Registered address and insurance
A distinction must be made between the address that is provided to the administrative authorities and the civil, fiscal and other addresses.
Administrative address: The accommodation provider must inform the migration authorities of the presence of a non-Swiss person on their premises. (Art. 16 FNIA). This obligation applies both to agencies and private individuals in cases of sublets.
Civil address: A person residing in Switzerland temporarily for educational purposes does not in theory have a civil address (domicile) in Switzerland. Therefore, they do not have to pay OASI (Swiss Social Security Fund) contributions if they don’t work (see exception for work), although they are required to have health insurance.
Legal basis: Art. 23 CC; Art. 1a para. 1 let. a OASIA
Health insurance is a particular issue to be aware of: foreign students have to be insured in Switzerland. Health insurance is very expensive. However, it is possible to obtain an exemption to this requirement by submitting a request.
It is recommended that students at the UNIGE first contact the University’s Financial Service, the OCAS (Cantonal Office of Social Insurance) or even the Health Insurance Service (SAM, the webiste is only available in French).
See also the website of the Health Insurance Service of the Canton of Geneva(in French).
The website of the Federal Office of Public Health also provides information.
Legal basis: Art. 3 HIA and 1 HIO. Art. 2 HIO para. 4 and 6 are the legal bases for requesting exemptions
Students are not allowed to work for the first six months after they begin their studies.
After this period, the educational institution still needs to confirm that such work will not interfere with the planned course of study. Furthermore, the employer must submit an application and respect the usual pay conditions for the sector.
Finally, there is a limit of 15 hours of work per week during term time. However, students are entitled to work full time during holidays.
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 here: www.cuae.ch.
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; SEM I Provisions 4.4.5 and 5.1.6
Students subject to compulsory internships during their studies are also governed by a special regime.
Legal basis: Art. 39 ASEO
Social security contributions
All students have to pay social contributions, especially the OASI, on their salary. This brochure explains how one can get reimbursed for these contributions when leaving Switzerland.
Legal basis: Art. 1a para. 1 let. b OASIA
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 http://www.espace-emploi.ch)
All non-Swiss nationals without a permanent residence settlement 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
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. On this subject, see: Art. 82 para. 5 of the ASEO.
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.
Legal basis: Art. 12 Cst and Art. 62 para. 1 let. e FNIA