Social security and insurance

Switzerland has concluded international social security agreements with 44 countries. The main purpose of these agreements is to ensure that citizens of the states parties to the agreements are treated equally, to determine the applicable legislation and to regulate the payment of social security benefits abroad. Between Switzerland and Australia there is an international social security agreement, which came into force on 1 January 2008.

Retirement benefits

Australian residents who are 65 years of age or above and have been living in Australia on a permanent basis for at least 10 years may apply for an Age Pension. A number of eligibility criteria must be met. Further information on pension entitlements is available on the Department of Social Services website.

Health and accident insurance

Foreign nationals who have applied for or already hold a permanent visa, are resident in Australia for tax purposes, or are temporary residents covered by a Ministerial Order are entitled to enrol in the Medicare health insurance scheme. Visitors to Australia who are not eligible for Medicare are strongly advised to arrange their own private health insurance to ensure that they are fully covered for any unplanned medical or hospital care they may need while in Australia.

Anyone who requires healthcare while in Australia and does not have adequate private health insurance cover will be considered a private patient and required to pay the full cost of their treatment themselves. This will apply irrespective of whether the person seeking treatment intends to use the public or private Australian healthcare systems.

Occupational pension scheme

Under workers' compensation legislation, employers are required to insure their employees against injury at work or while commuting. Each state or territory in Australia has its own workers' compensation scheme.

Workers’ compensation provides financial support to workers who suffer an injury or disease arising from, or during, their employment.

It includes:

  • payments to cover wages while employees are unable to work
  • payments for medical expenses and rehabilitation costs

Employers in every state and territory must take out workers' compensation insurance to cover themselves and their employees against work-related injury or disease..

Unemployment insurance

A range of income support payments are available under the Australian social security system to help unemployed individuals find work or re-enter the workforce, depending on the circumstances.

The purpose of the Australian social security system, which is administered by the Department of Social Services, is to provide targeted payments and assistance to individuals who are wholly or partially unable to support themselves. Information on unemployment benefits is available on the Australian government website. 

Swiss old-age and survivors' insurance (OASI) and invalidity insurance (IV)

Payment of ordinary pensions

Ordinary OASI and IV pension payments (except quarter pensions under the IV scheme) for Swiss nationals can be transferred to their place of residence anywhere in the world. The pension is paid out directly by the Swiss compensation office, generally in the currency of the country of residence. You may also choose to have your benefits paid into a personal postal or bank account in Switzerland. Helplessness allowances and supplementary benefits are only paid if you are resident in Switzerland.

Voluntary OASI/IV

Swiss nationals who do not live in an EU/EFTA member state may join the voluntary OASI/IV scheme if they had compulsory insurance cover for at least five consecutive years immediately prior to their departure. Enrolment in the Swiss voluntary OASI/IV system does not exempt you from enrolling in a compulsory insurance system in your country of residence or employment. Employed persons contribute 10.1% of their salary to the pension fund. The minimum annual contribution is CHF 950. The voluntary OASI/IV system offers protection against the risks of old age, disability and death, in particular to persons who are not gainfully employed and who in many cases are not entitled to join a foreign social security scheme.

Special provisions for people employed by a Swiss company

Special provisions apply to persons who live abroad and are employed and on the payroll of an employer based in Switzerland and to their accompanying spouses abroad provided they are not gainfully employed. For further information, please contact your OASI office.

OASI pensioners (1st pillar) and pension fund beneficiaries (2nd pillar)

Make sure that pension payments from your old-age and survivors' insurance (OASI), your pension fund or other insurance policies you have taken out are being properly transferred to you. Whenever you change your address, you must inform the OASI compensation office, your pension fund and insurance provider. The Swiss Compensation Office (SCO) sends all persons who are receiving benefits a certificate of life and marital status form each year. To ensure uninterrupted payment of your pension, please return the form to the SCO within 90 days, duly endorsed by your local authority, or any other officially recognised administration.

Taxation of pension fund income

Switzerland imposes a withholding tax on pension fund income if the beneficiary resides abroad. Double taxation agreements sometimes allow the withholding tax to be waived or to be reclaimed by the pension recipient in their country of residence.

Social assistance for Swiss citizens abroad

In certain circumstances, the FDFA's Social Assistance Service for the Swiss Abroad (SAS) provides social assistance to Swiss nationals living abroad who have run into financial difficulty. If you find yourself in financial distress, you must first make every effort to manage with your own resources. If you really cannot manage on your own, you should try to get financial help from your family or from friends or acquaintances. You should also find out what social assistance or other support you can receive from the authorities in your country of residence. Support from the SAS should be a measure of last resort.


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