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Gainful employment

With a residence permit for studies, EU/EFTA nationals are permitted to engage in gainful employment. Within the framework of a permit for educational purposes, there is a limit of 15 hours of work per week during term time. However, students are entitled to work full time during holidays.

One has to fill out a notification procedure for short-term work on line, at least one day before the activity starts. The State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) offers an online user guide.

Legal basis: Art. 38 ASEO

Until 2012, the OCPM in Geneva tolerated 20 hours of work per week. Since then, the federal authorities have taken action to bring the Canton back into line. This has put those students who lost income, or even their jobs, in a precarious situation. A mobilisation supported by the CUAE took place at the UNIGE, however, it did not succeed. More information in French here:

It is recommended that students at the UNIGE get in touch with the Uni-Emploi Service.

Postgraduate students at a University (e.g. doctoral students) or University of Applied Sciences are subject to a special regime.

Legal basis: Art. 40 ASEO

Students subject to compulsory internships during their studies are also governed by a special regime.

If a European student wishes to engage in gainful employment for more than 15 hours a week, they must request a work permit that then overrides their permit for educational purposes. As a beneficiary of the free circulation of persons, they have the right to such a permit. However beware, there is an exception to this which applies to Croatian nationals who are not yet full beneficiaries of this right.

Social security contributions

All students have to pay social contributions, especially the OASI, on their salary. These contributions are deducted directly by the employer.

Health insurance

See the section on requirements.


Foreign students’ entitlement to unemployment benefits is extremely limited: the right to unemployment benefits is determined by employability, that is, whether or not the student has a right to engage in gainful employment under migration law.

Legal basis: Art. 15 UIA; Bulletin UIA B137 (available at

Income tax

All non-Swiss nationals without a permanent residence permit (C permit) are subject to withholding tax (tax at source). Taxes are deducted directly by the employer at a fixed rate which is generally higher than the tax actually due. This is like the deductions from wages made by the state. Workers must then claim back a reimbursement from the tax authority. Further information is available in French on the website of the Cantonal Tax Office.

Legal basis: Art. 32 DTHA; LISP-GE

Social assistance

In theory, non-Swiss students do not have the right to social assistance benefits in Switzerland. If they did, the requirement for sufficient financial means would no longer be met.

The migration authorities have set up a system of data exchange between themselves and the relevant social assistance and insurance authorities in order to hunt down non-Swiss nationals who fall into need, so that they can expel them.

Note that Article 12 of the Federal Constitution permits all persons to demand assistance from the state when they find themselves in a “condition of hardship”. This means that the state has a positive obligation to provide minimum housing, care and subsistence benefits.

And yet, the fact of demanding social assistance or emergency assistance nonetheless constitutes grounds for revoking a residence permit.

For more on this subject, see: