Swiss abroad

One in 10 Swiss nationals lives abroad.

Sign post to many different countries

There are 770,000 Swiss nationals living abroad. Referred to as the ‘Fifth Switzerland’, the expatriate community makes up around one-tenth of the total Swiss population.

62% of Swiss expatriates live in Europe, predominantly in France and Germany. The United States, Canada and Australia are also home to sizeable Swiss expatriate communities.

The Organisation for the Swiss Abroad (OSA) has over 750 Swiss expatriate associations worldwide. The OSA represents Swiss expatriates' interests in Switzerland.

Swiss citizens who live abroad can participate in Swiss political life. Some 600'000 Swiss expatriates are entitled to vote in elections and referendums.

Origins and developments

From the 15th to 18th century, Switzerland's best-known exported skill was soldiering. Even in the 1800s, around 70,000 Swiss mercenaries were still in the employ of foreign armies. Poverty and religious intolerance in a number of cantons during the 18th and 19th centuries led to waves of mass emigration, particularly to North and South America.

Nowadays, most of the Swiss people who live abroad are professionals, students, researchers and artists, who have left Switzerland temporarily to continue their education or further their career. One in five Swiss expatriates is over the age of 65.