The information provided here does not deal in detail with the complex set of rules governing pensions and social security and the associated rights and obligations. It is intended to emphasise the importance of social security and explain the requirement for common categories of individual to join the compulsory insurance system. It also tells you where you can obtain further information on particular issues.

For the assessment of individual cases, only the legislative provisions are authoritative. The information presented here is not meant to be a substitute for advice from Swiss or foreign social security schemes, which are solely responsible for issuing accurate information on the national insurance system concerned.

Arrangements with regard to benefits, healthcare and other types of social security vary significantly between EU countries. You are therefore strongly advised to obtain information well ahead of time. This guidance is provided on a selective basis only and the FDFA makes no warranty that the information is accurate or complete. 

Coordination of social security systems with EU/EFTA member states

The principle of free movement enables citizens to choose where to live and work within the territory of EU and EFTA member states and facilitates labour mobility. The coordination of social security systems between the various countries is intended to ensure that workers fully retain or improve their access to social security.

The Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons (AFMP) and the Convention Establishing the European Free Trade Association (EFTA Convention) set out the basis for the coordination of national social security systems. The rules on coordination apply to all areas of social security, except social assistance, i.e. there are legal provisions governing 

  • old-age benefits
  • invalidity benefits
  • survivor benefits
  • sickness, maternity and paternity benefits
  • benefits in respect of accidents at work and occupational diseases
  • unemployment benefits
  • family benefits

The agreements apply to Swiss or EU/EFTA nationals who are or were subject to social security rules in one or more EU/EFTA member states, members of their family, and surviving dependents.  The agreements also protect the rights of stateless persons and refugees living in Switzerland or an EU/EFTA member state. 

Social security affiliation

The issue of social security affiliation in relation to other countries is complex and you are advised to consult the relevant OASI office before leaving Switzerland.

If you have questions regarding social security schemes in EU/EFTA member states, please contact the authorities in the relevant country directly. 

You can obtain information on Swiss social security benefits from the relevant provider (e.g. health insurance company, OASI office). Your OASI office can also review your social security status.

Employed persons and place-of-work principle

Individuals who are gainfully employed (self-employed or employed) in an EU/EFTA member state must generally be affiliated to the compulsory social security schemes in that member state (place-of-work principle). As a general rule, gainfully employed individuals are affiliated to the social security schemes of a single country, even if they work in more than one country. Where an individual works in different countries, special rules determine the country in which their social security contributions are payable.

Special categories

Exemptions apply to certain categories of individual and types of social security. Swiss law continues to apply to certain categories of individual. These individuals may, for example, retain their health insurance in Switzerland or opt for health insurance in their country of residence (opt-in right).

Switzerland has concluded special agreements with several European countries allowing pension recipients to opt for cover in their country of residence (opt-in right). Affected individuals opting out of insurance cover in Switzerland must submit an application for exemption from compulsory insurance to the HIA Collective Institution in Solothurn within three months of receiving their first pension payment or moving to the EU member state. The opt-in right may be exercised once only and is irrevocable.

Exemptions apply to posted workers, cross-border workers, students and pensioners. 

This information is not exhaustive and not meant to be a substitute for obtaining personalised advice from the relevant social security office or insurance company.

Posted workers

Individuals working on a temporary basis (maximum of 24 months) for their Swiss employer in an EU/EFTA member state continue to be subject to Swiss social security legislation for the duration of their posting. The same applies to self-employed individuals, i.e. service providers, who move to another country on a temporary basis and perform the same or similar work as that undertaken prior to the move.

Workers posted to EU/EFTA member states need to obtain an A1 certificate confirming their posting from the relevant OASI office in Switzerland. The document certifies that the posted worker continues to be subject to social security legislation in their home country and is exempt from social security requirements in the country in which they are working. The Federal Social Insurance Office (FSIO) has issued various factsheets setting out further information on deployments abroad. Posted workers can request an S1 certificate of entitlement to healthcare from their health insurance company, which allows them and any unemployed family members accompanying them abroad to claim non-cash benefits from the local health and maternity insurance scheme. 

Cross-border commuters

Cross-border commuters are individuals working on an employed or self-employed basis in a country other than their country of residence. However, they are required to return to their place of residence at least once a week. Cross-border commuters are generally insured in the country in which they work (place-of-work principle).

Based on the opt-in arrangement and depending on their country of residence, cross-border commuters working in Switzerland who are resident in an EU/EFTA member state may be exempted from compulsory health insurance in Switzerland.

Different rules apply to cross-border commuters resident in Switzerland who work in an EU/EFTA member state. Relevant information on this topic is available from the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH). 


Students who remain legally resident in Switzerland and do not take up residence abroad will continue to be subject to compulsory insurance in Switzerland, unless they are gainfully employed in addition to pursuing their course of study.

Students who are not gainfully employed and cease to be resident in Switzerland may, in certain circumstances, continue to be insured under the Swiss OASI/IV scheme.

Students who work while studying abroad are deemed to be gainfully employed and are therefore subject to compulsory insurance in the country in which they are employed.

Students who are subject to compulsory health insurance in Switzerland may claim any benefits required on medical grounds during periods spent in EU/EFTA member states by presenting the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). The type of benefit required and the likely duration of stay will be taken into account. Cost sharing is governed by the rules applying in the country where the treatment is received. 


Pensioners drawing a pension from one country are in principle subject to health insurance in that country, even if they are not resident there. Pensioners who are entitled to pensions in more than one country are subject to compulsory insurance in their country of residence provided that country also pays out one of the pensions. If there is no pension entitlement in the country of residence, the country in which the pensioner paid into a pension scheme the longest will be responsible for paying out a pension. As a general rule, economically inactive family members must generally be insured in the country in which the pensioner concerned is drawing a pension.

Pensioners who have health insurance in Switzerland are entitled to choose the place of treatment, i.e. they can opt to receive medical treatment in their country of residence or in Switzerland. They are entitled to all benefits (medical treatment including medicines and hospital care) provided for in the legislation of the country concerned (country of residence or Switzerland) and to have payments reimbursed in accordance with the legislative provisions.

Unemployed persons

Individuals claiming unemployment benefits must be a member of the social security scheme of the country paying the benefits.

Economically inactive persons

Economically inactive persons other than students, unemployed individuals, pensioners or their family members (individuals not covered by a general insurance scheme for workers) must be affiliated to the insurance scheme in their country of residence. In some EU/EFTA countries, however, economically inactive persons may opt in to a particular scheme.

Premiums and premium reductions

Residents of EU/EFTA member states who are subject to compulsory health insurance in Switzerland must pay the premiums applying in their country of residence. Switzerland allows people on low incomes living in EU/EFTA countries to pay reduced health insurance premiums. 

Voluntary OASI/IV scheme

Residents of EU/EFTA member states can no longer join the OASI/IV scheme on a voluntary basis.

Old-age pension

The EU/EFTA member states and Switzerland provide old-age pensions on a pro rata basis based on the person's contribution record under the insurance scheme of the country concerned. You will only be eligible for retirement benefits once you have reached the retirement age applying in the pension-paying country.

You must claim your old-age pension from the social security scheme in your country of residence, if that is the scheme into which you have paid. If you have not paid contributions in your country of residence, please contact the social security scheme for the EU/EFTA country in which you last paid contributions.

Each country is also required to pay pensions to eligible individuals who are resident in another member state. The Swiss Compensation Office (SCO) or IV Office is responsible paying for Swiss OASI/IV pensions and benefits to claimants abroad.

Survivors' and invalidity pensions

Widower's, widow's and orphan's pensions are normally calculated on the basis of the deceased individual's contribution record. If the deceased was insured in different countries, their widow, widower or orphaned child will usually receive separate pensions from the countries concerned. 

Each country is also required to pay pensions to eligible individuals who are resident in another member state. The Swiss Compensation Office (SCO) or IV Office is responsible paying Swiss OASI/IV pensions and benefits to claimants abroad.

Children's pensions

Pensioners generally receive children's pensions from the country that pays their pension, provided that they are entitled to such benefits under the applicable national legislation. Special rules apply to pensioners with pension entitlements in different countries. Swiss nationals living abroad may obtain further information on Swiss benefits from the relevant cantonal compensation office or the Swiss Compensation Office.

Tax deductions on payments to Italy

Italian financial institutions deduct 5% tax on all Swiss OASI/IV benefits. This is in lieu of income tax payable on the claimant's benefits.


Since 1 January 2017, individuals living in Croatia have not been able to join a voluntary insurance scheme. Individuals who joined the scheme before 1 January 2017 may continue to be affiliated until 31 December 2022 at the latest. Individuals who were already 50 on 1 January 2017 may continue to be insured until they reach statutory retirement age.

Occupational pensions

Occupational pension schemes in EU/EFTA member states vary considerably from one country to another and have different structures. Further information on pension schemes in specific countries is available here:

In the case of Swiss occupational (Pillar 2) pension funds, the coordination rules under the AFMP and EFTA Convention only apply to the compulsory component.


Since June 2007, no cash payouts of compulsory occupational pension components have been made to individuals who leave Switzerland permanently and are affiliated to a state old age, invalidity and survivors' insurance scheme in an EU/EFTA member state. The compulsory occupational pension component must be parked in a vested benefits account or vested benefits policy until the individual ultimately becomes eligible for retirement benefits.

Individuals can still obtain a cash payout of the non-mandatory component or if they are not affiliated to a compulsory pension scheme in their host country. In addition, it is possible to use pension fund assets to purchase a home to live in abroad in accordance with the promotion of home ownership legislation.

Information on cash payouts on leaving Switzerland can be obtained from the OPA Guarantee Fund liaison office. The 2nd Pillar Central Office can conduct searches to establish credit balances held in occupational pension funds.

Maintaining Pillar 2 in Switzerland

Swiss nationals living abroad who exit the compulsory OASI/IV scheme and their occupational pension fund may, on a voluntary basis, maintain their Pillar 2 pension at the current level with their current pension fund provided this is permitted under the pension fund's rules.

Your pension fund or the Substitute Occupational Benefit Institution can advise on other options for maintaining your pension: 


You may claim unemployment benefits in the EU/EFTA country in which you become unemployed, provided you meet all the national eligibility requirements. The rules in EU/EFTA member states governing contribution requirements, minimum contribution periods, methods of establishing contribution records and the duration and amount of payouts, for example, vary from country to country. If you become unemployed, it is important to register immediately with the relevant local unemployment benefits office.

Principle of totalisation

The principle of totalisation applies between EU/EFTA member states. This means that contribution and employment records under the rules applying in one EU/EFTA country can be credited in another EU/EFTA country.

Before leaving the country where you were working you should always obtain the portable document U1 (PD U1) from the relevant social security scheme (the Arbeitslosenkasse or unemployment insurance fund in Switzerland). This provides evidence of social security, periods of employment or running a self-employed business and other benefit-related information when claiming unemployment benefit in another EU/EFTA member state. 

Export of benefits

The export of benefits procedure allows Swiss jobseekers to look for work in EU/EFTA member states while continuing to claim Swiss unemployment benefit. Swiss unemployment benefit can be exported for a maximum of three months. Jobseekers can register with and use the employment services in their chosen EU/EFTA country even if they cannot claim unemployment benefit from the country concerned. Individuals who become unemployed in Switzerland cannot claim unemployment benefit in another country. Unemployed persons who cannot find a job within the three-month period may return to Switzerland and continue to draw unemployment benefits there.

You should contact your regional employment centre (RAV) to establish whether you are entitled to export benefits.

If you intend to return to Switzerland, you should register with your RAV in person immediately in order to continue claiming unemployment benefit. 

Family benefits

If one of the parents is gainfully employed in the country concerned, it is normally possible to claim family benefits in that country. This also applies if the family members concerned live in another EU/EFTA country. 

Private insurance

Private insurance is not covered by the social security coordination arrangements set out in Annex II of the AFMP. Please contact your health insurance company for further information.

If you make a new home abroad, you will need to terminate your third-party liability and household contents insurance policies and take out new policies in the country where you live. To avoid gaps in your cover, you should clarify in advance what insurance you will need in your new country of residence, select local insurance providers and, where possible, take out new policies to commence on the relocation date.

Private pension schemes (Pillar 3)

In Switzerland, private pension schemes are known as Pillar 3 schemes. Pillar 3a private pension schemes (through a bank) and Pillar 3b (insurance) schemes are not part of the compulsory occupational pension scheme and therefore not covered by the social security coordination arrangements in Annex II of the AFMP. The applicable legislation and the rules and regulations of the private pension fund will apply. Please contact your bank or insurance company for further information.

Social assistance

EU/EFTA social assistance

Swiss employees and members of their family living in EU/EFTA countries may normally claim social assistance benefits in the host state.  You should contact the local social assistance authority as required.

In order to claim social assistance in an EU/EFTA member state it is essential to have the status of an employee or, if you have been made redundant, you must have an acquired right to freedom of movement.

The following individuals cannot be refused a residence permit or deported on the grounds that they are claiming social assistance:

  • Employees and members of their family. Once Swiss citizens have acquired the status of an employee, they will continue to have this status as long as they remain available for work on the job market. As a result, employees and members of their family cannot lose their right of residence on the grounds that they are receiving social assistance benefits.
  • Unemployed persons with a right to free movement. These are individuals who prior to becoming unemployed had been employed in the relevant member state for more than a year or on a permanent basis and became unemployed through no fault of their own (they were made redundant for operational reasons and are actively seeking a new job). Individuals who become unemployed voluntarily lose their right to free movement and are therefore not entitled to social assistance.
  • Persons with the right to stay. The right to stay allows individuals to continue living in their country of residence if they cease to be gainfully employed (e.g. due to retirement). Persons who are entitled to stay will retain their acquired rights as an employee, even if they have lost their employee status. The right of residence will continue to apply to social assistance claimants and extends to members of their family, irrespective of nationality.

The following individuals claiming public social assistance benefits may lose their right to stay:

  • Jobseekers who recently moved to a member state with the aim of finding work and became unemployed through no fault of their own, but had not been working in the country concerned for more than a year immediately prior to relocating.
  • Self-employed individuals.
  • Economically inactive persons (e.g. pensioners, students, etc.).

You should always obtain advice from the local social assistance authority.

Swiss social assistance

In certain circumstances, the FDFA's Social Assistance for Swiss Citizens Abroad (SAS) provides social assistance to Swiss nationals living abroad who have run into financial difficulty.


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