Design: Tom Künzli, Berne. © Swiss Post Ltd
One tenth of Swiss nationals are resident abroad – 750,000 of them in total. They are part of the Swiss population and have rights and obligations in Switzerland – such as the right to vote and take part in referenda at federal level by post.
Nearly two thirds of Swiss expats live in Europe, many in our five neighbouring states. 200,000 live in France, 85,000 in Germany and 80,000 in the USA. And the numbers are increasing every year. There is not a single country in the world that is not home to any Swiss people. Swiss citizens living abroad account for a growing percentage of the total population. The “fifth Switzerland”, as it is known, is the third-largest canton after Zurich and Berne.
Switzerland, with its close international ties, is reliant on citizens who are familiar with other cultures and are part of an international network. They secure knowledge, experience, access and connections for the country.
Swiss citizens abroad usually retain close ties with their country of origin – often across generations. Easier travel options and modern means of communication are bringing Swiss people abroad and those back in Switzerland closer together. The Organisation of the Swiss Abroad (OSA) – which celebrates its centenary in 2016 – plays an important role in this.
Rudolf Wyder, Director of the OSA from 1987 to 2013