Retiring abroad

Before you make preparations for leaving the country, be sure to obtain all the necessary information about the living conditions in the country of destination and the potential consequences of emigrating.

Nine steps to prepare for retirement abroad. © DFA/BOLD AG

Brochure "Ageing well abroad"

Even if old age seems a long way off, it is important to ensure you are well-prepared for it. Living abroad may mean that governmental support, along with familial and social networks, may not be as readily available as they are in Switzerland. It is crucial to consider potential situations where you might require assistance and to arrange the necessary precautions in case your independence is compromised. 

The following brochure can help you with your planning:

Ageing well abroad – Prevention & Information (PDF, 4 Pages, 2.1 MB, English)

Foreign representations in Switzerland

The official foreign representation in Switzerland (embassies or consulate) are your contact for many questions (entry requirements and customs).

If you are not able to get the information you need in Switzerland, contact the Swiss representation responsible for your destination country. They can usually help you clarify any specific issues you may have at cost. There is also a great deal of useful information relating to Switzerland on the websites of the various Swiss representations (e.g. how to register with the representation, questions about civil status, etc.).

Entry and residence requirements

Each country has its own entry and residence requirements. Some are very reluctant to give permanent residence permits to pensioners who have recently moved to their country. If you have retired, certain countries make it easier to get a permit if you are able to invest financially in your new host country (known as an investment visa).

Passports, visas and residence permits

Retiring in an EU/EFTA country

Registering in your destination country

Customs regulations

Health and prevention

Before retiring abroad you will need to look at the healthcare available in your chosen country and, if necessary, discuss your needs and circumstances with your GP in advance. Further information on health and prevention is available below. 

An old woman is standing on her balcony.
The decision to emigrate is individual. It is therefore important that you compare your needs with the concrete local conditions. © Unsplash

Financial matters

Preparing properly for your retirement abroad includes looking at your finances. You will therefore need to consult the relevant organisations in good time regarding pension payouts and insurance.

Living abroad without paid work before retirement age

It is important to obtain extensive pension planning advice to ensure that your retirement abroad is financially secure.

Health insurance

With regard to health insurance, different rules apply depending on whether you settle in a country within the EU/EFTA or in a third country. Follow the instructions below and contact the relevant authorities for detailed information.

Accident insurance


If you leave Switzerland for good, you will no longer be subject to full tax liability. If you have immovable assets (e.g. property) or income from a business activity based in Switzerland however, you remain subject to limited tax liability. There is no withholding tax for OASI pensions in Switzerland, but lump-sum benefits from Swiss pension funds and institutions for tied pension provision (2nd and 3a pillars) are always subject to withholding tax. If there is a double taxation agreement between Switzerland and your country of residence that assigns the right of taxation to that country, you can request the withholding tax to be refunded. Withholding tax is only deducted from pensions and board member fees if Switzerland has the right of taxation. It also imposes a 35% withholding tax on dividends paid by Swiss companies, the interest on bonds issued by Swiss borrowers, and the interest on Swiss bank deposits. This can also be partially (or in exceptional cases fully) reclaimed if there is a double taxation agreement with your country of residence. Which income or assets will be taxed depends on the taxation law in your country of residence.

Find out more on the website of the State Secretariat for International Finance (SIF).

State Secretariat for International Finance (SIF)

Swiss nationals living abroad and Swiss banks

Post-death arrangements

Consider your wishes for your funeral and post-death arrangements.

  • Understand local funeral rites.
  • Decide your final resting place.
  • Make financial provision for your funeral.
  • Decide whether you want to be an organ donor.

Write down your wishes or tell a relative or your GP. You can do this at any age and change your mind at any time. Let your Swiss representation know who you have told about your wishes or where you have stored your instructions.

Swiss representation

One of the FDFA‘s main tasks is to support Swiss citizens living abroad. This assistance is not unlimited however, and there is no legal entitlement to it. Moreover, it only includes services that fall within the scope of consular duties and responsibilities. Swiss representations therefore do not offer the following services (non-exhaustive list):

  • Local administrative procedures (obtaining a residence permit, local allowances, translations, etc.).
  • Finding a care home.
  • Visiting hospitals and care homes.
  • Accompanying you to medical appointments.
  • Handling or answering enquiries regarding Swiss banks.
  • Handling or answering real-estate related questions.

Personal responsibility

The Swiss Abroad Act and Ordinance place particular emphasis on the principle of personal responsibility: every individual shall exercise personal responsibility when planning or undertaking a stay abroad or when work­ing abroad and try to overcome any difficulties on their own. This means that whatever assistance Swiss representations may provide is subsidiary and, in particular, that consular protection is not a right.

It is therefore your responsibility to take necessary steps to avoid finding yourself in difficult circumstances and, if necessary, to seek solutions on your own. Additionally, it is crucial to have a contingency plan in case you are no longer able to make decisions independently.