Unemployment benefits in Switzerland: A guide

Unemployment benefits in Switzerland: A guide

by Sandra Köktaş

Updated August 30, 2023

Even if you’re not a Swiss citizen, you may be eligible to receive unemployment benefits in Switzerland. If you meet the requirements, you can generally receive 70% of your last insured salary. Also, you do not have to fear that your residence permit will be revoked if you lose your job — at least not immediately. If it expires during your unemployment, you can apply for an extension under certain circumstances. 

In this guide, we’ll help you figure out whether you are entitled to receive unemployment benefits in Switzerland. We’ll also review the benefits available to unemployed people in Switzerland, how to apply for them and how to avoid mistakes that could put your benefits at risk.

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Am I eligible for unemployment benefits in Switzerland?

Swiss residents who have been employed for at least 12 months in the last two years and have earned at least 500 Swiss francs per month are eligible for unemployment benefits.

The benefits are paid out by unemployment insurance, to which every employee in Switzerland contributes 2% of their monthly salary. Self-employed workers, pensioners and individuals under the age of 15 are not entitled to unemployment benefits. To receive unemployment benefits, you must be laid off legally. 

Can foreigners collect unemployment benefits in Switzerland?

As a foreigner working in Switzerland, you can receive unemployment benefits as long as you have a settlement permit (C permit) or a residence permit (B permit). The short-stay L permit allows you to stay for up to six months; you can use this period to look for work, but you are not eligible for unemployment benefits with an L permit.

If you face unemployment shortly after moving to Switzerland, the time you were employed in an EU/EFTA country should count toward the contribution period for EU/EFTA citizens. If you live in Switzerland and work across the border, your contribution period counts even if you did not last work in Switzerland. For citizens of non-EU/EFTA countries who are legal residents in Switzerland, residency periods outside Switzerland lasting longer than one year will be taken into consideration.

Good to know: You won’t lose your residence permit when you lose your job — at least not right away. C permits can be renewed while receiving unemployment benefits. EU/EFTA citizens can also renew their B permit for one more year, and EU/EFTA citizens with an L permit can renew their permit up to the date when their unemployment insurance runs out. Non-EU/EFTA citizens cannot renew B or L permits until and unless they find a new means of employment.

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Benefits available to unemployed people in Switzerland

The unemployment insurance fund (UIF) pays a daily allowance for each month of unemployment, with funds typically received in the course of the following month. You will typically be paid 70% of the average salary you received in the past six or twelve months prior to unemployment (depending on your eligibility), up to a maximum salary of 148,200 Swiss francs per year. 

If you have dependents younger than 25, a previous salary of less than 3,797 francs a month, or draw a disability allowance of at least 40 %, you will receive 80% of your last average salary. However, you will only receive unemployment benefits for a certain time. This period can range between 200 days and two years, depending on how long you have worked, your age and your personal circumstances. If you’re still unemployed after this period, you may be able to fall back on the Swiss welfare system.

Besides the daily allowances, you can benefit from other services of the regional unemployment office (RAV/ORP/URC), such as courses and help in finding a new job.

How to apply for unemployment benefits in Switzerland

Register as unemployed as soon as possible, because claims which are not submitted within three months will expire. You can sign up online or go to the office of the regional employment center (RAV). Within 15 days, you will be invited to a meeting at the RAV, where you will be guided through the next steps. Do an internet search on where to find the nearest office in your canton.

Be prepared to prove your claim by handing in all necessary documents, such as the form “Application for unemployment benefit”, employer certificates from the last two years and the form “PD U1” if you have come to Switzerland from an EU/EFTA country. The form “Details of the insured person” and other information must be submitted on a monthly basis. 

You will also have to attend regular meetings with your unemployment counselor and prove that you are continuously sending out as many applications as agreed upon. You can also not refuse to participate in any labor market program or turn down a suitable job. Otherwise, the counselor can dock your daily allowances or even press criminal charges. Note that most of the communication will be in the language predominantly spoken in your canton — one more good reason to start studying!

The Swiss system may seem a bit confusing or even overwhelming, but it is designed to bring people back into employment as soon as possible. The comparatively low unemployment rate in Switzerland seems to attest to its success.

Receiving unemployment benefits in Switzerland as a foreigner

If you meet the requirements, such as a C or B permit and contributions to the system for at least 12 months in the last two years as an employee, you will generally get paid 70% of your average last insured salary. Your residency won’t be affected by unemployment in Switzerland, and in many cases, you can even renew an expiring permit.

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Sandra Köktas

Sandra lives in Istanbul, together with her kids, cat and dog. As a historian she thrives exploring this ancient city with her two- and four-legged loved ones. Together, they also love to go on adventures through all of Turkey and its neighboring countries. If she’s not on the road, Sandra is busy putting her experiences into writing as a freelance copywriter for the travel industry and everything related to language, culture and family. Her particular interest lies in providing information on animal welfare with her website.

Sandra Köktas
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