Living and working in Switzerland
Health and other insurances
Health insurance is mandatory in Switzerland and you are required to move to a Swiss insurance within 3 months of your arrival. For exemptions please check the Federal Office of Public Health regulations.
The insurance market is private and there is no state insurance.
Any insurer must accept you irrespective of age and health.
The basic insurance includes treatment, medication and hospitalization in a shared room.
Supplemental coverage can be purchased. You might want to check the small print: e.g. choice of deductible, coverage of pregnancy.
Your premium may vary according to age, insurance model and deductible.
Prices and conditions vary steeply between companies. Note that dental care is not included in the mandatory
health insurance, and is generally very expensive.
World-wide accident insurance is provided by the employer.
For family members without employer, it is common to add it to the health insurance.
Car liability insurance (which covers your third party liability) is compulsory and must be purchased before registering a car. This insurance does not cover damage to the car, but damage to other people and property while driving. Once an insurance has been bought the car registration department will be able to check online that the car is insured. Insurance companies will offer additional car insurances, if required.
In most cases property rental will require a general liability insurance (assurance responsabilité civile, Haftpflichtversicherung). In Switzerland insurance is very common (even when not required for property rental), since it covers liability for damage to any type of property.
A further insurance to consider is a household insurance (assurance ménage, Hausratsversicherung) covering your belongings in the house in case of any property damage (fire, water, etc.). This is optional and requires a careful estimation of the value of your belongings.
Taxes, pensions and social security
Depending on your residence permit, taxes are either deducted from your salary (L, B residence permits) or are payable upon the completion of a tax form (C permit).
In Switzerland, taxes are separately levied by federal, cantonal and municipal authorities. They vary between cantons and municipalities.
Switzerland has double-taxation agreements with many countries. Check which scheme applies to you.
Pensions and social security
The pension and social system in Switzerland is based on a ‘3 Pillar system’ which in part is compulsory (first two pillars) and in part allows you to build up an additional pension (Pillar 3).
The three pillar system
The first pillar is a state pension plan and insurance package that is mandatory for all Swiss residents. Its purpose is to guarantee a minimum existence in old age or in case of disability or unemployment.
The dues are directly deducted from the salary. They include:
- Old age and survivors insurance
- Disability Insurance
- Income compensation allowance
The typically used acronyms are AVS / AHV.
The second pillar is a mandatory pension plan offered by your employer (paid half by the employer and half by the worker). Its purpose is to maintain the employee's living standard after retirement. The dues are directly deducted from the salary.
The pillar 2 includes:
- Federally regulated occupational pension plan
- Accident insurance
Pillar three is a non-compulsory private pension plan. It allows to save or invest an annual lump sum , tax exempt, which is released upon retirement. Some of this money might be available for withdrawal if needed before retirement, or blocked until retirement. This plan generally doubles as a life insurance.
- Pillar 1
If you have children you are eligible for allowances both from the canton and your employer. At the University of Fribourg you can check with your departmental secretary how to apply for these. Alternatively, contact Human Resources directly.
Every day life
Opening a Swiss bank account is necessary to receive your salary. Opening a bank account will typically be straight forward, but may pose some challenges for certain countries of origin.
To open a bank account you will need to bring your residence permit. In some cases, presenting a work contract might be sufficient.
The Canton of Fribourg and the University of Fribourg are bilingual, French and German.
Depending on the department, the working language is French, German or English, or a mix of these.
The University of Fribourg offers language courses to staff and students. In addition, commercial language courses are offered in Fribourg and other Swiss cities.
Public transport in Switzerland is reliable and covers all of Switzerland.
For Swiss residents, discounts are available:
- Purchase of a "Half Fare Card", which reduces the fare of practically all trains, buses, boats, etc. by 1/2, for an annual cost of CHF 180 (2018).
- For regular use of public transport over large distances, you may consider the purchase of a general network subscription (GA) for the unlimited use of public transport.
- Most local municipalities sell day tickets valid across Switzerland at discounted prices (ca. CHF 40).
Airports: Zurich, Geneva and Basel are equidistant from Fribourg (1.5 h by public transport).
- Upon immigration, you will have to exchange your driver's license for a Swiss one at the local office of transport. For Fribourg: office of transport. Depending on the country the license was issued, you might be required to pass a test. Drivers with a license from EU/EFTA countries are exempt from the test but also they need to exchange their driver's license (within a year).
- If you import you own car (owned 6 months or more before change of residence), you will have to register it with local office of transport.
- In Switzerland there are no tolls. However, driving on motorways requires the purchase of a sticker ("vignette", CHF 40), which is available at gas stations and post offices.
- As a Swiss resident, you are forbidden to drive a car with a non-Swiss registration within Switzerland.
Emergency Telephone Numbers
- 112 Main emergency number
- 117 Police
- 118 Fire service
- 144 Ambulance
- 1414 Helicopter rescue (Rega)