The Swiss social security number (AHV): A guide for international residents and workers

The Swiss social security number (AHV): A guide for international residents and workers

by Leona Quigley

Updated August 10, 2023

Switzerland’s robust and well-established social security system ensures a high quality of life and provides reassuring stability, whether you’ve lived in the country all your life or recently settled there. But in order to benefit from the ​​social security and educational benefits Switzerland has to offer its residents, you must have a Swiss social security number. Known as the Alters- und Hinterlassenenversicherungsnummer (AHV) — meaning Old Age and Survivors’ Insurance Number (OASI) — it is an essential piece of documentation to have when living in Switzerland.

The Swiss AHV number is widely used as a personal identification number (PIN). It is also known as the AVS number (Assurance vieillesse et survivants) in the French and Italian-speaking regions. If you’re new to the Swiss social security system, here is everything you need to know about the AHV number and the purposes it serves in Switzerland.

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What is the AHV number used for in Switzerland?

The Swiss social security system assigns a unique identifier, known as the AHV number, to registered individuals. This number is used for old-age and survivors’ insurance, widows’ and orphans’ pensions, disability insurance, and other social security benefits. As noted above, it’s also occasionally used as a personal identification number in other areas of public administrative work. 

Anyone who holds Swiss citizenship or a Swiss residence permit can receive welfare services in Switzerland, so the AHV number is very important.

The AHV number consists of 13 digits and follows a specific format, beginning with the Swiss country code (756) and ending with a unique, randomly generated sequence that remains unchanged throughout a person’s lifetime. You will find it written on your health insurance card or personal insurance certificate. Swiss data protection laws are strict and designed to ensure anonymity.

How to get a Swiss social security number

You must be a resident of Switzerland to get an AHV number. Foreign nationals may need to have a work permit or residence permit in order to apply for one. Every person residing in Switzerland is required to take out basic compulsory health insurance.

When you successfully apply for health insurance, you will receive your AHV number. Your health insurance may be provided by your employer, in which case your employer will also provide an AHV number to you.

Security matters

For peace of mind, it is best to understand the services and provisions you are entitled to. The Swiss social security number, the AHV, is an important element of the robust social safety net that is available for each and every resident living and working in Switzerland.

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Leona Quigley

Leona has her roots in the South of Ireland, where she grew up on her family farm. She went on to study World Politics at Leiden University College, The Hague and then completed her MPhil in International History at Trinity College Dublin. Leona has now settled in Berlin, having fallen in love with the city. In her spare time she is working on perfecting her German in anticipation of her doctoral studies, during which she plans to study modern German social history. Her hobbies include bouldering, dancing and reading a healthy mix of history books and corny fantasy fiction. You can find more info about her on LinkedIn.

Leona Quigley
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