Five things French residents who work in Switzerland should know
Nov 25, 2020
Many people who work in Switzerland choose to live in the eastern parts of France, and that number is at a record high. If you're one of the frontaliers, here is some important cross border information.
The French dwellers tend to work in the French-speaking canton of Geneva, but some are employed in other cantons as well.
Whatever canton you work in, there are many modalities you have to familiarise yourself with.
1: Health insurance
All frontaliers must be insured against illness in Switzerland from the first day of their employment. If you are a EU/EFTA national, you have a choice between the Swiss system or the coverage in your country of residence. This is called “right of option”. If you don’t want to be insured in Switzerland, you must submit a request for exemption to the health insurance services of the canton where you work within three months. After this deadline, the Swiss authorities will automatically sign you up for compulsory insurance coverage, choosing a carrier on your behalf. If you are a French cross-border worker with Swiss insurance exemption, you must complete the form Choix du système d'assurance-maladie of the French Caisse primaire d'assurance-maladie (CPAM), and return it within three months to the relevant authority in the canton in which you work. G permit holders who are not EU/EFTA nationals don’t have the ‘right of option’. They must be covered by a Swiss insurance. Also, Swiss employers must take out accident insurance for their employees. For those who work less than eight hours a week, the insurance will cover workplace accidents only. Employees who work more than eight hours weekly will have insurance against non-occupational accidents as well - for instance, if something happens on the way to or from work.
2. Unemployment benefits
Contributions for unemployment benefits are automatically deducted from your salary. If you lose your job in Switzerland because your employer discontinued your contract, you would have to claim benefits from the unemployment office in your country of residence. In such a case, request a PD U1 form from the Swiss unemployment office, as well an international employment certificate from your former Swiss employer. In case of ‘partial unemployment’, that is, if your work hours are reduced, or if the company you work for temporarily or definitely ceases its activities, then you are entitled to Swiss benefits.
Taxation is a complicated matter for everyone, but even more so for cross-border workers. Normally, you pay Swiss taxes automatically, because your Swiss employer deducts them from your monthly salary. Switzerland has double-taxation agreements with over 80 countries, including France. This means that your Swiss taxes are deducted from your tax liability in your country of residence. You have to provide your Swiss salary statements to tax authorities in your home country as proof of tax payment. But in France, things are a bit different. If you work in cantons other than Geneva, then your taxes are collected by French authorities. However, if your place of employment is Geneva, you pay taxes in Switzerland.
4. Bank accounts
Your Swiss employers will expect you to have a bank account in Switzerland into which they can deposit your salary directly. However, some banks don’t accept customers who have no permanent residence in Switzerland. Others will accept cross-border workers but will charge them additional fees, which can amount to several hundred francs a year. Keep in mind that fees vary from one bank to another, so it is best to check. Some financial institutions, like Banque Cantonale Vaudoise and Valiant Bank, do offer free accounts. UBS offers them to border workers who live in Germany, France, Italy or Austria, if at least 500 francs per month is deposited into the account. Your salary will be paid in Swiss francs, but you can withdraw euros at most Bancomats in Switzerland free of charge.
You can use a private car registered in an EU country to commute to and from your Swiss workplace, but you cannot use your vehicle for work in Switzerland - such as, for instance, delivering goods or running errands for your employer. If you remain in Switzerland during the work week and go home only on weekends, you must obtain a permit for your car from the Swiss customs office. And if you drive your employer’s car registered in Switzerland, you can only use it to commute to and from work, not for any private business. Also remember that you need a "motorway sticker" or "vignette" to drive in Switzerland. It is renewable every year and costs 40 francs.