Questions and answers about Family allowances
The answers to the FAQs are basic and refer to the most frequent cases. They provide a rough overview. However, specific individual cases should always be assessed by the responsible family allowances compensation fund.
Family allowances: types and rates (general)
1. What form do family allowances take?
2. How much are these family allowances?
There are three types of family allowance:
- child allowance (from 0 - 16 years);
- education allowance (from the age of 16 until completion of studies/vocational training, but not beyond the age of 25);
- birth or adoption allowance (not offered by all cantons).
3. If I work part-time, am I still eligible to claim a family allowance in full?
The amount varies from one canton to another, but the legal minimum is:
- CHF 200 per month for the child allowance;
- CHF 250 per month for the education allowance.
However, the cantons are free to grant family allowances in excess of these amounts. Table 1 “Family Allowances: Types and Rates” provides an overview of cantonal family allowance rates.
4. I live in the canton of Fribourg but work in the canton of Bern. In which canton should I file my family allowance claim?
Yes. Family allowances are paid out in full provided that the salary on which you pay statutory OASI contributions is at least CHF 592 per month, or CHF 7110 per year. If your salary is less than this, you need to fill out the application form specifically for individuals who are not gainfully employed (see Questions 5G and 21).
If you hold down several jobs at once, the salaries from each of these are added together.
Partial allowances have been abolished.
The payment of family allowances operates according to the place-of-employment principle. Therefore, in your case, you should file your claim in the canton of Bern.
5. Who is eligible for family allowances?
6. We are divorced/separated and the children live with me. Which one of us can claim a family allowance?
A. Salaried employees
B. The self-employed
Salaried employees may claim family allowances provided that their salary on which they pay statutory OASI contributions is at least CHF 592 per month, or CHF 7110 per year. Individuals whose salary falls below this threshold are considered to be not gainfully employed (see Questions 5G and 21). For individuals who hold down several jobs at once, the salaries from each of these are added together, and eligibility is assessed based on the total income.
Since 1 January 2013, all self-employed individuals in Switzerland are eligible for family allowances. Previously, only certain cantons granted these benefits to the self-employed. To claim, the self-employed must be registered with a family allowance compensation fund and their salary on which they pay statutory OASI contributions must be at least CHF 592 per month, or CHF 7110 per year. Individuals whose salary falls below this threshold are considered as individuals who are not gainfully employed (see Questions 5G and 21).
D. Foster parents
Step-parents are entitled to claim family allowances if their step-child lives primarily in their home or had lived there until the age of 18.
Foster parents are entitled to claim family allowances for those children who reside with them long-term, and insofar as they personally cover the children’s maintenance and education costs or receive only a small payment in return for the care they provide. Individuals who provide day care alone are not eligible to claim.
F. The unemployed
Cohabitees may not claim family allowances for the child of their partner. Only marriage or a registered partnership confers the right to claim family allowances.
G. Individuals who are not gainfully employed
A person in receipt of daily unemployment benefits does not qualify for a family allowance.
However, they may apply to the unemployment insurance scheme for a supplementary benefit which corresponds to the family allowance (child/education allowance) rate they would be entitled to if they were gainfully employed. The unemployed may not claim birth or adoption allowances.
Please note that entitlement to this supplement is a subordinate right. In other words, the unemployment insurance scheme will not pay out this benefit if, during the same period, a gainfully employed person would be entitled to a family allowance for the same child.
Individuals who are not gainfully employed are entitled to family allowances provided that they satisfy the following criteria:
- the applicant resides in Switzerland;
- they are considered to be not in gainful employment as defined by the OASI insurance scheme;
- they have a taxable income of no more than CHF 42 660 per year (several cantons have more lenient rules in place).
Individuals who lose their gainful employment status in the course of the year remain entitled to family allowances provided that they meet the above conditions. This means that they can start claiming these benefits during that time.
Please note that entitlement to family allowances for individuals who are not gainfully employed is a subordinate right. In other words, if, during the same period, a gainfully employed person would be entitled to a family allowance for the same child, their claim takes precedence.
- If you are a salaried employee or self-employed, you may claim the family allowance.
- If you are neither a salaried employee nor self-employed, the other parent may claim. However, the latter must hand over the allowances they receive to you. If they fail to do so, you can ask the family allowances compensation fund of the other parent to pay out the benefits directly to you (payment to a third party).
- A step-father may claim family allowances if the mother is not gainfully employed. If both the father of the child and the mother’s new partner are either employed or self-employed, paternal entitlement takes precedence insofar as the father and the mother share custody of the child. If the mother has sole custody, it is the step-father, not the father, who may claim the family allowance.
7. My child has finished his compulsory education. Am I still entitled to family allowances if he continues his education?
8. What does “in education” mean?
Yes. As long as the child is still in education/training, you remain entitled to family allowances. However, entitlement ends when the child completes his education. However, entitlement ends when your child turns 25.
If your child is unable to find an apprenticeship position or is unemployed, you are not entitled to claim an education allowance.
9. Can a child in education receive a salary?
As a general rule, a young person is considered to be in education when they regularly attend a recognised academic/training programme (minimum of 4 weeks) which takes up most of their time (a minimum of 20 hours a week spent on: school-based lessons, homework, preparation and revision, courses, conferences, dissertation research and writing, distance learning, etc.). This education should lead to a vocational diploma or the acquisition of a general education which in turn will facilitate the acquisition of assorted professions and occupations.
10. My child is currently on a traineeship? Is he still considered to be in education?
Yes. However, to remain entitled to an education allowance, the child’s gross earned income must not exceed CHF 2370 per month.
11. My child is on a motivational semester/serving a pre-apprenticeship. Is he still considered to be in education?
A young person who is on a traineeship is considered as being in education if the performance of this activity is required to:
• gain admission to a relevant course of study or to an examination;
• obtain an educational qualification or apprenticeship certificate.
Under certain circumstances, a traineeship is recognised as a form of education if it allows the young person to gain admission to an apprenticeship.
However, if a young person carries out practical work with the sole aim of acquiring knowledge or experience that will improve his employment prospects or help him choose and occupation, these activities are not considered as a form of education.
12. My child is in education but will have to perform his military/alternative civilian service during this time. Is he still considered to be in education?
Yes, provided that the course consists of at least eight lessons (45-60 mins each) per week.
13. My child is on a language course abroad/is working as an au-pair. Is she still considered as being in education?
Yes, provided that the interruption is no longer than five months and that your child immediately returns to education after he has completed his service. The following interruptions are permissible:
- basic military training (18-21 weeks) provided that it falls during a period when he does not have to attend classes (e.g. between the end of high school and the start of further education), or
- periods of military service performed during the semester breaks (i.e. basic military training spread over 18-21 non-consecutive weeks).
However, if your child is on military service for a protracted period (e.g. he opts to honour his lifetime military service obligations in a single block period, or is in practical service with a view to obtaining a given rank), he is no longer considered as being in education.
Yes, provided that the course comprises a minimum of four lessons (45 - 60 minutes each) per week.
Concurring claims (who receives the family allowances?)/Payment of the difference
14. Both I and the father/mother of my child are gainfully employed. Can we decide which one of us will receive the family allowance?
15. The father/mother receives family allowances for our children because their entitlement takes precedence. Nonetheless, my canton pays out higher family allowances than their canton. Can I claim for the difference?
Double payments of family allowances are not allowed. When several individuals are eligible for a family allowance for the same child, this is referred to as a “concurring claim”. In such instances, the parents may not decide which of them will receive the family allowance. The decision is made according to the following order of precedence:
- If both parents have joint custody of, and live with, the child (which is the mostly the case for married parents), it is the parent who works in the family’s canton of residence who claims the allowance. If both parents work in their canton of residence, or if neither do, the allowance is paid out to the parent with the highest income on which they pay statutory OASI contribution.
- If only one parent has sole custody, their entitlement to the allowance takes precedence.
- If both parents have joint custody of the child but do not live together, the allowance will be paid out to the parent with whom the child lives.
16. How can I find out if family allowances are already paid out for my child?
Yes. When both parents are gainfully employed, family allowances are paid to the parent whose entitlement takes precedence (see Question 14). If the other parent works in a different canton with higher family allowance rates, he or she may claim the difference.
To prevent the accumulation of family allowances for the same child, a Family Allowances Register (RAFam) was created (operational since 1 January 2011). Simply enter your child’s date of birth and OASI number, and the register will display if and to whom the family allowances are paid out.
Payment to a third party (primary caregiver)
17. I have custody of my children but the family allowances are paid to their mother/father. Can I ask for the allowances to be paid to me directly?
Family allowances must be used to pay for the upkeep of the child. The parent who receives the family allowances must pay these benefits to the parent with whom the child lives. If not, the parent who is the child’s primary caregiver can ask that the family allowances are paid directly to her/him. This is called a “payment to a third party”.
An adult child can also submit such a claim.
The person must apply in writing to the family allowances compensation fund for a payment to a third party. They also must provide a convincing argument as to why they should receive the allowance (e.g. evidence that the other parent has never, or only partially, transferred the family allowances to them). The family allowance compensation fund will examine the facts of the case before deciding whether to authorise the payment to a third party or not.
We recommend that before you submit your application you consult the Family Allowances Register to find out if the family allowances have already been paid out for the child in question (see Question 16).
Payment of family allowances for children living abroad
18. My children live abroad but I work in Switzerland. Can I claim a Swiss family allowance?
19. If the children live abroad and one of the parents works in an EU or EFTA member state, which parent can claim a Swiss family allowance?
You can only claim a Swiss family allowance for children living abroad if Switzerland is obliged to do so under the terms of a bilateral agreement. Switzerland has concluded such agreements with EU and EFTA member states, as well as Bosnia-Herzegovina. According to the terms of these agreements, EU and EFTA nationals are entitled to a Swiss family allowance for their children who are resident in the other contracting State. However, in the case of Bosnia-Herzegovina nationals working in Switzerland, a Swiss family allowance will be paid out irrespective of which country the children live in. When one parent works in Switzerland but the child lives in an EU state, for example, that parent may in principle claim a family allowance for the child provided that the parent has Swiss, EU or Bosnia-Herzegovina citizenship. In all other instances, these allowances are not exportable except for – and under certain circumstances – salaried employees who are posted abroad by an employer headquartered in Switzerland.
20. Our family has just emigrated abroad. Can we continue to claim family allowances given that we are all Swiss nationals?
As regards EU and EFTA member states, the “place-of-employment” principle applies. A family allowance claim must be submitted in the country where the applicant works, even if the person entitled to claim or their children live in another country. If both parents are gainfully employed, priority is given to the provisions in the country where the children live. If the other parent works in a country with higher family allowance rates, that country pays out the difference.
Swiss nationality alone, whether held by the parents and/or their children, does not guarantee automatic entitlement to a Swiss family allowance. The main eligibility criterion for these benefits is that one parent is gainfully employed in Switzerland. However, a parent who is posted abroad by an employer headquartered in Switzerland, under certain circumstances, may also be entitled to claim a Swiss family allowance.
Filing an application
21. Where should I send my family allowance application? Where can I obtain an application form?
22. What kind of information do you need to provide in the application form?
Family allowance application forms are available from the family allowance compensation funds. All supporting documentation (e.g. training certificates) should also be sent to these offices.
If you are a salaried employee, you should file a family allowance application with:
- your employer, or
- the family allowance compensation fund with which your employer is registered. You can obtain the contact details from your employer.
If you are self-employed, you should send the application to the family allowance compensation fund with which you are registered.
Individuals who are not gainfully employed
As a general rule, individuals who are not gainfully employed should file their application with the relevant cantonal family allowance compensation fund . The contact details of all 26 offices are available at:
If you are unemployed, you should apply directly to the unemployment insurance office for the supplementary benefit (see Question 5F).
The family allowance application form asks for information on your employer, parental custody, place of residence, details about your children and their education. In certain instances, you may be asked to provide information on the professional activities of the other parent, particularly if both of you are entitled to claim a family allowance. Data protection rules mean that employees are not obliged to provide their employer with this information. This means that applications can be sent directly to the family allowance compensation fund.
Payment of family allowances
23. When will the family allowances be paid out?
24. Who pays out the family allowances?
As a general rule, family allowances are paid out along with the salary for that month. The self-employed receive their family allowances on a quarterly basis.
As a general rule, your employer pays out the family allowances. If your employer fails to pay on a regular basis, you can ask your employer’s family allowance compensation fund to pay these benefits to you directly.
Family allowances are paid out by the claimant’s family allowance compensation fund.
Individuals who are not gainfully employment (but not unemployed):
The Cantonal Compensation Office in the canton of residence pays out the family allowances.
The competent unemployment insurance office pays out the supplementary benefit (see Questions 5F and 21).
Deadline for claiming family allowances
Duty to declare any changes in circumstances/recovery of overpayments
27. I have changed job. Whom should I inform?
28. My child is no longer in education but I still receive a family allowance for him. What should I do?
If you are a salaried employee, you must inform your employer’s family allowances compensation fund of any changes in your circumstances that may have an effect on your right to child allowances. If you fail to declare this information, you will have to pay back any overpayments you have received.
If you have changed job, you must inform your former employer’s family allowances compensation fund . You can obtain the contact details of the office from either your new employer or the Family Allowances Register (see Question 16).
29. Under what circumstances would I have to pay back family allowances I received?
If you are a salaried employee, you must inform your employer’s family allowance compensation fund of any changes in your circumstances that may have an effect on your right to child allowances. If you fail to declare this information, you will have to pay back any overpayments you have received.
If you still receive an education allowance for your child even though he is no longer in education, you must inform the competent family allowance compensation fund. You will be required to pay back any family allowances you have received from the month following the date on which your child left education.
30. I received family allowances but I paid them to the other parent who lives with the child. The family allowance compensation fund has told me that I was not entitled to these benefits and has asked me to pay them back. What should I do?
You will have to pay back family allowances if you received them but you were not entitled to them. This could happen, for example, when your child is no longer in education but you continue to receive an education allowance for him because either you have not informed the competent family allowances compensation fund of this change in circumstances or you have given false information.
In this instance, though, the obligation to pay back the allowances may be waived if you are able to demonstrate that you had always acted in good faith and that the recovery of these overpayments would leave you in extreme financial difficulty. Please note that both these conditions must be met.
As a general rule, all allowances that have been wrongfully received must be paid back. On request, your and the other parent’s family allowance compensation funds can agree that the family allowance compensation fund of the latter directly pays back the family allowances owed for the given period to your family allowance compensation fund . Please note that this requires the consent of both parents.
31. How are family allowances funded?
- If you are a salaried employee, your employer pays contributions, calculated as a percentage of your salary, to the family allowance compensation fund with which it is registered. Valais is the only canton which also requires employees to pay family allowance contributions.
- If you are self-employed, your family allowance is funded by the contributions you pay to your family allowances compensation fund .
- If you are not gainfully employed, the cantons fund these allowances. They can also ask the communes to pay in contributions or to make provisions for contributions from individuals who are not gainfully employed.
Social security contributions
Relations with other social insurance benefits
34. I receive an OASI pension. Am I entitled to family allowances for my child?
35. My partner (mother/father of the child) receives supplementary benefits from the OASI/Invalidity Insurance scheme. Can I claim family allowances for our child?
OASI/Invalidity Insurance/Loss-of-income insurance contributions are not levied on family allowances.
36. Are family allowances paid out when the child is ill or disabled?
No. When one of the parents is in receipt of supplementary OASI/Invalidity Insurance benefits, neither parent is entitled to family allowances.
37. Am I still entitled to family allowances if I have an accident or have a prolonged illness?
Yes. If your child is in education, an education allowance will be paid out until the end of his studies/training, but only up to the age of 25. If your child is not in education, a child allowance will be paid out until he reaches the age of 20. However, if your child receives an invalidity insurance pension, he is not entitled to an education allowance.
38. Am I entitled to family allowances during pregnancy?
If you are unable to work due to ill-health or an accident, you will continue to receive family allowances during the current month and for the three months following the onset of your reduced capacity to work.
Beyond this time, the other parent may ask for the family allowances. If they are not entitled to these benefits, you can still submit an application for family allowances as a person who is not gainfully employed.
You remain entitled to family allowances for the entire duration of your maternity leave, but only for a maximum of 16 weeks.
Individuals employed in the agricultural sector (self-employed farmers and farm employees)
39. What is the family allowance rate for agricultural workers?
The family allowance rate per child is CHF 200 per month and CHF 250 per child per month for an education allowance. An extra CHF 20 is paid to mountain farmers. Agricultural workers also receive a monthly household allowance of CHF 100 per month. Several cantons have introduced supplementary family allowances so that agricultural workers also can claim higher cantonal allowances or a birth allowance.
40. Which laws govern family allowances?
Family allowances are governed in particular by the following laws:
- Federal Act of 24 March 2006 on Family Allowances (FAA) and its Implementing Ordinance of 31 October 2007 (FAO);
- Federal Act of 20 June 1952 on Family Allowances for Agricultural Workers (AFAA) and its Ordinance of 11 November 1952 (AFAO);
- Cantonal legislation on family allowances;
The Federal Act of 25 June 1982 on Compulsory Unemployment Insurance and Benefits on Insolvency (Unemployment Insurance Act; UIA) governs the entitlement of unemployment benefit recipients to a special supplement.
I haven’t found an answer to my question. What should I do now?
If your question is not on the list, we recommend that you check the following pages “Benefits”, “Family Allowances: Types and Rates”, “Children who live abroad” and “Organisation and Funding”, as well as the assorted leaflets on family allowances. If you are still unable to find an answer to your question, you should contact the competent Family Allowances Compensation Fund directly (see Question 21). The cantonal OASI Compensation Offices are also equipped to provide you with general information. If you remain unsatisfied with the answer you have received, you may submit your question directly to us using the following form. We will make every effort to reply promptly to your query.
Last modification 04.02.2019