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Social Security for Expats in Basel

Situated in the Upper Rhine Valley, Basel and the surrounding region rely on sectors such as transportation, shipping, finance, insurance, and the life sciences to maintain a strong economy. Here are some tips for job hunting, the region’s economy, working conditions, and social security.
The Swiss social security system rests on three main pillars.

The Social Security System in Switzerland

In Switzerland, the social security system rests on three pillars. The first pillar is government-sponsored social security. Both employers and employees pay monthly contributions to the AHV (Alters- und Hinterbliebenenversorgung, i.e. old-age pensions and survivors’ benefits) and the IV (Invalidenversorgung, i.e. disability benefits). These funds serve to secure a subsistence level income for the elderly and the disabled.

Secondly, employees and employers alike contribute to an occupational benefits scheme. With this additional pension plan, retirees should be able to maintain their standard of living after retiring. Lastly, the third pillar of the security system includes private pension funds. Everyone has the option to subscribe to a private pension fund and can choose to pay as much (or as little) as they like. Self-employed people living and working in Switzerland can make voluntary contributions to all three parts of the social security system.

Employers or employees (sometimes both, depending on the scheme) pay contributions to several other benefit schemes, like the AV (Arbeitslosenversicherung, i.e. unemployment benefits), accident insurance, EO (Erwerbsersatzordnung, i.e. paid maternal leave), and family allowance. Self-employed residents do not profit from any of these funds. However, most of them take out private accident insurance.

You can read more on the benefits for new mothers in our article on Swiss maternity benefits, as well as on claiming retirement pensions or disability benefits.

Social Security for Expats

If you are an expat working in Basel, you have to pay the same contributions to Switzerland’s social security programs as Swiss employees. Usually, the company directly deducts a monthly lump sum from your gross salary. How this will impact your own retirement provisions mostly depends on your nationality.

If you are a national of an EU/EFTA member state or if your country of origin has entered into a social security agreement with Switzerland, the years you spend working in Switzerland count towards your national pension back home. Before leaving for Basel, ask your social security office what the exact regulations are. The Federal Social Insurance Office may also be able to answer your questions.In general, both EU legislation and social security agreements serve to harmonize the national pension schemes of various countries. Their citizens should not suffer any disadvantages from working abroad for a while. Currently, Switzerland has social security agreements with the following countries:

  • Australia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Canada, Chile, China, Croatia
  • India, Israel, Japan, Macedonia, Montenegro
  • the Philippines, San Marino, South Korea, Serbia, Turkey, Uruguay, the US

Also, if you are an EU/EFTA citizen or a national of the countries just mentioned, the money you pay into a Swiss occupational benefit scheme is usually set aside once you leave Switzerland.

Nationals of all other states draw a Swiss state pension when they retire. The amount is based on the years they spent as expats working in Basel. Depending on the time you have spent in Switzerland, this sum could be rather small. Instead, you can apply for reimbursement of your security contributions when you leave Switzerland and up until five years after having left. The same applies to the money you have paid into an occupational benefit scheme. Please get in touch with the 2nd Pillar Central Office for further enquiries into the latter.

Important Contact Addresses

Expats living in Basel-Stadt should contact the following offices if they have any questions concerning Switzerland’s various social security programs. Please note that this does not just apply to old-age pensions. As an expat, you may be entitled to paid maternity leave, family allowance for your children, or unemployment benefits.

If you are a resident of or work in Basel-Landschaft, please direct all related questions to the Sozialversicherungsanstalt Basel-Land or the local Migrationsamt (immigration office).

You can find even more information on the three pillars of the Swiss security system in our article on Switzlerland’s public welfare benefits.


We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete.

Andrey Vasilyev

"I was able to connect with other expats in Zurich who enjoy cycling as much as I do and organize weekly rides."

Elin Gustavson

"At the first InterNations event that I attended, I met my wonderful partner. We now live together in a flat next to the Limmat."

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