Living abroad for an extended period
Whether as an au pair, digital nomad, student on an exchange programme or attending a language course: there are many ways of combining work and studies with a lengthy stay abroad. Our overview reveals what you need to think about beforehand.
An au pair's main task is to take care of the host family's children. They are normally also expected to help with the housework. An au pair stay usually lasts for one year.
Spending a year at a US high school is just one example of an international student exchange programme. The exchange year gives young adults the chance to explore foreign countries, learn a language and meet new people, while also finding out more about themselves.
Students may have the opportunity to complete all or part of their basic or advanced studies at a university or university of applied sciences abroad. swissuniversities provides detailed information about opportunities and scholarships for studying abroad.
Digital nomads are employees, freelancers or entrepreneurs who mainly work using digital technology. This allows them to work remotely, from anywhere in the world.
When employees are temporarily assigned to duties in another country by their employer, this is referred to as a secondment or posting.
Checklist: what cover do I need?
Anything can happen anywhere – and when it does, you'll be glad you have the right insurance. That's why you shouldn't leave Switzerland without sufficient insurance cover. The following types of insurance are important if going to stay abroad temporarily – whether for three weeks, several months or even years:
- Cover for an emergency abroad, with guaranteed repatriation by ambulance or plane.
- Travel insurance that covers the cost of cancelling attendance at a language course or summer school.
- Accident and breakdown cover note for your car.
- Legal expenses insurance for vehicle and persons.
- Luggage and theft insurance.
Plan early & cut costs
If planning to stay abroad for longer, check your insurance cover in good time in case it needs adjusting. It's worth doing: taking out insurance in the country in question, through a language school for instance, is often expensive and unnecessary.
What about your health insurance?
If planning a lengthy stay abroad, you should pay special attention to your general health insurance. The following points are important and should be taken care of before setting off on your journey. Ask your health insurer:
Cover: check what cover you have abroad and for accidents under your health insurance.
Confirmation: many schools require confirmation of insurance. You can request it from us.
European Health Insurance Card: you should always have your European Health Insurance Card with you when spending time abroad.
International: we can issue confirmation of insurance in English for visa purposes and for countries that require such proof. Moreover, the European Health Insurance Card can come in handy even when travelling outside Europe.
We'll be pleased to give you advice and information about all aspects of your insurance cover when planning a stay abroad.
To deregister or not?
The basic rule is: if you're not giving up your Swiss residence status and plan to come back every now and then, you should enquire at your local residents' registration office about the notification requirements. But don't leave it too late. When do you have to deregister? If going abroad for more than a year, giving up your accommodation and not planning to return to Switzerland in the foreseeable future, you must notify the authorities where you live of your departure.
Good to know: the rules on deregistering with the residents' registration office vary from canton to canton.
Old Age and Survivors’ Insurance
Whether going abroad to learn a language, work or travel the globe – you remain subject to mandatory insurance as long as your official place of residence is still in Switzerland. If transferring your residence abroad and deregistering, you will generally no longer be insured under Old Age and Survivors' Insurance / Disability Insurance (AHV / IV). What steps you need to take depends mainly on the duration and purpose of your stay abroad – the competent cantonal compensation fund can advise you on this.
Digital nomads – a special case
Any freelancers or entrepreneurs travelling abroad to work on a project usually have to take care of their pension planning, insurance and taxes themselves. They might even be required to deregister. Whatever the case, digital nomads will find it worth their while to seek specific advice before setting off on their journey.
Entry and stay
Whether you're heading for the USA, Asia, South America or somewhere completely different: if planning an extended stay abroad – generally for more than three months – you should familiarise yourself with the individual rules on entry, stay, visas and local reporting requirements. Information on entering the country and staying there can be obtained from a travel agency or the relevant embassy in Switzerland. For example, the FDFA's travel advice is updated regularly to reflect the current situation, including the security situation, in the country in question.