For members


Reader question: Can I take my pension money with me when I leave Switzerland?

Some people decide to move out of Switzerland after working here for many years. If you leave, can you withdraw your pension money and, if so, how - and how much?

If you worked in Switzerland, can you take your money and run? Photo by Diana Parkhouse on Unsplash
If you worked in Switzerland, can you take your money and run? Photo by Diana Parkhouse on Unsplash

With over 2.2 million foreign nationals currently living in Switzerland, some may want to return to their home countries after retiring. 

With great wages and a strong job market, plenty of the foreigners who live in Switzerland only plan to stay for a limited period of time.

And it is also possible that a number of Swiss citizens decide to move to warmer climes or a less expensive retirement destination – and take their pension money with them. 

The main difference is whether you are going to live in an EU / EFTA country or a third nation.

How does the Swiss pension system work?

The Swiss pension system is made up of three pillars: AHV/AVS also known as OASI (pillar one), occupational (pillar two) and private (pillar three). 

When you pay into pillar one of the Swiss pension system, it does not represent an investment into your own personal fund or a source of capital you can tap in later life. The money you pay into the system is not kept for you, but is used to pay other people’s pensions. 

Instead, by paying into the system – which is compulsory – you get a right to a pension in later life. Generally, this right accrues after just one year.

If you want to leave Switzerland after working here, the basic principle is that if you have worked in Switzerland for a certain period of time and paid into the two obligatory pension plans— AHV/AVS/OASI, and the occupational pension — you will not lose out on a pension. 

However the amount you get will depend on several factors, including how much you paid in and where you move to after leaving Switzerland. 

EXPLAINED: How does the Swiss pension system work – and how much will I receive?

Moving to an EU / EFTA country

If you move to an EU/EFTA country, you are not entitled to be paid out your AHV/OASI pension, however due to a cooperation agreement, you will be entitled to a pension in that country. 

As for your pillar two and pillar three pensions, you will be able to cash these out. This will however be subject to cantonal taxes in many cases.

The compulsory component of your pillar two pension – known sometimes as pillar 2a – cannot be cashed out until you reach retirement age, although there are some exceptions for buying property or to fund a business. This money will be transferred to a Swiss vested benefits organisation until you reach retirement age. 

What if I move to a country outside Europe?

There are certain points you must bear in mind to ensure that you can obtain your Swiss benefits in a third country, i.e. a non-EU/EFTA nation. 

Switzerland has concluded social security agreements with: Australia, Chile, China, Bosnia and Herzegovina, India, Israel, Japan, Canada, Macedonia, Montenegro, Philippines, San Marino, Serbia, South Korea, Turkey, Uruguay, and USA.

If you are a citizen of one of the above-mentioned countries, a special agreement is in place for when you leave Switzerland for good.

The same applies if you have been recognised as a refugee or stateless person in Switzerland and settle in one of these countries under the same status.

If your destination country is on your list, you will be entitled to a pension in that country in much the same way as if you moved to an EU/EFTA country above. 

You can also be paid out your pillar two and three pensions, in a similar fashion to that above. 

What happens if you are going to a country not included on the list?

In principle, your pension lapses when you leave Switzerland. You can, however, apply, under certain conditions, for reimbursement of your accumulated OASI contributions.

This is only possible if you:

  • Have paid OASI contributions for at least one full year
  • Leave Switzerland permanently. Your spouse and children under 25 years of age also have to leave the country
  • You are not are not yet retired — that is, not  already receiving an OASI pension.

It is important to remember that if you get the reimbursement, you are no longer entitled to any further benefits.

Only the actual contributions to the OASI are paid out, without interest. Also, contributions paid for you by social assistance are not refunded.

In the event of your death, your spouse or your children may also apply for reimbursement, if they are be eligible for a survivor’s pension.

How can you request the reimbursement of OASI contributions?

You have to apply to your local compensation office or to the Central Compensation Office (SCO). To do this, you must complete this form and submit it along with the following documents:

  • Your OASI insurance number
  • Confirmation of your departure from Switzerland
  • A copy of the valid passport or another proof of your nationality

You must also provide the address of your intended foreign residence or confirmation of your current address abroad. The confirmation must also include your spouse and your children under 25.

You have to submit a request to your last employer’s pension fund institution before leaving Switzerland; your employer will provide the necessary form, which lists documents you must enclose .

READ MORE: Reader question: How long must I work in Switzerland to qualify for a pension

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For members


What is Switzerland’s retirement age – and will it rise?

Questions relating to pensions and retirement have been frequently debated in Switzerland in the past years, both among the population and at the legislative level.

What is Switzerland's retirement age - and will it rise?

Retirement is a hot-button topic for everyone who works in Switzerland.

It is all the more relevant, since the ‘Worry Barometer’ — an annual survey of concerns that preoccupy Switzerland’s population the most in any given year — consistently shows that pensions, and having enough money for retirement, are among the top worries.

And there is a good reason for that: as more people live longer (especially in Switzerland, which has one of the world’s highest life expectancies), continuing to fund first-pillar state pensions (AHV in German and AVS in French and Italian) is a major challenge. 

The government is tackling this problem in various ways.

One is increasing the VAT rates.

From January 1st, 2024, these rates will increase as follows:

  • The standard VAT rate will rise from 7.7 percent to 8.1 percent
  • The reduced VAT from 2.5 percent to 2.6 percent
  • The special rate for hotel accommodation goes from 3.7 percent to 3.8 percent

Another way to ensure that the current level of benefits is maintained is increasing the retirement age for women.

Right now, men in Switzerland retire at 65, while since 1997 women stop working at 64. Prior to that year, they retired even earlier, at 62 — no wonder the AHV / AVS scheme has been running a deficit since 2014.

However, starting in 2025 and until 2028, Switzerland will gradually implement the same retirement age for women as for men — 65 — a move that is expected to boost coffers of the old-age pension scheme.

Both VAT and higher retirement age, by the way were approved by Swiss voters in referendums.

READ MORE: OPINION: Switzerland can no longer justify a lower retirement age for women

Today, women work until 64 but that is about to change. Photo: Vlada Karpovich on Pexels

However, the new retirement age is not written in stone: the government is open to upping it to 70 in certain cases

The Federal Council has accepted a motion from MP Ruth Humbel, who proposed to set the retirement age based on the duration of each individual’s professional activity.

The current calculations for a monthly AHV / AVS pension are based on a person working full time, and contributing to the scheme for 44 years — that is, from age 21 to 65.

This means that people who started working later would not receive full pension.

However, Humbel’s proposal postulates that if someone started their professional career later— say at 26 — they would continue to work until 70, and receive the full first-pillar pension, which is currently 2,450 francs a month, but set to go up to 2,464 francs in July when it is adjusted for inflation.

The lowest AHV / AVS pension, on the other hand, is currently 1,225 a month, to increase to 1,232 in July.

Keep in mind, however, that these are the current amounts of the first-pillar pensions (Switzerland has a total of three, see the link below). As they are typically adjusted for inflation once a year, the amount could be different when you retire.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: How does the Swiss pension system work – and how much will I receive?

Pensions are adjusted for inflation. Photo: Claudio Schwarz on Unsplash

What else should you know about retiring in Switzerland?

For many people, being able to afford life in Switzerland once they no longer work is a huge concern.

If you receive all three pillars mentioned above, then you probably can live comfortably after retirement.

It also helps if you have savings to fall back on.

A UBS study carried out in 2021 showed that while still working, a person over the age of 50 in Switzerland must set aside 14 percent of their income for retirement. (These days, given the current inflation level of nearly 3 percent, this amount is likely higher). 

This means that if, for instance, you earn 100,000 franc a year, 14,000 francs should be saved for 15 years, which in the end will give you a nice nest egg of 210,000 francs.

Of course, these figures should be adjusted down or upwards, depending on your income.

READ MORE: How much should you save for a ‘comfortable’ retirement in Switzerland?

This is actually quite good because the same UBS analysis found that “in some countries, much higher private savings rates than in Switzerland are necessary to maintain living standards in retirement”.

As an example, Italians must put aside 28 percent of their money for their retirement, Germans 30 percent, and the French 44.

In the United States, people must save 42 percent of their income to live comfortably after they retire.

Of the 24 surveyed countries, pensioners in Nigeria (145 percent), Russia (108 percent) and Japan (102 percent) fare the worst.

These articles will provide more information about retiring in Switzerland:

EXPLAINED: Everything you need to know about retiring in Switzerland

Reader question: Can I take my pension money with me when I leave Switzerland?

EXPLAINED: How to get a visa to retire in Switzerland