If you are soon crossing the German to Swiss Border Customs while relocating, you’ve come to the right post. Here we are sharing our own personal experience of the whole process, from organising the Swiss customs forms and documentation, the checks, the clearance and the overall summary. Our Swiss customs experience is based on crossing the Germany to Switzerland border with a whole van of belongings, our car and our cat.
As this post title shares, this post is 100% based on our personal experience of crossing the German to Swiss border with a moving van on the first time, and then a second time with our car and cat. More is explained further below on how we did this ourselves.
But to start, here are our facts about the process from our situation:
- We arrived on a Monday morning at 9am at the border
- This took place at end of July 2022
- Took us total 35-40minutes for the whole process
- We crossed with a rental moving van and all our belongings the 1st time
- We crossed with our own car and cat the 2nd time later in the week
You may have already seen our ‘Moving To Switzerland in 2022: Everything You Need To Know‘ post too, else I would suggest to check that post first before seeing in detail our customs experience!
Crossing The Swiss Border With Customs: preparation
Before even setting off your journey to cross the Switzerland border, you will need to make sure you have all your documentation in order, prepared and printed. The following is what we had in total for this Swiss Border customs process:
- 2 official customs form completed
- Swiss contract
- Proof Of Residence
- Inventory list
- invoices of all electronic goods
- EU Cat Passport
- Car Documentation
Read on to see each one in more detail:
1. 2 official customs form completed
We completed both versions with the exact same information for customs. One copy, is for us to keep after it gets stamped and one customs keep for their records.
2. Swiss contract
I had a few copies of my new Swiss work contract printed, as I was not 100% if this was needed at customs. I had it printed in both Italian and English, since we relocated to Ticino where they speak Italian as the main language.
It was good that I had this printed, since they indeed asked for a copy for their administration. I simply provided the English version (since we crossed the border from Germany) and they seemed happy with this to have on file.
3. Proof Of Residence
Since you are relocating, you should already have a proof of residence of where you will be living in Switzerland.
We were moving first to an Airbnb for 2 months, so we already had written proof from the Airbnb owners that we would be officially staying at their place. This was just a 1 page A4 sharing that the owner (with his contact details) confirmed that we (with our passport number and personal information) were going to stays at their place for the specific dates and duration.
4. Inventory list
For the inventory list, we were unsure how detailed this should be as it was not mentioned anywhere. We decided to provide a super detailed list. This was easy for us to do, as when we were packing everything ourselves, we numbered each box and added the number plus the contents of that box to an excel sheet for tracking. This ultimately also helped us when we arrived in Ticino, so we knew what boxes were for storage or to keep with us in the Airbnb.
We also provided a 1 page A4 summary to group the total list together in similar objects. For example, our summary page looked like this:
|List 1 Page Summary||Items|
|Furniture||2 x desks|
1 x foot rest
1 x computer chair
1 x whiteboard
|Electrical household appliances||8 boxes total|
1x desktop computer
2x desktop screens
1x 3D scanner
1x computer printer
1x kitchen kettle
4x laptops (2 work laptops & 2 private laptops)
|Kitchen utensils and items||5 boxes|
|Linen||2 box (towels and bedding)|
|Plants||1 pancake plant|
1 ZZ plant
|Books, CDs, DVDs, etc||4 boxes (magazines, books)|
|Food||2 boxes (dry cat biscuits, cooking herbs etc)|
|General other household items (clothes, shoes, personal items & ornaments)||40 boxes|
|Other goods||1 x bike|
If you want to decide on what to bring with you, check our recommended list of things to bring to Switzerland based on four main categories!
5. invoices of all electronic goods
You should provide invoices as proof of goods that you are relocating with, since these show the purchase dates of your belongings. This is linked to the rule of import duty costs for items that are less than 6 months old and above 300 CHF in price.
We went through all our electronics and goods based on what was more than 300 EURs, and then looked for invoices or proof of purchases from the order sections on websites for customs. For most items above 300 EUR we had invoices, and so we printed these ready to hand over.
There was two items we had no official invoice for, such as Dawid’s bike. This is an expensive bike that he actually bought via marktplaats (a second hand online shop in the Netherlands). For this case, we were not sure what to give to customs. We decided that we would find information on the special model online, which was no longer made in our case. We provided proof of this model on one A4 page that showed information that it was last produced around 2 years ago. This at least showed Swiss customs that we provided some information on the bike that it was not less than 6 months old based on the last production date.
The other item was our TV. This was bought by Dawid a few years previously, and we had no invoice for this either. However we did log into the website where he bought it from, and provided Swiss customs with a print screen from his orders page showing the TV details as well as when he ordered it.
Top Tip: Keep a google drive folder with copies of all your documents and files that you have prepared for Customs to stay organised. If needed, you then can then at least show digital proof of something at the crossing.
6. EU Cat Passport
As we were first crossing without the cat the first time we crossed the border, we didn’t think we needed to share information the first time without her. However this information could have been included on the same original customs form.
Before crossing the border, it was of course mandatory for our cat to have all her valid yearly (and rabies) vaccinations up to date as well as being microchipped. So make sure if coming with a cat, you have everything in order for them.
7. Car Documentation
Just like the EU Cat passport, we could have already provided the car documentation on the first trip we did to the customs border so that it would all be on one customs form. So the 2nd time we arrived with the car, we simply handed this over at the same office. It was all reviewed, photocopied and saved on file.
Crossing The Swiss Border Customs: Import Time!
So for our own situation, we had driven from the Netherlands to the border of Switzerland on a Sunday evening. We had packed the whole moving van ourselves during the weekend and so it was just a matter of driving down. We of course had all the required documents printed and ready too.
We slept at a local hotel nearby on the Sunday night, which was logistically perfect as we could park the moving van for free outside. So by Monday morning, it was time to cross the border when they were open.
This is good to check for your own situation when you want to cross the border, as they may not be open at weekends or after specific hours.
Which Border Crossing To Take?
On the Monday morning, we actually visited three border points in total before crossing, as we were unsure what was the best one, in terms of efficiency etc. After seeing the very long traffic lines with lots of lorries at the French-Swiss border (near Basel airport), we wanted to avoid this and so headed to the next crossing. This 2nd crossing was not for those importing goods such as our situation, so third time was a charm at the German-Swiss border (near Basel-Kleinhüningen).
Arriving at this 3rd customs area of the Swiss border was in my opinion quite nerve-racking! As you have to arrive at the import area alongside the lorries and other vans heading into the country. Plus after all the preparation, you don’t really know what to expect for yourself or if you have everything that you should. So I didn’t sleep much due to worrying about something not going well.
This border crossing location seemed not busy at all for a Monday morning, with around 12 lorries here but mostly smaller vans such as our moving van. So we feel that we made the right choice in coming to this customs area based on how busy it looked.
Parking Up & Heading Inside The Customs Office
We arrived at the ‘import’ parking area of the Basel-Kleinhüningen customs location. An employee showed us where to park separately from the bigger lorries and then we had to head inside the office.
This is where things get fun. Fun because it’s just so confusing! For someone like us who don’t come here at all, there is not exactly a map or directions to what you need to do. So we had to ask around and find out where to go.
We first went to the Swiss border desk naturally, which we found on the 2nd floor. But they told us we first needed a A2 slip piece of paper from the German border desk. So they told us to head back down to the ground floor and meet the German customs officers first. At this point the German border officer provided us with this piece of paper, where we had to write on our future Swiss address and the main bigger items we were bringing into the country. We also had to add the moving van number plate and weight of the vehicle to it. Of course for the weight, we had absolutely no idea – so we had simply guessed based on the amount of boxes we had.
He checked this, just to make sure we completed it, and stamped it. We then went back up to the Swiss border officer for the rest of the checks. This A2 slip of paper as well as all our documents mentioned above were then handed over to the officer.
We had asked him a few questions while he was checking, as the cat and our car was coming later in the week with us the 2nd time. At this point, he added this information to the same customs form, as even though they would be coming later, it could be added to the same customs form on our first visit to the office. We just had to next time show proof of car documentation and the cat’s EU passport.
The customs officer never questioned anything else from our documents. He made a new profile with all our documents checked and officially stamped the customs forms. We of course also had to sign the customs form and date it. Since there were two copies, he kept one copy and we got the other to keep. We had to keep this also to show next time with the car and the cat. So at this stage we felt great knowing that everything was correct and no missing documents or information.
Driving Through The Swiss Border Customs Checkpoint
So with our slip of paper from the German custom officer stamped and our Swiss customs form officially signed and stamped from the Swiss customs officer, we were on our way!
We joined the queue and slowly drove through, handing over the slip of paper for the customs check point to keep. They instantly told us a few things in German and sent us to a different location around the back of the building. This was a bit worrying as we were not sure at first. But we worked it out that they wanted to weigh the moving van!
This was another nerve-racking stage for us, since we had guessed the weight previously on the slip of paper. We had to stay in the vehicle while parked on the special weighing spot for vans like ours. We have no idea what it weighed, but they waved us through and said goodbye. So we took that as a good sign and drove off before they could stop us again!
Passing Through Swiss Border Customs The 2nd Time: With Cat and Car
So with our moving van, we had already relocated all of our belongings from the Netherlands to the Ticino canton on the Monday. We stayed one night at our Airbnb location and then drove back the next day on the Tuesday all the way to the Netherlands. So after a few last days in the Netherlands, it was time to drive again with our own car and our cat by the Thursday.
We did this in 2 parts, since we didn’t want our cat to be in a box in the car for longer than 4 hours. As we were relocating from Maastricht, Netherlands. The half way point between here and Ticino (Locarno specifically) was around 4 hours in Strasbourg France. So here we stopped for the night with a local airbnb that allowed pets.
Our cat doesn’t like being in the car much, but this first part of the journey went well. The next day however, was the border crossing day again, so we were all nervous to see how it would go with car and cat. At least we were more confident to what to do once in the building.
It was also important to cross the same border point with our car and cat for the second time, for the customs process to stay aligned with our forms and information.
Again we first picked up the A2 slip of paper from German customs, added the cat and car registration number on it, and it was stamped. Then to the Swiss border desk again where we now showed the EU cat passport and the car documentation.
He looked at all her valid vaccinations and information, and stamped the passport’s back page confirming that he checked all and approved. He also took photocopies and added it to our file. This all happened while the cat was still in the car. We didn’t need to get her out or show her to anyone. My guess is because her passport was all in order and she was not a rare bread or with any issues. We were also glad so that it was less stressful for her to have to get out of her travel box.
You need to keep in mind that maybe it will be different for your pet, such as if it’s a dog, as there are more rules and regulations based on the breed.
They also did not leave the office to check the car, only took photocopies of the car documentation for filing. They did not ask any information either, but simply made sure that the number plate was correctly written on the customs form and the type of car etc.
Summary Of Our Swiss Border Customs Crossing
So our journey of relocating to Ticino from the Netherlands was an adventurous one at the German to Swiss customs border crossing. It was long, and with the two of us, it definitely was tiring. The total journey was 8.5 hours one way, which we ended up driving 3 times. Twice down and back with the moving van, followed by once with our cat and car.
Overall, I was definitely worried that I had documentation missing or something would be incorrect. So arriving at the Swiss customs border, I had a small thought they would simply say no to us. I was also worried that they would want us to unpack some of our moving boxes and belongings to check! But this was not the case.
This post, as mentioned above, is 100% based on our own experience and so you should not follow this for the latest news. This is purely us sharing our own experience and so please check the process for yourself with official sources. For your own situation, we very highly suggest to check directly with the Swiss Customs, as of course everyones situation is different. You may have more boxes, a dog or even kids that will join you.
And lastly, we wish you good luck for if you are going through this process soon. You will likely get nervous, anxious or curious at one point. Just stay organised and all should work out!
Any questions about our personal experience with our German to Swiss Border Customs? Feel free to share a comment or reach out via social media.