.
Local organizations: Some local support organizations accept items, particularly clothes so you can reach out and see what they may need. Two places to start: SOS Mother & Baby Basel for childrens items and OESA for clothing for all ages.
Friends: Think your friend may want your wine fridge? Have some extra baking supplies that you don’t want to go to waste? Then ask your friends!
Curbside: Depending on where you live you may be able to put items out on the curb for free and someone may pick them up. Generally, I’ve seen this approach for boxes of smaller items but occasionally I’ve seen larger things. Just make sure to bring them back in if they don’t go quickly as it goes against the grain to leave junk in the tidy streets of Basel.
Werkhofs: If all else fails you can schedule pick-ups for larger items or bring items directly to the local refuse/recycling Werkhofs. You will have to pay for non-recyclable items but I found the prices to be more than reasonable. (Check out our post for more information on recycling and trash.)
Arrange for temporary housing
You may find that you need to arrange for temporary housing prior to your move. Depending on how long you will need there are a variety of options:
Hotels: This could work well if it’s for a few days and you want to experience the city as a tourist for a few days.
Short term rentals: Perhaps a better fit if you require a longer term stay and want a full apartment.
Aparthotels: A perfect mix of both, aparthotels are a hotel room with kitchenettes and amenities like laundry rooms. Perfect if you want a little more home functionality but still with some hotel amenities or location. We used Aparthotel Adagio when we moved and were happy with the experience.
Plan for your arrival
It’s easy to get focused on all that you need to do to leave Basel. But, remember you’ve got to think about what happens when you arrive in your new country. One quick tip: As you make your list of things you need to do to leave, make the same list but in reverse for your new place of residence.
Prepare for your final departure
Finally, the day will come when it’s time to leave. If flying, make sure you check on your airline’s guidelines a few weeks in advance and then again closer to your flight to ensure you have met all the requirements to depart. Schedule any ground transportation to the airport too.
Be strategic in what you pack. Here are a few tips:
Make sure to pack any important documents in your carry on.
For cabin bags, think about what you will need before your air and/or sea shipments arrive, considering what will be easy to purchase when you arrive in your new country versus what may be more challenging to find.
If you require any medications, you may want to stock up for a few months in case it takes time to see a doctor in your new country.
Consider if you have any irreplaceable items that while not monetarily valuable you would be heartbroken to lose.
Last, try to schedule in a little buffer time in your last days. This extra time will come in handy if you realize you forgot to do something and need to address it at the last minute.
Some Final Advice
I’ve tried to cover the key issues you’ll need to think about when leaving Basel for your new home and want to leave you with a few closing thoughts:
Take time to enjoy your final days here. Our city has so much to offer! Schedule some time for activities that may still be on your Basel bucket list. For our family, it was a city scavenger hunt, macarons from Boulangerie Leyes, and a final visit to Fondation Beyeler.
Say your goodbyes. It can be hard to leave friends and things get busy at the end but try and make some time to be with friends. Sure, you will be able to stay in touch virtually but having time to say goodbye fills the heart - and is a great way to offload any wine you didn’t manage to drink and can’t fit in your luggage (speaking from experience)!
Get ready for some culture shock. We all know it can be hard moving to a new place. Even if you are going back to a country you know well you may find it takes some time to adjust - and that’s okay. For us, it was suddenly understanding everything people were saying around us - pros and cons to that experience I assure you!
Be patient, with others and yourself. Moving is a lot. A lot of paperwork. A lot of phone calls. A lot of time. So, when you are on the phone with a service provider for the 5th time, or haven’t gotten that medical record you requested three weeks ago, take a breath. Make a cup of tea. Binge watch two or three shows on Netflix. It’s going to be okay. Things probably won’t go perfectly but that’s life!
I hope this post has been helpful for those who are considering a move or need to make one. Did I forget something or do you have other advice? Please leave a comment!