Frequently asked questions legal service

Frequently asked questions legal service

Acquaintances tell me that the divorced former wives of Swiss citizens can receive a widows' pension after the death of their ex-husband. I'm 80 and living abroad. If I'm in this situation, can I apply for a widows' pension?

Yes, if you haven't remarried in the meantime, you may be entitled to a widows' pension under certain conditions. These conditions are laid down in law as follows: If you are divorced and your former spouse dies, you are entitled to receive a widows' pension if you have children and you were married for at least ten years, or if you were over 45 when you divorced and you were married for at least ten years, or if your youngest child will turn 18 after you have reached the age of 45. If you satisfy none of these requirements, you are entitled to a widows' pension until your youngest child turns 18.

Source: The AHV/IV information centre in association with the Federal Social Insurance Office

Applications should be made directly to the Swiss Compensation Office in Geneva: Swiss Compensation Office (SCO); OASI Benefits, Av. Edmond-Vaucher 18, P.O. Box 3100, CH-1211 Genf 2, Switzerland. Tel.: +41 58 461 91 11, Fax: +41 58 461 97 05

 

 

 

If I remain in Switzerland for a period of time for administrative purposes after cancelling my registration here, how can I continue to receive health insurance cover when the health insurance provider has terminated my contract from the date my registration was cancelled?

It is generally advisable not to cancel yourregistration with the commune of residence until the actual date of departure. If this is not possible for particular reasons, the following applies:

If Swiss citizens who have cancelled their registration remain in Switzerland and do not establish a new place of residence abroad, the health insurance provider must generally continue to provide them with insurance cover. According to the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH), the Health Insurance Ordinance stipulates that the insurance ends on the date of departure from Switzerland as registered with the relevant commune of residence.

However, the ordinance also states that it categorically ends on the day of actual departure from Switzerland or upon the death of the insured person.

Health insurance providers generally apply the date when the registration was cancelled. However, provided that Swiss citizens do not establish a new place of residence, they remain subject to Switzerland's social insurance system and may continue to hold a health insurance policy. The persons concerned have an individual responsibility to ensure seamless insurance cover, which means continuing their insurance policy if they remain in Switzerland beyond the date of cancellation of their registration.

As each case has to be assessed individually in such circumstances, it is advisable to check with the health insurance provider in good time.

 

 

 

I would like to study in Switzerland ? what would happen in terms of military service?

In Switzerland, all men are obliged to carry out military service before the end of the year in which they turn 30 years of age or 34 years of age if they already completed military training school before leaving Switzerland. Upon your return to Switzerland, you will therefore be called upon to fulfil your military obligations based on your age and aptitude level. Swiss citizens can be recruited until the end of the year in which they turn 25 years of age. They will then be asked to attend military training school before the end of the year during which they turn 26 years of age. An exception exists for men who have already carried out military service in Switzerland, who have been granted military leave to go abroad or who have not been in the country for an uninterrupted period of over six years and are no longer needed by the army. Citizens not recruited owing to their age do not have to complete military training school but have to pay military service exemption tax. Swiss citizens abroad who wish to stay in Switzerland for a period of over three months have to notify the head of section within 14 days of their arrival.
If you hold dual nationality and have already carried out military service or alternative civilian service or have made an exemption payment in your country of origin, you no longer have to carry out military service in Switzerland. However, this does not release you from the obligation to provide notification of your arrival and you may have to pay the military service exemption tax. If you have carried out military service or alternative civilian service in Germany, Austria, France or Italy, you will be exempt from paying the military service exemption tax owing to agreements that Switzerland has concluded with these countries.
You can also voluntarily decide to attend military training school in Switzerland as a Swiss citizen abroad. Requests in such cases should be addressed to:


Führungsstab der Armee
Personelles der Armee (FGG 1)
Steuerung und Vorgaben
Rodtmattstr. 110, 3003 Berne
Tel. 031 324 32 56, Fax 031 324 14 92
E-mail: personelles@gst.admin.ch
Website: www.vbs.admin.ch


Conscientious objectors to military service can undertake alternative civilian service. Alternative civilian service lasts one and a half times longer than military service. For further information:


Zivildienst Zentralstelle
Malerweg 6, 3600 Thun
Tel: +41 58 468 19 99, Fax: +41 58 468 19 98
E-Mail: kanzlei@zivi.admin.ch
Website: www.zivi.admin.ch

 

 

 

I'm planning to return to Switzerland and to look for a job there. What advice and information can you give me?

As a Swiss citizen you can work in Switzerland without the need for a permit. If you wish to apply for jobs in Switzerland, you should be aware that submitting a CV is generally not enough. Swiss employers expect a full application. That includes a letter of application specific to the job, a CV with a photograph as well as references of employment and copies of qualifications.

The State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) publishes brochures containing valuable advice on this topic on its website.

There are no official rules on the translation of documents, such as degree certificates or other qualifications. If a document might be important in determining whether or not you are offered a job, it may be worth enclosing a translation in one of the national languages.

The Consular Directorate (CD) of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) provides a special service for the Swiss Abroad for the job search itself where it forwards job applications to the cantonal employment offices for the attention of the regional job centres in your preferred regions. Here your application is made available to any interested employers.

A list of links to job sites and employment offices can be found on the website of the Organisation of the Swiss Abroad.

As soon as you are registered in Switzerland and have your permanent residence here, your local employment office can also help you to look for jobs.

SECO: www.treffpunkt-arbeit.ch > Publikationen > Bewerbungen

Consular Directorate: www.eda.admin.ch > Living abroad > ­returning to Switzerland > Seeking employment in Switzerland

Organisation of the Swiss Abraod: www.aso.ch > Consultation > back to Switzerland > how to find a job

 

 

 

I've been away from Switzerland and have been domiciled abroad for the past few years and have not made contributions to the old-age and survivors' insurance (OASI) scheme. Can I make up for these missing years by contributing when I return to Switzerland? I've heard that contributions can be paid retroactively for a five-year period.

It is no longer possible for those returning from abroad to make retroactive contributions for missing years.

The option of paying contributions retroactively for a five-year period exists but only for people who were subject to OASI contributions during that period, primarily due to being domiciled in Switzerland.

People living abroad are not subject to OASI contributions unless exceptional circumstances apply. They can therefore no longer contribute retroactively for the missing years.

It is advisable to contact your cantonal compensation office for more detailed information before leaving Switzerland. Making arrangements to accrue pension assets - either by taking out optional OASI with the Swiss Compensation Office in Geneva, where possible, or by taking out a private insurance policy - is also recommended.

Swiss compensation Office: www.zas.admin.ch > Swiss compensation Office SCO

 

 

 

I am planning to return to Switzerland after residing abroad for several years. What do I need to take account of with regard to health insurance?

Health insurance is mandatory for everyone living in Switzerland. The health insurance schemes are therefore also obliged to offer basic insurance to all persons residing in Switzerland regardless of their age and state of health. The law governs which services are covered by basic insurance. Health insurance schemes cannot therefore refuse Swiss Abroad returning to Switzerland basic insurance cover, nor are they permitted to impose any restrictions (e.g. due to existing illnesses). The health insurance policy must be concluded within three months of taking up residency in Switzerland. It is taken out with retrospective effect to the date when residency began. Certain people are exempt from the obligation to take out insurance in Switzerland. These include pensioners who draw a pension from an EU country but not a Swiss pension as well as those residing in Switzerland for educational reasons and who have the same insurance cover as that provided by basic Swiss insurance.

Health insurance is taken out individually for each family member (adults and children). All insured persons pay a premium which can vary depending upon the health insurance scheme, but the basic insurance services are the same for everyone. It is therefore worth comparing premiums. Savings on premiums can also be made on various insurance models. The Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) provides a comparison of premiums online: www.priminfo.ch.

Anyone requiring insurance cover that goes beyond the basic insurance services (e.g. inclusion of alternative medicine, private or semi-private room during a stay in hospital, etc.) can take out supplementary insurance. However, these are private insurance policies, which means that the health insurance schemes can refuse to insure particular persons or apply restrictions excluding certain services.

Further information can be found on the FOPH's website:

www.bag.admin.ch

 

 

 

The news has just shown a Swiss citizen returning from abroad who was able to vote twice in the recent popular vote. How has this come about?

It is quite true that a Swiss citizen returning from abroad received two lots of voting papers for the ballot held on 8 March 2015: they were sent to his address abroad and then to his new address following his move back to Switzerland, after the voting papers had already been received abroad. In this regard, it should be noted that Swiss citizens living abroad must inform the Swiss office (embassy or consulate) where they are registered of any change of address. When people return to the country after the voting papers have been sent abroad, it can happen that the papers are received twice. However, it is illegal and an offence punishable under criminal law to vote twice on the same matter. This constitutes electoral fraud under article 282 of the Swiss Criminal Code. People who receive voting papers twice therefore only have the right to vote once. A criminal offence is otherwise committed.

 

 

 

Before emigrating I spent several years working in Switzerland and paid old-age and survivors' insurance/invalidity insurance (AHV/IV) contributions. How can I find out about my entitlement to an AHV pension?

You can request a pension calculation forecast based on the contributions you made from the Swiss Compensation Office in Geneva. In relation to these projections, the website of the Central Compensation Office (CCO) in Geneva states: ?The presence of hypothetical elements in the calculation means that the amounts predicted are merely estimations. These amounts consequently are not legally binding.?

An application form to download and complete can be found at www.zas.admin.ch under Services > Projected/provisional pension calculation

You can complete and print out this form and then sign and send it to the address given below. An official document containing your personal details (surname, first name, date of birth and spouse's name) has to be attached to the form ? for example, a copy of your identity document, birth certificate, family record book or an extract from the civil register.

It is advisable for married couples to submit two individual pension calculation applications at the same time.

Swiss Compensation Office, Av. Edmond-Vaucher 18, P.O. Box 3100, 1211 Geneva 2, Switzerland

 

 

 

What is the procedure for obtaining recognition from the OSA for a Swiss society abroad?

The Organisation of the Swiss Abroad (OSA) is a foundation established under private law which aims to strengthen the links between Swiss citizens abroad and their homeland, to represent their interests in Switzerland and to provide them with a wide range of services (information, legal advice, offers for young people etc).

The OSA is made up of Swiss societies abroad which it recognizes. To obtain recognition from OSA, a Swiss society must meet the following criteria:

- The objective of the society must be to strengthen links between the Swiss abroad and their homeland;

- Over 50% of the active members must be Swiss citizens;

- The majority of the committee must hold Swiss nationality;

- The presidency must be held by a Swiss citizen;

- Its membership must include at least seven Swiss citizens;

- As a minimum, it must hold a members' meeting once a year and must have a committee which is reappointed on a regular basis;

- The society must be affiliated to the umbrella organisation in the country where it is located if one exists (France, Germany, Italy, UK, Spain-Portugal, Austria-Liechtenstein-Slovenia, Netherlands, Canada, Argentina);

- It expressly undertakes to inform OSA if it is unable to continue meeting one of these criteria.

The societies recognized by the OSA may participate in the appointment of their country's delegates to the Council of the Swiss Abroad. This Council, which is made up of delegates from the Swiss communities abroad as well as members from Switzerland, such as federal parliamentarians, representing the institutions in contact with the Swiss abroad, meets twice a year to discuss issues that specifically concern the Swiss abroad. The media refer to the Council of the Swiss Abroad as the ?parliament of the Swiss abroad.? The Swiss societies recognized by the OSA make a direct contribution to policy on the Swiss abroad.
Societies which do not meet all of the conditions set out above can obtain recognition as an associated group. In contrast to the Swiss societies fully recognized by OSA, the associated groups cannot participate in the appointment of delegates from their country to the Council of the Swiss Abroad but benefit from all of the other advantages.

Having obtained recognition from OSA, the societies and groups join the global network of Swiss societies and institutions abroad. They also automatically receive information and newsletters from OSA and enjoy a high profile on www.swisscommunity.org, the social network of the Swiss abroad. They also add to the weight of OSA and therefore the Swiss community abroad which has an impact in the representation of the interests of the Swiss abroad.

Any societies interested in obtaining recognition from OSA can complete the recognition application form which can be found on OSA's website www.aso.ch > ?About ourselves? > ?Swiss societies abroad? > ?Recognition of a Swiss society by OSA?

 

 

 

I am Swiss and live abroad. I have a close relationship with Switzerland and would like my estate to be administered through Switzerland. Is this possible or does it have to be done in my country of residence? Where can I deposit my will?

The country of residence is generally responsible for inheritance proceedings, which is why the laws of that country usually also apply in the case of inheritance following a death.
In theory, it is also possible to specify in a will that the inheritance should be governed by Swiss law and that the Swiss authorities should be responsible for dealing with it. However, anyone wishing to specify this should check with the competent authorities in the country of residence beforehand whether such a regulation will be recognised. This is not an option for real estate; succession in this case usually has to be governed by the law of the state on whose territory the property is located.
The new European succession regulation will enter into force on 17 August 2015 in all EU states except for Denmark, Ireland and the UK. This regulation also applies to Swiss residing in EU states which adopt the EU inheritance law. The new succession regulation stipulates that, in the event of death, the inheritance law of the country in which the deceased was last domiciled will apply. This will also apply to real estate. The regulation nevertheless also provides for the opportunity to choose by will the inheritance law of the country of which the person writing the will is a citizen.
It should be noted that the inheritance arrangement (how the estate is divided) and inheritance tax (which tax rate applies) concern two different areas. The information above only relates to the inheritance arrangement and not inheritance tax.
As far as depositing a will is concerned, we generally recommend contacting the Swiss representation (consulate or embassy) responsible for the place of residence abroad. It is possible to deposit a will there in certain cases. Swiss representations will also provide the contact details of local notaries. If you are unable to contact the embassy by telephone, you can also enquire using the FDFA helpline:
Consular Directorate, helpline: Tel.: +41 800 24-7-365, helpline@eda.admin.ch

 

 

 

Shortly after my 70th birthday, I received a demand from the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Office regarding a mandatory medical examination for my Swiss driving licence. This was sent to me via federal government's RIPOL police search system. What does this mean?

Anyone who emigrates from Switzerland must exchange their Swiss driving licence for one of their country of residence within a certain period of time. For example, the deadline in EU states is six months. The competent authority in the country of residence can provide you with binding information on the deadlines and procedure. Failure to exchange the Swiss driving licence for one of the country of residence may result in fines or penalties.

If you are moving abroad, you must notify the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Office in Switzerland; then, when you are abroad, you must replace your driving licence with one issued by the country of residence. If you subsequently move back to Switzerland, you may drive with your foreign licence for a year during which time you must apply for this to be exchanged for a Swiss driving licence. An eye test may be required for a Swiss driving licence depending on the canton.

If your move abroad is not reported to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Office, a search may be initiated at the age of 70 when the medical examination to assess fitness to drive becomes due, for example, via RIPOL, federal government's police search system. This happens because the person concerned is no longer registered in Switzerland but is still in possession of a Swiss driving licence.

Swiss citizens whose definitive place of residence is abroad but who still hold a Swiss driving licence can contact the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Office that issued it so that it can be suspended. There is generally no charge for fees or costs.

Addresses of the cantonal Driver and Vehicle Licensing Offices:
http://www.strassenverkehrsamt.ch

 

 

 

I worked in Switzerland for several years and probably also made contributions to a pension that I have never received. How can I find out whether I have retirement assets?

Mandatory contributions to the second pillar (pension fund) were introduced in Switzerland in 1985 on a nationwide basis. Prior to that, contributions to occupational pension schemes had been made on a voluntary basis, except where different provisions applied under collective agreements.

Swiss abroad who have undertaken gainful employment in Switzerland and have not had their second pillar capital paid out are entitled to pension benefits.

If you do not know the address of your former pension fund in Switzerland, you can send a written enquiry to the 2nd Pillar Central Office.

Use a 2nd Pillar Central Office form, which you can either download or request from the office. (See website address below)

The form you submit will be compared by the 2nd Pillar Central Office with the records of the pension institutions. You and the institution concerned will be notified in the event of a match. You should then present any claims directly to the pension or vested benefits institution.

In order to facilitate checks, it is important that you enclose an uncertified copy of the following documents:
- Old-age and survivors' insurance (AHV) card
- Salary statement
- Employment contract
- 2nd pillar insurance card
- Confirmation of employment
- Death certificate in inheritance cases



2nd Pillar Central Office, Sicherheitsfonds BVG, Eigerplatz 2, Postfach 1023, 3000 Berne 14, SWITZERLAND, Tel. +41 (0)31 380 79 75,
Email: info@zentralstelle.ch
www.sfbvg.ch > 2nd Pillar Central Office > Research for credit balances

 

 

 

We intend to return to Switzerland in the foreseeable future and to take up residence there again. What is the situation with regard to paying customs duty on our goods?

When entering Switzerland, household effects (household items, clothing, paintings, valuables, etc.) can be brought in duty-free if you are transferring your place of residence to Switzerland. This is subject to the requirement that the imported items have been used by you personally for at least six months and that you continue to use them after they have been brought into Switzerland.
Household effects also include cars, motor boats and aeroplanes. However, the duty-free importation of vehicles is subject to the condition that they continue to be used for at least a year after import. If a vehicle is sold before the end of this period, the customs duty must be paid retrospectively.

The customs exemption on household effects has to be applied for from the customs office with a special form. A detailed list of the imported items must be attached. You do not have to attend in person during the customs clearance process. This process can also be carried out by a third party, such as a forwarding agent.

Pets are a special case. Individual provisions apply here, for example, with regard to veterinary inspections, vaccinations and the prevention of epidemic diseases. Species protection regulations also apply to plants and animals. You will find full details and information sheets online.

 

 

 

I have to get a life certificate endorsed for my old-age and survivors' insurance pension. Where can I do that?

As a general rule, anyone who receives an old-age and survivors' insurance (AHV) or invalidity insurance (IV) pension is obliged to sign a so-called life certificate every year and have this endorsed by an official authority. This proves that the pension recipient is still alive and is still entitled to the pension. The life certificate is one of various measures used by the Swiss Compensation Office (SAK) to prevent abuse of the system.

The bodies from which endorsement can be obtained are determined by the Swiss Compensation Office in Geneva and differ depending on the country. In geographically smaller countries where travel to the Swiss consulate is deemed reasonable, only the Swiss representation can usually issue such endorsements. In other countries, local authorities or local lawyers of the country of residence can also issue an endorsement.

If you visit Switzerland, you can also have the life certificate endorsed by one of the compensation offices in Switzerland (visitor service).

Communal administrations in Switzerland can also endorse a life certificate but are not obliged to do so. It is therefore advisable to call them beforehand to find out whether this service is provided.

Schweizerische Ausgleichskasse:
www.zas.admin.ch

Adressen der Ausgleichskassen:
www.ausgleichskasse.ch/portal/index.asp

 

 

 

As a Swiss citizen abroad, can I make voluntary contributions to old-age and survivors' insurance and disability insurance?

Voluntary membership of the old-age and survivors' insurance and disability insurance scheme is only possible subject to certain conditions. The following three criteria must be met: you must hold Swiss nationality or that of an EU or EFTA state, not be domiciled in an EU or EFTA state, and have been insured under the old-age and survivors' insurance for five years without a break in the period immediately beforehand. It is not necessary to have paid contributions for five years but you must have been insured. For minors and married persons without gainful employment who are exempted from paying contributions, the years of domicile in Switzerland count as years of insurance. Voluntary membership of the old-age and survivors' insurance/disability insurance scheme is therefore only possible as a continuation of compulsory old-age and survivors' insurance. Each family member wishing to join the voluntary old-age and survivors' insurance has to make an individual membership application. The declaration of membership of the voluntary insurance scheme has to be submitted in writing to the Swiss Central Compensation Office or alternatively to the Swiss representation responsible within a year of leaving the compulsory insurance scheme. Membership of the voluntary insurance scheme is no longer possible beyond this deadline.

When deciding whether to join the voluntary old-age and survivors' insurance, it should be noted that in many countries the laws on old-age and disability insurance provide for reductions in benefits if those insured have other sources of income in addition to their pensions, in particular foreign pensions such as old-age and survivors' insurance. The providers of social insurance in the country concerned are the only ones who can confirm whether this is the case and provide information on the extent to which old-age and survivors' insurance is taken into account as a source of income in the calculation of the foreign pension.

Useful links: Swiss Central Compensation Office:
www.zas.admin.ch > Topics > Voluntary insurance

Swiss representations abroad:
www.eda.admin.ch >Representations

 

 

 

I have foreign qualifications and would like to work in Switzerland. Which body do I need to contact to get my qualifications recognised?

The body responsible for the recognition of qualifications varies depending on the type of qualification. Recognition of qualifications is necessary for the regulated profes­sions where a degree, certificate or attestation of competence is required as the legal basis to practise (for example, chiropractors, law­yers, doctors, etc.).

The Federal Office for Professional Education and Technology (OPET) is responsible for the recognition of qualifications with regard to professional training and universities of applied sciences. It publishes a brochure on its website setting out the competent body depending on the profession in question.

As far as university degrees are concerned, the Rectors' Conference of the Swiss Universities (CRUS) also publishes the competent bodies on its website. For non-regulated professions, there is no need in principle to obtain recognition of the foreign qualifications in order to work in Switzerland. It is up to the employer to decide whether to recruit someone holding foreign qualifications. For admission to courses of study in Switzerland with foreign qualifications, you must get in direct contact with the educa­tional institution where you wish to take the particular course.

Further information:
www.bbt.admin.ch > Recognition of foreign qualifications > Agencies responsible for the recognition
www.crus.ch > Recognition/Swiss ENIC

 

 

 

Having lived abroad for several years, I'm planning to return to Switzerland. How does that work in terms of health insurance?

Health insurance is mandatory for all persons living in Switzerland. This means that insurers are obliged to provide basic cover to anyone who is resident in Switzerland, regardless of their age or state of health. The catalogue of services is stipulated in the legislation relating to health insurance and everyone is entitled to the same basic medical treatment. If Swiss citizens living abroad decide to return to Switzerland, they therefore cannot be denied health insurance cover or refused reimbursement for treatment (e.g. if they suffer from pre-existing conditions). When they arrive back in the country, Swiss citizens have three months from the date when they take up residence in Switzerland to arrange health insurance. The insurance then comes into force retroactively from the date the individual moved back to Switzerland. There are exemptions to the obligation to obtain health insurance in Switzerland. These include retired individuals receiving a pension from an EU member state and no pension in Switzerland and individuals coming to Switzerland to study who already have insurance cover equivalent to the basic Swiss health insurance.

Adults and children have to be insured individually. Every insured individual has to pay an insurance premium. The premiums can vary from one insurer to another, although the medical treatment is the same for everyone. It is therefore worth comparing the premiums offered by different insurers. Some insurance models also allow you to save money on your insurance premiums. The Federal Office of Public Health allows you to compare premiums online at: www.priminfo.ch.

If you would like cover which goes beyond what is offered by the basic insurance (e.g. alternative therapies, a private or semi-private hospital room), you can take out supplementary insurance. This insurance is private, however, which means that insurers can refuse to provide cover to certain individuals, or refuse to reimburse certain treatments.

For further information, please see the website of the Federal Office of Public Health: www.bag.admin.ch -> Topics -> Health insurance

 

 

 

As a Swiss citizen abroad, am I entitled to a grant to study in Switzerland?

Under Swiss law, it is primarily the parents who are responsible for providing for their children's education. If they do not have sufficient means, the question of a grant is raised. The cantons are generally responsible for education in Switzerland. This means that there are 26 different education systems. In the case of the Swiss abroad, it is the canton of origin that is responsible. Grant applications have to be addressed to the grant department of the canton concerned. In the event of language problems arising, for example, where young students do not speak the language of their canton of origin, the Association promoting Education for Young Swiss Abroad (AJAS) can assist them with their application. However, it should be noted that entitlement to study grants differs depending on the canton of origin. Some cantons have a more restrictive policy than others in awarding grants, particularly if the student's parents live in an EU country which theoretically provides entitlement to a grant from the country of residence (but not necessarily for study in Switzerland).

The grant amounts also differ from one canton to the next. It is a matter of firstly finding out whether the country of residence provides grants and then obtaining information on other funding options (cantonal grant, private grants etc). It should be noted that in principle only initial post-compulsory educational courses undertaken at a public establishment or which are recognised by the Swiss confederation provide the entitlement to a grant, although there are exceptions. In order to apply for a grant, students have to be in possession of an apprenticeship contract or confirmation of definitive enrolment at a recognised educational institution. The application forms can be obtained from the grant department of the canton of origin or from AJAS.

If the cantonal grant is not sufficient to fund the course of study or if the canton refuses entitlement to a grant, there are private organisations which can help to finance study either through grants or loans. For further information on funding options and any questions concerning education in Switzerland, the Swiss abroad can contact AJAS.
For more details www.ajas.ch

 

 

 

Is it possible to have more than one domicile?

Under Swiss law, nobody can have more than one domicile simultaneously. Swiss law defines domicile as the place where a person resides with the intention of settling. The intention to settle has to be based on circumstances recognisable to third parties (for example, the presence of family members or a position of employment). To determine a person's domicile, all of their life circumstances are taken into account ? the centre of their existence being in the place or country where most aspects of their personal, social and professional life are found. The strength of the links with this centre will prevail over links with other places or countries. This means that only the place with which a person has the strongest links can constitute a domicile.

The place where documentation is submitted is not the sole determining factor. It only constitutes an indicator and is not relevant by comparison with personal relationships and interests. It is an assumption that can be overturned by evidence to the contrary.

The notion of domicile is important because it provides the basis for the competence of authorities and courts and is generally the basis which determines the legislation applicable to a person, for example with regard to liability for social insurance payments.

 

 

 

Can Swiss expatriates take out health insurance in Switzerland?

The following article applies only to Swiss persons resident in a country outside the European Union or European Free Trade Association.

As a rule, compulsory health insurance in Switzerland available only to persons who are domiciled in Switzerland or who work there. This is in line with the territorial principle, under which laws apply to a specific territory. This generally means that Swiss expatriates cannot take out compulsory health insurance in Switzerland. However, health insurers have the possibility (but not the obligation) to offer health insurance products to Swiss expatriates. If a health insurer offers this type of product, the insurance policy will be concluded on a private basis. Other options open to Swiss expatriates are either to take out insurance in their country of residence or to take out an international insurance policy. The Organisation of the Swiss Abroad keeps a list of insurers offering services to Swiss expatriates. The list is available on the OSA website (see link below) or may be requested from the OSA.

There are exceptions for persons who work for a Swiss employer abroad (seconded staff) and are still in principle covered by the Swiss social insurance system.

For persons domiciled in a Member State of the EU/EFTA, the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons governs the question of which country is responsible for health insurance matters.
Links: www.aso.ch > Consultation> Living abroad > Social insurance> Health insurance> Health insurance outside UE/EFTA or Health insurance within EU/EFTA States.

 

 

 

I am a Swiss citizen abroad and I have great difficulty communicating with the Central Compensation Office promptly owing to the length of postal delivery times. Wouldn't it be easier to communicate by e-mail?

It is true that postal delivery times can cause problems when communicating with authorities in Switzerland and, in this Internet age, asking whether communication by e-mail would be easier is a legitimate question. We contacted the Central Compensation Office and learned that the situation is more complicated than it may appear at first glance. In countries where delivery takes a long time and is less reliable, the Office works with the local Swiss representations, which are given the task of passing on mail to member organisations. Anyone who wants to contact the Central Compensation Office by e-mail can do so via its website at www.zas.admin.ch (under The CCO? ? ?Addresses?).

However, not all correspondence can be carried out by e-mail. For example, this is not permitted by law for declarations of income and assets required for setting old age and survivors' insurance/disability insurance contributions, or for supporting documentation and general benefit applications, etc. Furthermore, the Central Compensation Office cannot systematically respond by e-mail in all circumstances. Judgements, judicial correspondence and income and asset declarations have to be sent to insured persons by post. Upon the express request of an insured person, copies of some documents can be sent by e-mail. So, while some communication can be carried out by e-mail, postal communication is required in some circumstances for legal reasons.

 

 

 

Question: I live abroad and I have lost my driving licence, which was issued in Switzerland. Can I get a new one from the cantonal authority that issued it or from a Swiss representation abroad?

Answer: The Swiss authorities are not able to issue a new Swiss driving licence. From the date on which you begin residing abroad, it is the authorities of your country of residence that have authority with regard to your driving licence rather than Switzerland. On account of the principle of territoriality, you are subject to the legal system of the state you reside in. Consequently, the area of road traffic is exclusively governed by the law of the country of residence. The cantonal road traffic authority that issued the driving licence can therefore only provide you with an attestation stating that you are the holder of a Swiss driving licence. By issuing this attestation, the cantonal authority certifies that you have obtained a driving licence based on the conditions stipulated by Swiss law. You will then have to check with the authorities responsible in your country of residence which conditions have to be met for a driving licence to be issued to you (confirmation of the information contained in the attestation, driving test, etc.). The attestation from the cantonal road traffic authority may be useful to you at this stage.

The contact details of the cantonal road traffic authorities can be found at:
http://www.strassenverkehrsamt.ch/

 

 

 

I live abroad and I have contributed to Old Age and Survivors' Insurance. At what age can I draw an Old Age and Survivors' Insurance pension?

The legal retirement age in Switzerland is 64 for women and 65 for men. The pension entitlement can be brought forward by one or two years. However, bringing forward the retirement age has an effect on the amount of the Old Age and Survivors' Insurance pension, which will then be reduced throughout retirement. Claiming the pension one year early results in a 6.8% reduction in pension and claiming it two years early means a 13.6% reduction until the normal retirement age. The level of pension reduction is then recalculated. It should be noted that the entitlement to draw the pension early is an individual right, which means that married persons can request early receipt of their pension independently of their spouse. The request for early payment of the pension should be made to the competent authority, which, depending on the place of residence of the person concerned, is either the local social insurance institution (clearly state that the request concerns early pension payment) or the Swiss Compensation Office:

Swiss Compensation Office
Av. Edmond-Vaucher, 18
P.O. Box 3100, CH-1211 Geneva 2

Tel: +41 22 795 91 11, Fax: +41 22 795 97 05
Website: www.zas.admin.ch


We recommend that you submit this request three to four months before reaching the age when you would like to claim your pension. The receipt of the Old Age and Survivors' Insurance pension results in the termination of invalidity or survivors' pensions paid up to this point in time. No pension is paid for children during the early claim period.

Please note that while it is possible to claim the Old Age and Survivors' Insurance pension early, a request can also be made for it to be delayed by 1 to 5 years. This results in an increase in the pension amount.

For further details, please consult the Old Age and Survivors' Insurance website: www.ahv-iv.info.

To find out where you should submit your pension request, please visit the Central Compensation Office's website: www.zas.admin.ch (click on ?Swiss Compensation Office SCO? -> ?Making an application? and then choose the corresponding link).

 

 

 

I am a Swiss citizen abroad and I am having difficulty opening or holding an account in Switzerland. Some banks levy very high bank charges to manage the accounts of people domiciled abroad. What can I do?

The Organisation of the Swiss Abroad regularly receives letters of this nature. Legally, the banks benefit from freedom of contract. They therefore have the right to decide whether or not to establish a banking relationship with a client for their own reasons. The Organisation of the Swiss Abroad advises persons concerned to contact small banks or banks with a more restricted geographical area of activity, such as the cantonal banks or branches of Raiffeisen, etc. Some Swiss ?abroad seem to have found solutions in this way. However, responses can vary from one branch to the next and it is therefore worthwhile enquiring with different branches of the same bank. We also recommend asking the banks concerned if there are alternatives to make account management easier (for instance, by nominating a person of trust in Switzerland to receive mail). Other people seem to have resolved their problems by contacting Postfinance. However, it should be noted that this situation is constantly evolving and these options are subject to change at any time. The Organisation of the Swiss Abroad also wishes to point out that having a bank account in Switzerland does not constitute an exemption from declaring it in the account holder's country of residence.

We also advise anyone who contacts us about this matter to follow the discussions on the Swisscommunity.org website where the Swiss abroad exchange their experiences and provide each other with advice, in particular concerning the solutions they have found. www.swisscommunity.org

 

 

 

I live abroad; can I withdraw second-pillar capital in cash?

The situation varies depending on whether someone lives in an EU/ EFTA member country or in a country outside the EU/EFTA. In the case of residency in an EU/EFTA member country, it is no longer possible in principle to withdraw second-pillar capital if the person concerned has compulsory insurance in the country of residence for the risks of old age, invalidity or death. This means, for example, that self-employed persons can withdraw their second-pillar capital to set up in business if the law in their country of residence does not provide for compulsory insurance for the abovementioned risks for the self-employed.

Persons living outside an EU/EFTA member country can request the withdrawal of their second-pillar capital in cash. We recommend finding out about this from the pension fund concerned in good time. It could refuse payment in cash if the person concerned has already reached the age at which the pension fund provides for the possibility of early retirement. However, it is still possible to use second-pillar capital to finance, build or renovate a main home or to pay off a mortgage even if the property is located in an EU/EFTA member country. Finally, the non-compulsory part of the second-pillar capital can still be paid out. If second-pillar capital is withdrawn
in cash, we recommend taking out an insurance policy to cover invalidity and death.

 

 

 

I am a Swiss abroad residing in Malta and I would like to have a biometric passport. Which authority should I apply to?

From 1 March 2010, all passports issued will be biometric. For the Swiss abroad, the Swiss representation (embassy or consulate) where they are registered is responsible for issuing identity documents.

A distinction has to be made between passport applications and the recording of biometric data. An application for the issue of a passport must always be made to the representation where the Swiss abroad is registered. In the case of Swiss citizens residing in Malta, this is the Swiss embassy in Rome. This can be done by telephone, online or in person.

For the recording of biometric data, persons registered abroad can contact the representation responsible for them, any other Swiss representation abroad or, in special cases, an issuing authority of a Swiss canton, provided the representation responsible for them and the cantonal authority have given their consent beforehand. This means that, for this step, Swiss citizens in Malta do not necessarily have to contact the Swiss embassy in Rome. However, it is important that they inform the representation responsible for them of where they intend to have their biometric data recorded so that the data required to issue a passport can be transferred from one authority to the other. Applicants must make an appointment to present themselves in person at the chosen authority for the recording of biometric data with the documents required by the authority concerned.

In cases of serious physical or psychological disability, the competent authority can waive the requirement for the applicant to present himself/herself in person provided his/her identity can be definitively confirmed in another way and the data required can be obtained by another means. In such cases, applicants must firstly contact the Swiss representation where they are registered.


For further information on the biometric passport, visit:
www.schweizerpass.ch

For further information on the procedure, please contact the Swiss representation responsible for you: www.eda.admin.ch/eda/fr/home/reps.html

 

 

 

I am a Swiss citizen living abroad and I did not receive the voting documents for the last ballot. What can I do to make sure this does not happen again?

In order to exercise their political rights, Swiss citizens abroad must be registered with the Swiss representation responsible for their place of residence. They also have to complete a form to register to exercise political rights. This registration has to be renewed every four years using a form that the polling commune sends out directly to Swiss citizens at least once a year. If the registration is not renewed, the polling commune will remove the voter from the electoral register. However, voters can re-enrol at any time by completing the form for exercising political rights and returning it to the Swiss representation concerned.

If you have not received your voting documents, please first check that you are still registered with your Swiss representation for the purpose of exercising political rights. If you are not, you must complete the registration form for exercising political rights and return it to the Swiss representation. If you are still registered, check with your polling commune to ensure you are properly enrolled on the electoral register. If you are not properly enrolled, you must re-enrol with your polling commune for the purpose of exercising political rights. If you are properly enrolled, this means the blame for the fact that you have not received your voting documents lies with the postal service, a problem which is unfortunately still all too common, but which should be improved by the introduction of electronic voting. On a general note, please ensure that you inform your Swiss representation of your change of address if you move house.

The form for registering for political rights is available at:

In French: www.aso.ch/fr/conseils/vivre-a-letranger/droits-politiques/formulaire-dinscription

In German: www.aso.ch/de/beratung/leben-im-ausland/politische-rechte/anmeldeformular


If you encounter problems in exercising your political rights, standard letters relating to various scenarios are available on OSA's website at:

In French: www.aso.ch/fr/conseils/vivre-a-letranger/droits-politiques/difficultes-lors-de-votations

In German: www.aso.ch/de/beratung/leben-im-ausland/politische-rechte/schwierigkeitenbei-abstimmungen