2. Agreements with individual countries
Switzerland has concluded bilateral social security agreements with various countries outside the EU and EFTA. These agreements fall into two categories: “full” and “secondment” agreements. The first coordinate social security benefits, while the second exclusively govern the posting of workers to another contracting State and the reimbursement of contributions.
List of agreements: International agreements (see below)
Some former bilateral agreements with the EU and EFTA States continue to apply to third-country nationals who do not fall within the personal scope of the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons concluded with the EU or the EFTA Convention.
2.1 Full agreements
All social security agreements cover old-age insurance (Switzerland: OASI/IV). Most cover accident insurance, a limited number cover health insurance, as well as family allowances (Switzerland: with the exception of its agreement with Liechtenstein, these agreements only cover the federal family allowances scheme for agricultural workers). Unemployment insurance is covered by separate agreements concluded between Switzerland and neighbouring States. More information on these agreements can be obtained from the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs.
All agreements cover nationals from the contracting States, as well as refugees and stateless persons. Certain specific provisions (e.g. posted workers, mutual health insurance benefits assistance in relation to Germany, and regulations on accident insurance) also cover third-country nationals.
Equal treatment principle
The fundamental principle governing all these agreements is that of equal treatment. Anyone residing or working in a contracting State should be subject to the same obligations and enjoy the same benefits under Swiss legislation as Swiss nationals do, and vice versa.
The agreements determine in which country individuals must pay their social security contributions. The purpose is to prevent a situation whereby a person who lives in one State but works in another State or in both States must pay contributions on the same income in both states. All of these agreements are based on the place-of-employment principle. Special rules, however, apply to certain types of worker, e.g. workers posted temporarily by their Swiss employer to another state (cf. Posting fact sheet (excl. EU/EFTA)).
Special provisions on specific types of social security benefits
These agreements aim to ensure that individuals who have paid social security contributions receive the benefits to which they are entitled should an insured event occurs.
a. Old-age and survivors’ insurance
When a contracting State makes the granting of an old-age and survivors‘ pension conditional on a minimum insurance period of several years, Swiss OASI contribution periods are also included in the calculation of the insurance period. This means that Swiss nationals who only recently began working in the other contracting State can also benefit from foreign pensions. Likewise, nationals of that contracting State may claim Swiss OASI pensions if they complete the Swiss minimum insurance period of one year and satisfy all other eligibility criteria.
b. Invalidity insurance
There are two types of invalidity insurance agreements. The first operates according to the pro-rata principle, i.e. an individual who has accumulated periods of insurance in both contracting States receives a partial pension from each State insofar as they satisfy all other requirements. The second operates according to the risk principle, i.e. an individual receives a pension from the contracting State where they were insured prior to the onset of invalidity. If the invalidity occurred in Switzerland, the calculation of the Swiss invalidity pension is based on the periods of insurance met in both Switzerland and the other contracting State. If the invalidity occurred in the other contracting State, the calculation of the pension granted by that country is likewise based on the periods of insurance completed in Switzerland too. Special rules apply to individuals who were paying social security contributions in a third State when the invalidity occurred. The agreements guarantee that pensions acquired in one country can be paid out in another country (partner States and, in most cases, third States).
c. Health insurance
Agreements on health insurance take into account the periods of insurance accumulated in both contracting states. Their aim is to facilitate access to the health insurance scheme and entitlement to sickness benefits. In Switzerland, this applies exclusively to daily allowance insurance, as there are no restrictions on access to the national health insurance scheme. Only the agreement with Germany sets out comprehensive health insurance regulations, which also cover accident and mutual health insurance benefits assistance in both countries. Third-State nationals are also covered by these regulations.
d. Accident insurance
Accident insurance agreements govern mutual benefits assistance. For example, someone who is insured in Switzerland but suffers an accident abroad is treated in the given country as if they had been insured there. The costs are later billed to the accident victim’s insurance provider. Some of these agreements also contain special provisions on the disbursement of benefits e.g. when a person suffers from an occupational illness as the result of exposure to harmful material while working in both countries.
e. Family allowances
As a general rule, agreements apply exclusively to Swiss family allowances granted to workers in the agricultural sector, as these are subject to federal legislation. In the other contracting State, the regulations not only cover allowances both for agricultural workers and for other groups of beneficiaries. The agreements entitle a person who is gainfully employed in one country to family allowances in that country even if their child resides in another country.
Entitlement to cantonal family allowances is governed exclusively by cantonal legislation.
2.2 Posting agreements
Secondment agreements determine the national legislation to which the posted worker is subject. The purpose of these agreements is to ensure that an individual who is posted to a contracting State by an employer headquartered in the other contracting State pays social security contributions in only one of the two contracting States (cf. Posting fact sheet (excl. EU/EFTA)).
All secondment agreements cover old-age insurance (Switzerland: OASI/IV). In certain cases, the agreement may also cover accident and health insurance. As a result, posted workers may, under certain circumstances, be obliged to pay contributions in both countries for certain types of insurance (e.g. accident and health insurance).
Secondment agreements apply to all employees, regardless of their nationality, who are temporarily posted to one contracting State by an employer who is headquartered in the other contracting State.