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HEALTH CARE INSURANCE & SOCIAL CHARGES
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Mandatory basic-level insurance
Basic-level health insurance is mandatory.
This insurance will cover most of any medical and hospital fees in the event of illness.
The insured person will have to bear part of the cost: see the sections on Deductible and Retention fee below.
The insurance benefits offered by insurers are exactly the same and are laid down in Swiss legislation (Swiss Federal Act on Compulsory Health Care – KVG/LAMal): Details of the benefits.
Insurers are duty-bound to agree to insure a person for the mandatory basic health-care cover regardless of that person’s age, medical record and state of health. There is no health-care questionnaire.
NB: Dental expenses and prescription glasses are not covered by the basic health-care insurance except in very rare cases.
The premiums to be paid vary according to:
- the health & sickness insurance fund
- the amount of the deductible
- the place where the insured person lives; and
- the insured person’s age (child: from 0 to 18 years; young adult: from 19 to 25 years; adult: aged 26 and above)
Contribution by insured person to health-care costs
Deductible: Each year, the insured person is required to bear their initial medical expenses (a minimum of CHF 300.–). The level of this annual deductible can be raised to CHF 2,500 to reduce the size of the premium to be paid.
Retention fee: Each year, the insured person must bear 10% of the cost of most of their medical expenses until that quota share reaches an accumulated total of CHF 700.–. Once that ceiling is reached for the current year, the insurer will bear 100% of medical expenses.
Special health insurance cases: cross-border workers, scholarship holders or guest staff
The Welcome Center will assist you in the procedures but does not guarantee that an exemption request will be granted. Only the health insurance department (SAM) is empowered to make an exemption decision.
Foreign students’ insurance only covers people living in Switzerland. It is therefore not possible to take out a foreign students’ insurance if you live abroad.
You have a period of three months from the day of your official arrival in Switzerland to submit the application.
You can only apply once. SAM will ask you for supporting documents each year. If the conditions for the exemption are no longer met, the exemption will be terminated and you will have to insure according to the LAMal.
The premium of the Swiss cross-border worker insurance is fixed and individual.
If you have dependents (spouse, child(ren)) in your household you will have to take out a policy for each of them and pay a fixed premium for each of them.
Cross-border worker resident in France - French CMU option
The premium of the CMU is calculated according to the income of the 2 previous years (i.e. premium for 2018 based on income of 2016). Your policy also covers your dependents.
Complementary health insurance
In order to be entitled to additional insured benefits (extended out-patient expenses cover; hospital stay in a private or semi-private room; complementary forms of medicine; dental expenses; cost of prescription glasses; etc.), you can take out complementary health insurance cover. Each insurance company will offer different benefits. Take the time to do some price comparisons. Complementary health insurance is not compulsory and can be taken out with another insurance company.
Insurers can, however, refuse or impose restrictions on cover contracted under complementary health insurance policies depending on the age and health of the person applying to be insured.
Switching your insurance company
You can terminate your mandatory basic health insurance contract by sending a recorded-delivery termination letter to your insurer. This letter must be received by the insurer three months before the end of each half-year in a calendar year or within one month of receiving notice of a change in your premium payment.
Article 94, paragraph 2 of LAMal states: Changing to a lower deductible or to another form of insurance and switching insurer are possible at the earliest one year after taking out insurance with optional deductibles, giving 3 months’ notice before the end of a calendar year.
NB: You must have already signed up to another contract in advance and your new insurer must confirm this to your previous insurer.
Complementary insurance cover often extends over longer contractual periods – you will often be making a legally binding commitment for cover over several years. Make sure you check this aspect out thoroughly before signing the contract. If you are not certain of your decision, take your time as these types of complementary insurance policies can be taken out at a later stage.
In Switzerland, the pension system is based on three pillars: state pension or 1st pillar; occupational pension or 2nd pillar; and individual pension or 3rd pillar.
This system (Article 111 of the Federal Constitution) aims to maintain the insured’s standard of living at the time of retirement, in the event of disability or death, for oneself or one’s survivors. The diagram below briefly shows how the three pillars work.
In order to encourage occupational pension provision, the purchase of the statutory 2nd pillar benefits and the creation of a 3rd pillar (3a only) may be deducted from taxable income (NB: some amounts are capped).
- Check with your pension fund if you can buy additional benefits
- Contact your bank / insurance company to subscribe to a 3rd pillar
Medical costs incurred following accidents at work or accidents outside work are covered by an insurance policy taken out by your employer. If you do not have an employer or you work for fewer than 8 hours a week, you must apply to have accident cover added to your compulsory basic health-care insurance.
Do not forget to do this, especially when it comes to health insurance contracts for your children.
In Geneva and many Swiss cantons, the euro is readily accepted by most shops and businesses.
-The exchange rate offered will not be very attractive;
-And change will generally be given to you in Swiss francs.
Means of payment
The main means of payment are :
- Debit bankcards
- Credit cards (NB: some businesses do not always accept them or do not accept all cards)
- Cheques are not used as an everyday means of payment in Switzerland.
Opening a bank account
It is very important you open a bank account quickly as you will need one, for instance, to finalize your lease agreement for your future home. So, if you are planning to visit Geneva to prepare for moving here, take the opportunity to open a bank account.
You will need to present the following documents :
- Identity card or passport;
- Swiss residence/work permit or certificate from the Cantonal Office for Population*.
* If you haven’t yet received your permit, contact the Welcome Center.
Which bank should you choose?
Below, we have listed the websites of the main banks and Swiss Post, but the list is far from exhaustive.
Services are generally billed and paid for after they have been provided: your doctor, electrician or decorator will not demand you pay your bill immediately, but will send you an invoice to be paid within 30 days.
This invoice will have an orange or red payment slip (referred to as a ‘bulletin de versement/BVR’) attached. Use this slip to settle your bill.
If the BVR is orange, it will show a reference number (centre-right).
If the BVR is red, there will be no reference number and you will have to indicate the reason for the payment in the relevant box (top-right corner).
You can then settle this bill:
1. Using your bank’s e-banking service if you have signed up for this.
In order to do this, you will probably have to provide the following information on the right of the small numbers on the specimen orange BVR shown above:
- the beneficiary’s account number
- the reference number of the payment
- the amount of the invoice
- sometimes the beneficiary’s name and address
2. At the Post Office counter
Take the payment slip(s) (total up the sums if you have several payments to make) to the Post Office and pay the amount due; the stamped receipt stubs will be handed back to you as proof of payment (the detachable stub on the left of the BVR). You should keep these with the invoices. This method is convenient if you haven’t opened a bank account yet or if you need to have proof of payment (stamped receipt stub).
3. By ‘paper’ order (this type of payment is usually referred to as ‘Quick’)
Place all the right-hand segments of the payment slips in an envelope. Write the total to be paid and the number of payment slips on the ‘Quick’ form (which your bank will have provided you with), sign this and send it off.
4. Over the counter at your bank
You should bear in mind that all payments made over the counter and some ‘paper’ transactions involve a fee whereas, for now, you do not have to pay to make payments using the e-banking service. A word of advice: make as many payments as you can via the Internet e-banking service.
When it comes to payments that have to be made regularly (rent; health-care insurance premiums; etc.), you can use one of the following options:
- A standing order set up via the e-banking service, by post or over the counter at your bank: this will involve payment of a fixed sum at regular intervals.
- A direct debit instruction (known as an ‘LSV’): with this, you authorize a creditor to debit the sum of their bills directly from your account. You can object to sums debited within 30 days.
-E-bill: If the creditor and your bank are both part of the e-bill system, you can receive the invoice directly on your e-banking page, then settle it with a single click. Take a look at the e-bill website.
If you are employed by the University or the University Hospital, you may be entitled to a discount or compensation on your travelcards. For info, contact your HR contact person or the Welcome Center.
Useful tip: If you fly into Geneva, there is a TPG ticket machine at the airport, on the left-hand side just before the exit from the baggage reclaim area. Get a ticket there – it’s free and valid for 90 minutes (train into central Geneva and the TPG network).
If you are coming from abroad, you’ll need to change your driving licence (in French only) within 12 months. Most people will only need to fill in a form, take the required eye test at an optician and go in person to the "Office cantonal des véhicules" with the document listed on the form. The new Swiss driving licence will be issued immediately. Keep a copy of your original driving licence since the authorities will not give it back to you.
Please note that if you hold a driving licence issued by a country, which Switzerland has not signed an agreement on this matter with, you may need to take a theory test and / or a practical driving test for obtaining a Swiss driving licence. Please check this with the "Office cantonal des véhicules"
Moving around Geneva by motorbike or scooter is also convenient.
Taking the car should be reserved primarily for leisure activities. Traffic in Geneva is heavy and slow-moving, especially during rush-hour. What’s more, parking is hard to find.
Before going ahead with buying a car, think about the possibility of a Mobility car-sharingwhich can offer discount prices for University and University Hospital staff.
Motorways: If you want to drive on Swiss motorways, you will need to buy a Swiss motorway stickereach year and affix it to your windscreen. These motorway tax stickers cost CHF 40 and are sold in places like petrol-service stations, post offices and customs offices.
It is important to know the difference between white and blue parking zones. Parking in white zones is possible only for a limited duration and may be paid or free. Blue zones are areas where parking is free for a limited duration. Please check the following pages for the details:
Useful tip: You can buy a parking disk (the blue disk) in petrol-service stations, police stations or stores which sell vehicle accessories.
Parking spaces for people with reduced mobility: permits are issued by the Financial Department of the Geneva Police.
Most public car parks do have access for people with reduced mobility. It is possible to see them with the help of this interactive map(in French only). For more information, please check the Canton of Geneva website and theCity of Geneva website.
You can make your parking payment online or by using your mobile phone:
If you do not have a reserved parking space in your building, you will have to order a special blue ‘macaron’ parking permit (in French only) (valid for one year) to enable you to park your car without time restrictions close to your home in the designated blue parking spaces. It is also possible to rent a parking space in car parks for local residents.
Beware though: a car that has gone missing may have been badly or illegally parked and taken away to the pound. You will need to collect it as quickly as possible to keep costs down (the car pound is open round the clock). Contact a police station (in French only) which can give you information.
Deciding whether or not to bring your car to Switzerland
Before deciding to bring your car to Switzerland, you need to be sure it is worth doing so.
An old, rusty and poorly maintained vehicle may not pass the roadworthiness inspection test, and it can be costly to have cars repaired in Switzerland. You will also need to check the type and model of your car is marketed in Switzerland and complies with the Swiss requirements.
You must have owned your vehicle for over 6 months on the date you move to Switzerland. If not, you will be required to pay excise duties when you cross the border.
Deciding whether to register your car in Switzerland or not
Some categories of people on temporary stays (maximum of two years renewable in certain circumstances) are permitted to retain their vehicle’s original registration when living in Switzerland (this needs to be declared to customs using Form 15.30 – fee of CHF 25.00).
Others must register their vehicle in Switzerland in the year following their arrival in the country.
You should wait until you have received your work/residence permit before embarking on this process.
In the interim, you must make sure that the third-party liability insurance on your vehicle is valid and recognized in Switzerland. If this is not the case, you will need to take out a specific insurance policy, known as ‘frontier insurance’ at a customs office when the vehicle is first brought into Switzerland: nbi-ngf.ch
For those vehicles put on the road after 1st January 2010, the annual vehicle road tax applies a bonus/penalty charge based on the relevant CO2 emissions.
Motor vehicle insurance
Click on this link for a brief outline of compulsory motor insurance and visit comparis.ch for more information and for a comparison of premiums.
Premiums will vary depending on the vehicle’s engine size, price and age, as well as the driver’s driving record. Do not forget to ask your existing motor insurer to provide you with proof of any no-claims bonus and/or lack of any claims made, as this will be useful in negotiating any discounted premium rate from future insurers.
Some insurance companies adjust their premium rates depending on the applicant’s nationality. Do not hesitate to do price comparisons.
If you are planning to transport passengers in your vehicle who are not covered by Swiss or European accident insurance, you will need to think about taking out ‘passenger insurance’.
Some insurers will also offer the option of breakdown insurance. In Switzerland, many vehicle owners prefer to join the TCS or ATEmotorist organisations for their breakdown cover (both sites are in French/German/Italian only). You need to do the comparisons to find what is best for you.
If you ride a bike, you must be covered by third-party liability insurance (see section on third-party liability and household insurance) for any damage you might cause to others (damage to property, injury to persons, plus any associated loss of earnings or income).
Theft of your bike or the cost of repairing it following an accident or other expenses will be covered by the insurance of the party at fault, if there is one, or by your own household insurance (NB: make sure you check the extent of your cover when you sign the contract).
If you are coming to Switzerland from abroad, you will have one year to change your driving licence. You should wait until you have received your work/residence permit before embarking on this process.
- 1 passport-size colour photo – full face with head uncovered
- Identity papers and residence permit
- CHF 150 or more depending on the type of driving licence
Keep a copy of your driving licence before handing it over to the Cantonal Office for Vehicles.
Driving licence exchange process is not automatic and may change according to certain criteria (in French only) including the origin of your current licence. Please don't forget to check this (as early as possible) with the relevant cantonal authorities.
TELEPHONE AND TELEVISION
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Telephone, radio & internet
Compare the rates of the telephone operators and Internet access providers onComparis.
A radio and television fee is charged per household. Please visit SERAFE for more information.
Be careful: when taking out a mobile phone subscription, a copy of the residence permit is required or a certificate of residence. In the early days, it may therefore be better to take a prepaid phone.
The following website provides a useful insight into the Swiss tax system: www.ch.ch
There are several different tax arrangements in operation in Geneva depending on:
- the category of your residence/work permit
- where you live
- what work or business you do and/or your assets
Withholding tax for:
- A holder of any work/residence permit that is not a C-category permit;
- A cross-border worker, irrespective of your nationality (e.g. those living in France, but working in Geneva).
Tax calculated on the basis of your tax return :
- a Swiss national or person holding a C permit and living in Geneva
- a married person or civil partner with a Swiss national or a person holding a C permit and living in Geneva
- someone who does not necessarily live in Geneva, but earns income from business or self-employment there or is a property owner in Geneva
- someone who does not necessarily live in Geneva, but is gainfully employed there, earns at least 90% of their income from this source and wants to be taxed under ‘quasi-resident’ status arrangements (see point 2 below)
You can complete this form online and give your employer a print-out of the form.
The tax brackets applied take due account of certain deductions and allowances. Your employer will deduct the tax liable from your salary and pay it to the Tax Authority. It is a provision.
The final amount of your tax will be calculated the following year.
At the end of the year, your employer will give you a statement of tax paid (‘attestation quittance’) giving you a breakdown of the tax deducted over the year. Send this statement to the Tax Authority.
YOU DON’T HAVE TO DO ANYTHING ELSE. UNLESS:
1. You have a claim to have further tax allowances or deductions taken into consideration or other income to be declared (in French only).
At the start of the next year, you will need to send the following documents to the Tax Authority:
- salary certificate (given to you by your employer)
- your end-of-year statement of tax paid (given to you by your employer)*
* (these two documents are sometimes combined into one)
2. If you prefer to request that actual expenses be deducted instead of the standard sums integrated into the rates of withholding tax and provided you fulfil the criteria for ‘quasi-resident’ status (at least 90% of income from Swiss sources), you can apply to be taxed on the basis of a statement of your income and assets/wealth. In this case, you will need to complete a tax return.
At the start of the following year, you will need to send the following documents to the Tax Authority:
-salary certificate (given to you by your employer)
-your end-of-year statement of tax paid (given to you by your employer)
-a completed form declaring your income and assets (in French only)
-further documentation to support your claim
NB: If you are living in another Swiss canton, your tax return needs to be filed with the authorities in the canton you are living in.
Those living in France are required to fill out and file an income tax return in France.
Taxpayers liable for withholding tax who live in Geneva have to pay directly to the Tax Authority what is referred to as the ‘taxe personnelle’(page in French only; a type of flat-rate tax on households). This tax amounts to CHF 25 a year per taxpaying household.
Tax calculated on the basis of your tax return
When you arrive, the Tax Authority will ask you to provide an estimate of your annual income.
You will receive a bill for monthly instalment payments due by the 10th day of each month between March and December.
At the start of the following year (January), you will receive a tax return for you to declare your income and assets/wealth for the past financial year (link to completing your tax return online). This return will need to be completed and sent back to the Tax Authority by the deadline of 31st March. The return can be filled out online.
The Tax Authority will provide you with a guide to filling out your tax return, but further useful information can be found on certain sites:
You can ask for a later deadline for filing your return by telephone (verbal guide), post or by Internet.
During the first year of your stay in Switzerland or in the event of special personal circumstances, it might be advisable to arrange for a tax accountant or adviser to help you fill out your tax return.
Calculate the amount of tax to be paid
You can find some online tax calculators on this website: www.ch.ch
Under the income column, identify the line corresponding to the future gross annual income of the tax household, then go to the column corresponding to the status of your family. For families where both spouses work, choose nevertheless the column indicating that only one spouse works and you will find a rate that will give you a general idea. Be careful, however, this method remains approximate. A fiduciary can provide you with a more accurate calculation.
Reduce your tax bill
You are advised to seek help from competent professionals or the Tax Authority to optimally manage your assets and in particular to reduce the amount of your tax.
In Switzerland, people are encouraged to save for their retirement by means of tax breaks.
For example, the repurchase of statutory ‘2nd pillar’ pension contributions and the payments into the voluntary ‘3rd pillar’ (3a only) pension contributions may be deducted from your taxable income (although there are some ceilings on this tax relief).
- You should check with your pension fund whether you can pay contributions to buy in additional benefits
These are Geneva’s most popular shopping streets. Starting at rue de Rive, running along rue de la Croix d’Or and rue du Marché and finishing at rue de la Confédération, you will be able to find shops and stores selling all sorts of things to suit all wallets and tastes: clothing for women, men and children, beauty/cosmetics products, leather goods.
LA RUE DU RHÔNE
The street of luxury goods stores in Geneva. On this street, you will find a glittering array of jewellery, watch and haute couture boutiques.
If you need to buy furniture and appliances and are on a tight budget, you could also try the various charity shops. Many people spend only a limited time in Geneva and you can often find almost-new second-hand products at ridiculously low prices: