Social security system

The following information on social security outside of Switzerland provides a general overview. It is no substitute for advice from the foreign insurance institutions, which alone are responsible for providing reliable information on the national insurance system of country in which they operate.

Retirement benefits

All employees in Mexico are legally required to join the national social security agency, Instituto Mexicano de Seguro Social (IMSS). Persons aged 60 and over who have paid contributions to the IMSS for 1,250 weeks (≈ 24 years) are eligible for a retirement pension subject to certain conditions. The Mexican social security system does not offer the same level of benefits as the Swiss system. If you are planning to stay in Mexico for a limited period of time, you will need to take out international health and accident insurance. If you take up permanent residence in Mexico, you can also purchase local health and accident insurance (e.g. premium category). 

Old Age Security (OAS) is a basic monthly pension payable to everyone aged 65 and over, irrespective of the contributions made and the level of income the person used to earn. Anyone who is resident in Canada for a minimum of 10 years can claim an OAS pension. 

Switzerland and Canada also concluded a social security agreement in 1994. OASI/IV contributions paid in Switzerland are credited to the OAS and CPP. 

The Canada Social Transfer (CTS) and Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) are benefits that top up CPP and OAS payments and are comparable to Swiss supplementary benefits to the OASI/IV. The CTS and GIS provide pensioners with a modest minimum income and must be claimed separately. Certain provinces/territories also operate separate schemes (tax relief, housing benefit, etc.).

The picture shows an agave field near Tequila, Mexico.
An agave field located just outside of Tequila, Mexico. © Unsplash

Health and accident insurance

National insurance schemes

The national social security agency Instituto Mexicano de Seguro Social (IMSS) provides health (medical and maternity), disability, death, and old age insurance.

Private insurance

Before leaving Switzerland, you are advised to take out an insurance policy that covers the costs of medical care and pays hospitalisation costs directly. You are strongly advised to wait until you receive unconditional acceptance from the international insurer before cancelling an existing supplementary insurance policy for Switzerland. 

Occupational pension scheme

Occupational accident and invalidity

Employees who register with the IMSS are automatically and mandatorily enrolled in the occupational accident insurance scheme Administradora de Fondos para el Retiro (AFORE) and in the Instituto del Fondo Nacional de la Vivienda para los Trabajadores (INFONAVIT), which is the largest mortgage lender in Latin America. The contributions are paid by the employer. 

Unemployment insurance

There is no unemployment insurance at the federal level. However, Mexico City (a federal autonomous entity) has an unemployment insurance system. 

Swiss old-age and survivors' insurance (OASI) and invalidity insurance (IV)

Payment of ordinary pensions

Ordinary OASI and IV pension payments (except quarter pensions under the IV scheme) for Swiss nationals can be transferred to their place of residence anywhere in the world. The pension is paid out directly by the Swiss compensation office, generally in the currency of the country of residence. You may also choose to have your benefits paid into a personal postal or bank account in Switzerland. Helplessness allowances and supplementary benefits are only paid if you are resident in Switzerland.

Voluntary OASI/IV

Swiss nationals who do not live in an EU/EFTA member state may join the voluntary OASI/IV scheme if they had compulsory insurance cover for at least five consecutive years immediately prior to their departure. Enrolment in the Swiss voluntary OASI/IV system does not exempt you from enrolling in a compulsory insurance system in your country of residence or employment. Employed persons contribute 10.1% of their salary to the pension fund. The minimum annual contribution is CHF 950. The voluntary OASI/IV system offers protection against the risks of old age, disability and death, in particular to persons who are not gainfully employed and who in many cases are not entitled to join a foreign social security scheme.

Special provisions for people employed by a Swiss company

Special provisions apply to persons who live abroad and are employed and on the payroll of an employer based in Switzerland and to their accompanying spouses abroad provided they are not gainfully employed. For further information, please contact your OASI office.

OASI pensioners (1st pillar) and pension fund beneficiaries (2nd pillar)

Make sure that pension payments from your old-age and survivors' insurance (OASI), your pension fund or other insurance policies you have taken out are being properly transferred to you. Whenever you change your address, you must inform the OASI compensation office, your pension fund and insurance provider. The Swiss Compensation Office (SCO) sends all persons who are receiving benefits a certificate of life and marital status form each year. To ensure uninterrupted payment of your pension, please return the form to the SCO within 90 days, duly endorsed by your local authority, or any other officially recognised administration.

Taxation of pension fund income

Switzerland imposes a withholding tax on pension fund income if the beneficiary resides abroad. Double taxation agreements sometimes allow the withholding tax to be waived or to be reclaimed by the pension recipient in their country of residence.

Social assistance for Swiss citizens abroad

In certain circumstances, the FDFA's Social Assistance Service for the Swiss Abroad (SAS) provides social assistance to Swiss nationals living abroad who have run into financial difficulty. If you find yourself in financial distress, you must first make every effort to manage with your own resources. If you really cannot manage on your own, you should try to get financial help from your family or from friends or acquaintances. You should also find out what social assistance or other support you can receive from the authorities in your country of residence. Support from the SAS should be a measure of last resort.


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