Living abroad

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Living abroad

Moving abroad is associated with many questions and organisational efforts. On this website, we will only be able to address a few points. It is important that you allow enough time for clarification before moving. Get advice about emigration. You can find more information here:

  • Advice and information for emigrants from the Swiss government:

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  • Advice and information for Swiss citizens living abroad:

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Information on residence law

There are several things to bear in mind if you decide to move away from Switzerland. The embassy or consulate of your destination country will provide you with information on which entry and residence permits you will need to reside in the chosen country.

Individuals who have a residence or settlement permit in Switzerland lose it when they notify the Swiss authorities of their departure. If you do not give notice of your departure, your short-term residence permit will become invalid after three months, and your residence and settlement permit after six months. Upon application, the settlement permit can be maintained for a maximum of four years.

Swiss nationals who have given notice of their departure to the necessary authorities in Switzerland have to register both with the Swiss embassy and the local authorities in their destination country.

Social integration and language

Social integration and the acquisition of the local language are central to your well-being in a new country. Find out about the language, culture, manners and customs in the destination country before you leave. If you move to your partner's home country, you will probably get to know their family and friends quickly. If the country is new to both of you, you will need to build a network. As well as your colleagues, there will be other opportunities and places to meet people.

If you would like to get to know other Swiss nationals abroad, you can find out whether there's a Swiss organisation in your chosen country.

  • Swiss organisations abroad: FDFA 

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Work and education

If you work abroad, you will need a work permit for countries outside the EU/EFTA. If this is not organised by your employer, you can enquire about the conditions in advance at the destination country’s embassy in Switzerland. Having an employment contract is a basic requirement for getting a work permit.

Swiss citizens do not need a work permit to take up employment in an EU or EFTA member state. However, they must register with their local municipality in the destination country.

Clarify in advance whether you can practice your profession in the destination country, or whether you'll need to get your qualifications recognised. Getting a university degree recognised can be a time-consuming process. Even if you're studying abroad, you need to clarify whether you will be admitted to study with your qualifications. For EU and EFTA member states, mutual recognition of diplomas is regulated within the framework of the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons.

Finances

Moving abroad requires financial planning. How much can you expect to earn? Will your income cover the costs of moving? What about insurance and your pension?

Social security abroad
Find out which social security schemes exist in the destination country and which rules apply to foreigners. Social securities are mostly coordinated between the EU/EFTA member states and Switzerland. Switzerland also has social security agreements with many other countries outside the EU/EFTA.

  • Countries with social security agreements. You can find further information here:

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  • Countries without social security agreements.
  • If you move to a country which doesn't have a social security agreement with Switzerland, you can apply to have your OASI payments paid out.

Health insurance
You should find out whether you need health insurance in the destination country. This may be provided by your local employer. Employed persons in an EU/EFTA member state are subject to compulsory social insurance in the country of destination and must take out insurance locally. In all other countries, people must take out their own health and personal accident insurance.

OASI
Once you give notice of your departure in Switzerland, you are no longer subject to compulsory Swiss OASI/DI. If you register with the Swiss representation when residing in a third country, you can join the voluntary Swiss OASI/DI scheme so that there are no gaps if you should choose to return at a later date. However, this is only possible if you emigrate to a country outside the EU/EFTA. In the EU/EFTA, you are subject to the social security protection of the chosen country.

Anyone who has paid into the OASI for at least one year is entitled to a pension from the scheme. This entitlement remains intact if you leave Switzerland. Swiss citizens, EU/EFTA citizens and all citizens of countries that have concluded a social security agreement with Switzerland cannot have their OASI contributions paid out when they leave Switzerland. They can only receive them in the form of a pension.

Only citizens of countries with which Switzerland has not concluded a corresponding agreement can have the amounts paid into the AHV/OASI paid out to them under certain circumstances. 

Pension fund
The situation with the pension fund is different. Swiss, and foreign nationals can have this retirement capital paid out when they leave Switzerland. If you move to an EU/EFTA country, only the non-compulsory part of the pension fund can be paid out. The compulsory part is transferred to a vested benefits account. If you emigrate to a country outside the EU/EFTA, you can have all pension fund assets paid out. You should think carefully before having this money paid out in full. If you return to Switzerland at a later date, this money will be gone. You should also find out if tax regulations apply to the pay-out both in Switzerland and in the destination country.

Unemployment insurance
If you start work in another country, you must join their unemployment insurance fund – unless you are sent abroad temporarily by a Swiss company. Within the EU/EFTA, unemployed persons who have paid contributions for a sufficient period usually receive the benefits of the state in which they last worked (apart from cross-border commuters).

Taxes
You need to be well informed on tax in your destination country, too. Does the country have a double taxation agreement with Switzerland? This question is especially important if you have income and/or assets in both countries. Prior clarification with your canton’s tax authorities, the State Secretariat for International Finance (SIF) and the tax authorities in the destination country will help avoid any unpleasant surprises.

  • Tax conference:

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  • State Secretariat for International Finance:

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Family/Children/Relationship

If you move abroad, you might have questions regarding relationships, family and children. You might wonder: Do my family members have sufficient health and accident insurance? Are there financial benefits for children in the destination country? What childcare facilities are available? What is the school/education system like in the destination country? How is marriage and family law regulated in the destination country? What does the country have to offer for the children in terms of hobbies, or extra-curricular activities? How can we organise our relationship and our family life, considering the regulations, customs and traditions in the destination country? Where can we find support, should we run into difficulties?

Please be aware that, if no special regulation exists, the marriage and family law of the country in which you live will apply. For other agreements, you can check whether a marriage contract would make sense. In general, Swiss citizens must report all events such as a marriage, birth or divorce to the Swiss representation abroad. This is so that the Swiss register can be kept up to date.

  •  for information regarding binational couples