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Social Security in Geneva

There are plenty of things you’ll need to know as an expat working in Geneva: How do I pay income tax? Do I need Swiss health insurance? Who requires an employment permit? What about social security? You will find the answers to these questions (and more) in our guide to working in Geneva.
The European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) is also located in Geneva.

The Swiss Social Security System in Geneva

The Swiss social security system rests on three pillars: state-run social security funds, occupational social security funds, and private savings. Contributions to the first two schemes are compulsory for both employees and employers in Switzerland. Self-employed people and those without paid employment are also liable to contributions. The latter, however, may be exempt under certain conditions.

The Swiss old-age pension system, for example, works like this. Every employee contributes to the federal Old Age and Survivors Insurance and Disability Insurance (first pillar).

From the age of 25, you also have to pay into an occupational pension plan (second pillar) if you receive more than 21,060 CHF per year in wages from the same employer. All contributions are matched by the employer. The accumulated capital in the occupational fund can be transferred from the old employer to a new one without any problems.

Moreover, you can save even more funds with an additional private pension plan (third pillar), provided you can afford it.

Social Security Agreements

As an expat from a country within the EU, you can profit from the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons, which Switzerland ratified in 2002. This ensures that the social security systems of all member states are coordinated. In practice, it shouldn’t matter in which country contributions have been paid when it comes to calculating the benefits you are entitled to.

Switzerland also has social security agreements with some non-EU countries: Australia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Canada, Chile, Croatia, Israel, Japan, Macedonia, Montenegro, the Philippines, San Marino, Serbia, Turkey, and the USA.

Residents of these countries are entitled to a Swiss state pension when they reach retirement age, even if they have already left Switzerland. This pension will be calculated based on the contributions they paid while working in Switzerland.

Social Security Reimbursements

People from countries with no social security agreement can have their social insurance contributions reimbursed upon leaving the country. For this purpose, they should fill in the form Claim for refund of OASI contributions, which is available for download in French, German, Italian and English from the AHV/IV (OASI/DI) website.

The completed form should be returned to the Swiss Compensation Office or to the Cantonal Compensation Office for Geneva, l'Office cantonal des assurances sociales (Rue des Gares 12, 1211 Geneva 2). Proof of your new residence outside Switzerland may be required.

With regard to the accumulated capital in your occupational fund, there are several options. It is possible to keep the fund, transfer it to a different savings scheme, or to request a pay-out, the so-called cash termination benefit. Your contact at the fund should be able to provide you with detailed information and assistance.

If you are looking for more information on this topic, have a look at our in-depth guide on Swiss Social Security.

Swiss Healthcare in Geneva

Every Swiss resident has free access to all doctors, specialists, and hospitals without first consulting a general practitioner. Please note that not all treatments might be covered by your individual health insurance plan. Patients with basic health insurance cover are usually expected to pay 10% of the price for prescription drugs and contribute about 20 CHF per day towards the cost of a hospital stay.

If you are in need of a doctor, you can search for one on the website of the Association des Médicins du Canton de Genève. It allows you to search by various criteria such as specialization and language. Geneva has a big complex of university hospitals, the Hôpitaux Universitaires de Genève, which offer state-of-the-art treatment and care.

In addition, there are several private clinics in and around the city, e.g. Clinique Belmont, Clinique Générale-Beaulieu and Clinique La Colline.

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

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