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7 January 2021

Elderly couple in the autumn forest

Persons who have worked in Switzerland for at least one year and then leave the country again receive a refund of the Swiss Old Age and Survivor’s Insurance ("AHV" or "OASI") contributions they have paid in or an AHV pension, depending on their nationality.

Refund or pension?

If there is a social security agreement between the home country of the returnee and Switzerland, the Swiss AHV pension will be paid abroad. Some of these social security agreements also provide for the optional reimbursement of contributions – in lieu of a pension. In cases where there is no social security agreement between the countries, AHV contributions may be reclaimed without interest via an application after Switzerland has been definitively left by the returnee.

General requirements for a Swiss AHV pension

Regardless of the return to the home country and the corresponding social security agreement (if any), the general requirements for a Swiss AHV pension must be met. The requirements for an AHV pension are met if the respective person:

  • has reached the normal retirement age (which in Switzerland is the age of 65 for men and 64 for women);
  • has paid contributions to the AHV for at least 12 months;
  • lived in Switzerland and their employed spouse paid at least twice the minimum contribution; or
  • the person can be credited for at least one year of child-rearing or care credits.

Entitlement to a retirement pension commences on the first day of the month following the attainment of retirement age and expires at the end of the month in which the person entitled to the pension deceases.

Legal framework of international social security coordination

For EU/EFTA citizens, Regulation (EC) No. 883/2004 and Regulation (EC) No. 987/2009, based on the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons between Switzerland and the EU, govern the coordination of social security systems in Europe since 2012. The coordination also includes the EFTA member states, thus the same coordination rules apply between Switzerland and the EFTA member states.

Swiss or EU/EFTA nationals are not entitled to a refund of their AHV contributions. Instead, they receive a Swiss AHV pension as soon as the conditions for such pension are met.

Outside the EU and EFTA member states, Switzerland has bilateral social security agreements with 44 countries. Some of these - including India, Brazil, Australia, China, South Korea, Uruguay and the Philippines - allow the reimbursement of AHV contributions in addition to a pension under certain conditions.

With the other countries with which Switzerland has not concluded social security agreements, nationals can apply for a refund of their contributions (without interest).

General requirements for the reimbursement of paid AHV contributions

  • The person must have paid contributions for at least one year.
  • The person and his/her family members (spouse, children under 25 years of age) must have left Switzerland permanently or demonstrably intend to leave Switzerland permanently.
  • Children between the ages of 18 and 25 who remain in Switzerland must have completed their education.

Application for reimbursement

The application for reimbursement can already be submitted before the intended departure, provided that a confirmation of departure from Switzerland is available. Payment is granted once the person is definitively resident abroad. However, the refund application must be submitted no later than five years after reaching retirement age or death.

Exception for married couples: If the spouse of the returnee is a Swiss national or a national of an EU or EFTA member state, and if the returnee resides in the EU/EFTA and both have been insured under the AHV, he or she is entitled to a pension and not to the refund of contributions.

If you have any questions or require further information, please do not hesitate to contact our Immigration Team.

Authors: Angelina Rau, Urs Haegi

Category: Immigration

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