Switzerland is known for its good education system. This also attracts young Swiss abroad to Switzerland time and again to complete part or all of their education in their home country and then perhaps to take the plunge and move to Switzerland completely.

What kind of education? A university degree programme is not the only attractive option. Universities of applied sciences also offer interesting programmes. While the high student numbers at universities can make it difficult to make contacts and the first few semesters can be very theoretical and demanding, depending on the degree programme, universities of applied sciences often have a more practical focus and smaller student numbers. Apprenticeships are also a good introduction to the Swiss education landscape and the labour market. There are numerous further education programmes on offer. educationsuisse provides a good overview of education opportunities, accommodation searches, information on the required budget and scholarship opportunities.

Once you have made the leap to university or a university of applied sciences or have found a place for an apprenticeship, there are numerous administrative questions. We would like to address these in particular here.

Registration in Switzerland: One of the first routes is to the municipality, whether in person or online. You must register with the municipality within 14 days. And all male Swiss trainees must also register with the relevant section head of the army.

Health and accident insurance: The good news first – the Swiss system ensures that you are covered by health and accident insurance. In principle, all persons staying in Switzerland for longer than three months are obliged to join the Swiss compulsory health insurance scheme. Depending on your financial situation, you can apply for premium reductions.

However, there are exceptions if you are coming to Switzerland for education. This requires for instance that

  • you devote yourself entirely to your education, which means above all that you are not gainfully employed in Switzerland. For example, if you are doing an apprenticeship or working alongside your studies, you do not fulfil this criterion.
  • you have statutory insurance from your parents’ country of residence that also covers you in Switzerland – via the European Insurance Card or
  • you have national or international private insurance equivalent to compulsory insurance or recognised student health insurance.

You must also have health insurance elsewhere:

  • You have statutory insurance from your country of residence that also pays out in Switzerland – for example via the European Insurance Card or
  • You have national or international private insurance equivalent to compulsory insurance or recognised student health insurance.

If you come from a country outside the EU/EFTA, you must also be able to prove that

  • the length of your education determines the length of your stay in Switzerland, i.e. you do not intend to stay in Switzerland permanently

Get advice on your specific situation.

If you do not wish to join the Swiss statutory health insurance scheme, you must contact the authorities responsible for your canton. The exemption is reviewed periodically to determine whether the requirements are still met and there are restrictions on how long an exemption is possible.

Further insurances: If you are renting a flat at the latest, further insurance policies will be required. It is always advisable to take out movables and liability insurance – or if you are still insured through your parents, to ensure that the insurance also covers you in Switzerland. Whether for health insurance or other insurances – we are happy to support you through our partners.

AHV and co: If you’re about to start your education, you don’t really want to start thinking about pension provision. However, coming to Switzerland to study can mean taking a step into the Swiss pension system. Here, too, in principle it depends on whether you are ‘only’ coming to Switzerland to study. If this is the case, then you do not have to pay into the Swiss pension system. However, as soon as you are also gainfully employed or argue that you are not only in Switzerland for education but to make your home here again, then you must or may pay contributions into the AHV. You will receive a pension after just one year of contributions. As a rule, this is money well invested. The AHV is combined with the IV, which covers you in the event of disability, and forms the first pillar of the Swiss pension system, into which everyone resident in Switzerland pays, including people who are not gainfully employed. If you work and are over twenty years old, you and your employer also pay contributions into the pension fund (2nd pillar) if income is high enough. From the age of 25, these are pension-forming, before that they only cover the risk of disability and death. You can decide privately whether you want to put more aside for old age, for example via the so-called 3rd pillar. We will be happy to look at whether this makes sense with you.

The beloved taxes: In your specific situation, you will also receive a tax declaration. This is usually easy to fill out. Scholarships that really only cover living expenses and support payments from parents are exempt from taxes.

Unemployed after education in Switzerland? If you are unable to find a job after completing your education, you may be entitled to unemployment benefits in certain cases. You are entitled to unemployment insurance (ALV) benefits if you

  • either be able to provide evidence of at least 12 months of contributions within the last two years before registering for unemployment benefit, for example because you were gainfully employed alongside or before your education. Part of your employment may also have been in the EU/EFTA as long as you last worked in Switzerland.
  • If you return to Switzerland from outside the EU, slightly different rules apply. In this case, you are entitled to unemployment benefit if within the last two years you have worked abroad for one year and in Switzerland for at least 6 months.
  • However, even if you have not worked and therefore have not paid any unemployment insurance contributions, you may still be entitled to unemployment benefit if you have completed at least 12 months of full-time education during the last two years. However, you must have been resident in Switzerland for 10 years.

Other: As a Swiss abroad, it can be expensive and difficult to have a bank account in Switzerland. However, as soon as you can show that you are registered with a Swiss municipality, every bank will welcome you. Many banks offer especially favourable accounts for people who are in education. There are also special offers for mobile phone subscriptions or newspaper subscriptions.

If you are going back abroad: If you don’t want to stay in Switzerland after your education, there are a few things to do. Depending on the municipality, you can deregister with the municipality 4-6 weeks before your departure. If you had compulsory health insurance in Switzerland, this ends when you deregister. However, you must contact the health insurance company and send confirmation of deregistration. It is also important to inform tax authorities, as you will usually have to complete another tax declaration. The AHV obligation also usually ends – but it is worth taking a closer look here. If you have paid into the 2nd or 3rd pillar, for example because you worked during your education or afterwards, you will also have to make certain decisions here. We will be happy to help you with this too. You will also find a lot of useful information in our Return checklist.

You can also watch the recording of the webinar on this topic. In German or in French language.