What happens to my swiss pension when I move?

by | Nov 8, 2018 | 1 comment

What happens to my pension if I leave Switzerland?


For the first time, Switzerland has 2 million non-Swiss residents. That’s nearly a quarter of the nation’s 8.3 million population. You may be one of these non-Swiss residents, a beneficiary of today’s highly mobile and interconnected world. You may plan to stay. But what if you decide to move on to a new opportunity in a different country? It’s likely that much of the nuts and bolts planning for the move will fall to you. And one area that is often overlooked is; what happens to my pension if I decide to leave?
So, let’s say you are leaving. The good news is that we have prepared the following overview to help you.
Basically, you will fall into one of two categories. You are either moving to a European Union / European Free Trade Association (EU/EFTA) country, or will you move to a country not governed by the laws and treaties of the EU/EFTA. It’s easy to find out and a quick internet search will tell you. So, let’s have a look at the implications of both.
Moving to an EU/EFTA country
If you move to a country within the EU/EFTA and take up employment covered by mandatory social security provisions, your obligatory pension benefits will remain in your Swiss vested pension account. You cannot transfer this part of your pension to a foreign pension fund. However, if you made voluntary pension contributions above the obligatory requirement you can access that money freely. But be sure to get advice on tax implications.
Prior to your retirement there are a couple of ways to access to the remaining funds.
If you are looking to purchase a property there is a home-ownership assistance scheme that means you can draw on the vested part of your pension in part or in full, which also applies to properties outside of Switzerland. This advance withdrawal can be used to buy residential property, pay mortgage loans, purchase a share of a property, or to undertake necessary or value adding renovations to the property. But be aware, there are limits to these advance payments, which are decided on a case-by-case basis.
If you become self-employed / freelance within 12 months of leaving Switzerland, you can access funds form your vested pension account under certain conditions. Please note that creating and working for your own company is not considered self-employment.


Moving to a non-EU/EFTA country
If you are moving to a country that is not a member of the EU/EFTA then your entire vested pension benefits can be withdrawn. But you will have to provide evidence that you intend to remain outside of the EU/EFTA-zone permanently.
The final point you need to keep in mind is that all of these withdrawals have tax implications in Switzerland as well as your new home, they need to be examined case-by-case as well.
In short, while it has undoubtedly become easier to change countries, the above is only a high-level overview and there are still myriad administrative and legal obligations that you need to resolve. If you neglect these, they may come back to haunt you wherever you are. After all, we live in an interconnected world.

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