Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

On the shores of Lake Geneva, between the Jura mountains and the Alps, the canton of Vaud is the largest French-speaking region in Switzerland, with more than 800,000 residents living in 309 municipalities, divided into 10 districts (as of 31.12.2018). At the political level, the executive body is called the State Council (which has 7 seats) and the legislative authority is called the Grand Council (150 seats). You can find more information on the official State of Vaud website as well as on the canton’s promotional site.

Useful contacts for when you arrive

The canton of Vaud has a rich associative life. A list of local associations is usually available from the residents’ registration office in your municipality. The cantonal office for the integration of foreigners and the prevention of racism (BCI) maintains a list of migrant organisations in the canton, available on the Leisure and Citizenship page or on the State of Vaud website.
The Centre Social Protestant (CSP) (page in French) operates a legal advice service that is open to everyone for all questions regarding legal matters.
The CSP also offers a service aimed at immigrants. The Migration Advice Information Office (page in French) is available to answer any questions on migration, including residence permits, naturalisation, social insurance, binational marriage, and returning to your country of origin.
Several organisations offer support with administrative processes. Your Regional Social Centre (CSR) will be able to give you advice and direct you to the nearest one. Click here to find your region’s CSR (in French).
The canton of Vaud has put in place measures to help answer questions and teach better budget management, including a telephone hotline and free courses. Find out more information on financial difficulty on the official State of Vaud’s website (in French).
Below are some key emergency numbers:
Fire: 118
Police: 117
Ambulance: 144
Poison centre: 145
REGA: 1414
Domestic violence: 021 620 76 76
Directory enquiries: 1811 or 1818 or 1850
For a more complete list, you can consult the Swiss authorities’ website.

Practical life

The Swiss public transport network is extensive and well developed. Mobilis (page in French) covers the entire canton of Vaud’s rail, bus and metro networks, with one ticket valid for all services. The Swiss national rail network is managed by Swiss Federal Railways (SBB).
You can find more details on public transport in Vaud on the Practical life page.

Residence requirements

In general, to stay in Switzerland, you must have the minimum level of resources necessary to meet your needs: this can be in the form of a salary, funds, or financial resources from relatives. The rules that apply when entering Switzerland are different for citizens of countries of the European Union (EU) or of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA – Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland) compared to citizens of other countries. If you are a citizen of an EU or EFTA country and have a valid recognised identity document, you do not need a visa to enter Switzerland.

If you do not have Swiss nationality or nationality of an EU or EFTA country, the requirements for entering Switzerland vary depending on the reason for your stay (tourism, visiting, studying, family reunion, etc.) and its duration. If you wish to stay as a tourist, contact the relevant embassy, which will have jurisdiction on such matters. Tourists from countries that are not members of the EU or the EFTA may also be exempt from visa requirements.

Visit the SEM website and the State of Vaud website (in French) to find out more.

You can also check if you need a visa and what travel documents are recognised for entry into Switzerland.
You can test your eligibility by taking this anonymous questionnaire (in French). It provides information on the steps you will need to take and the list of documents you will need to provide based on your nationality, the purpose of your visit and your family situation.

Important: the result of this questionnaire is indicative only and does not constitute a formal decision (positive or negative).
There are several procedures that you must follow soon after your arrival in the canton of Vaud. A checklist is provided on the Your arrival page.
There are six categories of residence permits in Switzerland: L, B, C, N, F and G. They are all listed and explained on the Residence permit page.
The Service d’Aide Juridique aux Exilié-e-s (SAJE), is a legal aid service for exiles available to inform, guide and defend asylum seekers who have been provisionally admitted as well as those who had their application rejected in the canton of Vaud.

The asylum process involves a number of steps, which are explained on the Swiss Refugee Council’s website. Several guides offering information on your rights, on decisions following the completion of the asylum procedure, and on appeals are also available in several languages on their site.
A person from another country must fulfil a number of conditions in order to be able to work in Switzerland. Different rules apply to citizens of member countries of the European Union (EU) and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and those of other countries (third countries).

Citizens of EU or EFTA countries do not need a residence permit if the length of the work contract is less than three months. If the duration of the contract is longer, they must request a residence permit (permit L or B depending on the length of the contract). Special provisions apply to Croatian citizens.

Citizens of third countries (non-members of the EU/EFTA) must always request a residence permit. In general, only qualified workers are admitted. The employer must prove that there are no suitable Swiss or EU/EFTA candidates that can be recruited to fill the position. Each year, the federal government sets the maximum number of permits that can be issued. You can find more information on the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) website.

In general, to stay in Switzerland, you must have the minimum level of resources necessary to meet your needs: this can be in the form of a salary, funds, or financial resources from relatives.

Forms on entering the canton of Vaud can be found on the State of Vaud’s website (in French).
In general, to stay in Switzerland, you must have the minimum level of resources necessary to meet your needs: this can be in the form of a salary, funds, or financial resources from relatives. The distinction between citizens of the European Union (EU) and/or of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and citizens of third countries applies. You will also need sufficient financial resources to meet your needs in Switzerland, health insurance and accident insurance to cover risks, a certificate of enrolment from a Swiss educational institution recognised by the migration authority and a residence permit. The residence permit issued is valid for the duration of the course if the course duration is less than one year, or for one year with an annual renewal process until the end of the student’s studies. A student residence permit limits your rights to engage in gainful employment. You can find the necessary forms on the canton of Vaud website (in French).

Accommodation

In Switzerland, most people live in a rented apartment. In the canton of Vaud, finding accommodation is not always easy and can take some time. The housing market is increasingly present online and most housing sites offer search alerts. You can find a wide range of information on what steps you need to take to find accommodation on the Accommodation page.
The Fondation Maisons pour Etudiants - Lausanne (FMEL) offers rooms in student houses and residences. These are available for students who are enrolled at the University of Lausanne or at the Ecole Polytechnique de Lausanne (EPFL). In the event of very high demand, students must first register on the FMEL website, which will then direct them to any available rooms. The Haute Ecole Spécialisée de Suisse occidentale (HES-SO) offers a number of student accommodation sites on their website in the Accommodation section (in French).
Some municipalities in the canton of Vaud offer subsidised accommodation aimed at tenants of modest financial means. You can find the contact details for the relevant department here (in French).
To make sure you don’t forget anything when moving home, the Swiss authorities have created an online checklist that includes all the key steps involved in your move.

When moving into a new home, it is strongly recommended that you take out home insurance and civil liability insurance. For some rental contracts, this is even required. These insurance policies cover certain damage (e.g. damage to floors caused by an overflowing bath or a cracked sink). In the canton of Vaud, you must also take out a fire insurance policy from the canton of Vaud institution for insurance against fire and natural disasters (ECA) (in French).
Yes, you must register with your municipality’s resident registration office within eight days of moving in. You can find information on accommodation and the contact details for your municipality’s resident registration office on the Accommodation page.
There are a range of resources available if you experience problems with your accommodation. You can find this information on the Accommodation page.
It is important to maintain good relations with your neighbours, especially in rental buildings with multiple apartments. You can find a list of rules to follow on the Accommodation page.

For more information about the rules for being a good neighbour, you can visit the Swiss authorities’ website.
Most municipalities in the canton of Vaud have a “bag tax” system. Residents must buy specific taxed rubbish bags in shops and are asked to sort their rubbish to protect the environment. You can find more information on waste sorting on the Accommodation page.

To help avoid making mistakes when dealing with your waste and to find your closest waste disposal facilities, the canton of Vaud has created a waste management guide, available here (in French).

French lessons

A number of organisations offer French courses in the canton of Vaud. You can find a list of the courses available on the French courses page.
In addition to formal French lessons, there are a range of social activities designed to help people learn French – often for free – in the canton of Vaud. These activities, as well as the organisers’ contact details, are listed in the BCI’s online catalogue (in French) in the “Cours de français” (“French lessons”) section.

Health

In the event of a life-threatening emergency, go to the closest hospital or call 144. In the event of illness, a moderately serious accident, or psychological distress, call your doctor or your pharmacist. In the event that you cannot contact them or do not have a doctor, contact the 24-hour doctors’ hotline on 0848 133 133.

You can find more information on the Health page.
In Switzerland, citizens generally have a family doctor. The family doctor is a general practitioner, who can then refer you to a specialist as required. You can find practical information on finding a doctor on the Health page.
Doctors and their patients are in frequent contact, but the rules that govern this contact are often poorly understood. For this reason, the canton of Vaud has created a brochure entitled “L’essentiel sur les droits des patients” (“Patients’ rights: the essentials”), available here (in French).
Appartenances (page in French) is an organisation that offers psychotherapy consultations for migrants in several languages. These are aimed at people who are suffering from psychological distress as a result of migration and/or of having experienced war, torture or other forms of mass violence.
For a consultation and advice on sexuality, contraception, termination of unwanted pregnancies, HIV/AIDS and STI (sexually transmitted infection) testing, and homosexuality, you can contact the Profa Foundation’s Sexual Health Consultation (page in French).
Victims of domestic violence can receive assistance in accordance with the Federal Law on Assistance to Crime Victims. Find more information about domestic violence on the Health page.
Forced marriage is defined as a marriage in which one of the spouses is not able to object to the marriage. Forced marriage can take a wide range of forms, both in terms of the way in which it takes place and in terms of those involved. The cantonal office for the integration of foreigners and the prevention of racism (BCI) (page in French) offers free consultations for anyone who has been a victim of or has witnessed a forced marriage.
The Point d’Eau Lausanne Foundation (page in French) works to support people living in poverty or vulnerable situations, regardless of age, nationality, religion, sex, or legal status in Switzerland. It offers hygiene, health and guidance services as well as social advice.

Nursery and the school system

If you have young children, you can contact a nursery/childcare centre or a childminder who comes to your home to look after your children while you are at work. You can find the necessary information on the Children > Preschool page.
To make it easier for families to access information on health, social matters, day care, support for parents and financial assistance, the canton of Vaud has published an address book. This “parents’ address book” can be viewed and downloaded on the State of Vaud website (in French).

Information on how the system works and the cost of childcare places is available on the website of the Fondation pour l’accueil de jour des enfants (FAJE) (in French).
The education system in the canton of Vaud is divided into two stages: Compulsory education, which includes children aged about 4 to 15 years, and post-compulsory education, which includes adolescents aged about 16 to 19 years. School attendance is mandatory and lasts for 11 years, from the age of 4. All children, regardless of their residency status, are admitted to state schools in the canton of Vaud, which are free. During and between these two stages, it is possible to change tracks via bridging stages. You can find details on the school system on the Children page.
When you arrive, if you have school-aged children, you should register them at your nearest school as soon as possible. You can find all the practical details on the Children > Compulsory and extracurricular school page.
A number of organisations offer free activities to help your child learn French before they begin school. By taking part (these activities require parents to be present), you will also be able to find out information about everyday life from the activity leaders.

All of these activities are listed in the cantonal office for the integration of foreigners and the prevention of racism (BCI)’s catalogue (in French) under the “Activités d’intégration préscolaire” (“preschool integration activities”) section.
Children who speak languages that are not one of a country’s official languages often face additional difficulties at school, given that the teaching language is different from their mother tongue. Depending on their prior knowledge of French, most schools offer additional classes. You can find all the practical details on the Children > Compulsory and extracurricular school page.

The Swiss authorities have created a web page that lists information and local services to help integrate children who speak other languages.
Yes. Undocumented children in Switzerland can be registered with the nearest school without any risk of being reported and receive the same education as other children. For more information, contact the Fraternité du Centre social protestant (CSP)’s Migration Advice Information Office (page in French).
After school, students have the opportunity to complete their homework, supervised or assisted by an adult. These activities offer a favourable learning environment and are generally free. In addition, to prevent children whose parents work from being left on their own after school and during school holidays, many municipalities have set up extracurricular activity centres. Contact your child’s school for more information. The Association vaudoise des parents d’élèves (APE) (page in French) is an organisation that provides advice and support to parents of school pupils. You can also contact them if you have questions about schools in Vaud, after-school care, supervised homework and transport.

In addition, the Centre vaudois d’aide à la jeunesse (CVAJ)is an organisation that offers inexpensive or even free educational support for all school pupils in the canton of Vaud.
Consulates and parent groups offer language and culture of origin (LCO) courses for children of migrants. There is no list of LCO courses, but your municipality or schools in your municipality will be able to provide you with the necessary information on the LCO courses closest to you.

The cantonal office for the integration of foreigners and the prevention of racism (BCI) maintains a non-exhaustive list, available at the end of its brochure on migrant organisations in the canton of Vaud. This list can be viewed on the Leisure and Citizenship page or downloaded from the State of Vaud website (in French).

Further education and training

At the end of compulsory education, students have the option to continue their learning by beginning an apprenticeship or studying at a business school, upper secondary specialised school or baccalaureate school. You can find all the details on the post-compulsory education system within the canton on our Children > After compulsory school page.
When you arrive in Switzerland, to work in certain professions or to begin an educational programme, you may be required to have your foreign qualifications recognised or have your prior experience validated. You can find information on this on the Work page.
Switzerland has concluded intern exchange agreements with a number of countries. This allows young professionals who wish to develop their professional and language skills in Switzerland to receive a work permit for a maximum period of 18 months. This procedure is open to foreign nationals with professional or university qualifications. Note that if the internship contributes to the host company’s productivity, it must be paid in accordance with common practice in the locality and branch. These agreements exist with Argentina, Australia, Chile, Japan, Canada, Monaco, New Zealand, the Philippines, Russia, South Africa, Tunisia, Ukraine and the United States.

You can find more information on the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) website.
The State provides financial incentives to continue learning and studying after the end of compulsory education, subject to certain nationality and residence conditions. State support is intended to complement support from family, and to stand in for it where necessary. For more information on scholarships, visit the Office cantonal des bourses d’études (OCBE) site (in French).

Employment

There are a number of processes that you can use to find a job in the canton of Vaud. You can register with an employment agency to help you in your search, respond to job advertisements online, newspapers, or make spontaneous applications. You can find all the details on the Work page.
When you are replying to a job advert, most Swiss employers will ask you to send them an “application file”. An application file includes a cover letter, a CV (curriculum vitae), work certificates and references. For each of these elements, there are rules and formats that you must follow. You can find more information about these documents on the Swiss services centre for professional, university and careers training (CSFO) (in French).
The terms of appointment (contract length, working hours percentage, total annual salary, social security deductions, etc.) should be discussed before beginning your work. In Switzerland, in certain activity sectors, there are agreements called “collective labour agreements” (CLAs) (page in French) that set out minimum salaries.
There are several of workers’ organisations, also known as trade unions, that you can contact for information on working and/or for help if you are in a dispute of any kind with your employer. You can find them listed on the website of the Union syndicale vaudoise (in French).

Among these, the UNIA union (page in French) specialises in the rights of migrant workers.
People who have professional experience in a role but do not have a recognised qualification can take steps to obtain a certificate of completion of initial professional training. You can find more details on this on the State of Vaud web page on professional certification for adults (in French).
Yes, since 1 January 2019, people who have been granted asylum in Switzerland (B refugee permit), those provisionally admitted as refugees (F refugee permit), as well as other foreigners admitted on a temporary basis (F permit) may engage in a gainful activity as soon as this activity has been reported to the Employment Service (SDE).

The employer is responsible for announcing the start and end of the gainful activity through the required form to be sent to the following e-mail address: emploi.asile.spop(at)vd.ch
The announcement must precede the start of the activity. However, the latter may begin as soon as it has been announced, without having to wait for a response from the administration.
Find all the information on the Vaud State website.
Yes, outside of the three-month period that follows the submission of the asylum request, asylum-seekers (permit N) can receive permission from the cantonal authorities to carry out gainful employment. To do this, your employer must fill in form 1350 (in French) and submit it to the Employment Service (SDE) along with the work contract and a copy of your residence permit. However, you may only begin working after a positive formal response from the SDE. The necessary information can be found along with form 1350 on the State of Vaud website (in French).
Citizens of countries of the European Union (EU) and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) have benefits as a result of the Agreement on the free movement of persons (ALCP). They can spend three months in Switzerland without requiring a permit while in gainful employment, on the condition that they comply with current labour and insurance laws and declare themselves online on the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) website.

If they spend more than three months in employment, they are required to declare themselves to the residents’ registration office in their municipality of residence (or in the municipality in which they work if they are cross-border workers) and request a residence permit issued by the Population Department (SPOP).

NB: Employees who have been posted in Switzerland by a European company must be declared to the Employment Service eight days before beginning work. You can find all the details on the SPOP website (in French).
As soon as you know that you are going to lose your job, and at the latest on the first day of unemployment, go to your region’s regional job centre. You can find more information on what to do after losing your job on the Work page.

Insurance

Social insurance allows workers to meet their needs and those of their family in the event of work stoppage, illness or unemployment, for example. The Swiss social insurance system is based on three pillars. You can find all the details on the Insurance page.
Across the entire canton of Vaud, Regional Social Centres (CSRs) offer information, advice and support to those experiencing financial, social or family difficulties. To find out if you have the right to social assistance, contact your region’s CSR. You can find the list of CSRs and details of social assistance on the Insurance > Social help page.

Recognised refugees can contact the Social centre for the integration of refugees (CSIR) (page in French).

Asylum-seekers (permit N) who cannot meet their needs have the right to social assistance unless third parties are required to contribute to their upkeep (article 81 of the Asylum Act). Social assistance should be provided in the form of benefits in kind where possible. Find more details on social assistance for refugees on the website of the Swiss Refugee Council.
In Switzerland, old age and survivors’ insurance (OASI) and disability insurance (DI) together form what is called in Switzerland “the 1st pillar”. OASI is paid by the employer. You can find details on the OASI/DI information centre website (in French).
Health insurance is compulsory in Switzerland. Everyone who arrives in Switzerland is required to take out insurance within three months. It ensures access to a range of comprehensive medical care and appropriate medical treatment in your canton of residence. Basic health insurance is managed by 94 State-recognised insurance providers from whom you are free to choose.

More information can be found on the Insurance page.

You can find further information and the list of insurance providers on the Swiss authorities’ site.
In Switzerland, everyone in gainful employment is protected in the event of unemployment. Employees pay 1% of their salary, and employers also contribute 1%. These deductions are paid to the Vaud compensation fund. They allow taxpayers to receive benefits in the event they leave or lose their job.
If you lose your job, you should attend your region’s regional job centre as soon as possible. They will provide you with information on your right to unemployment benefit.

You can find more information on the Work page as well as on the State of Vaud’s website (in French).
In Switzerland, all employees, apprentices, interns, volunteers, and people who work in trade schools or protected workshops must be insured by their employer against work-related accidents and illnesses from their first day of work. People who are not employed, such as housewives and househusbands, children, students and retired people are not insured and should seek insurance via their compulsory health insurance.

You can find more information on the State of Vaud’s website (in French).
Damage caused by fire, water, storms, theft or burglary: a significant number of Swiss households protect themselves against damage to furniture, clothes, domestic appliances and other everyday objects via contents insurance. This type of insurance, which is optional, is generally taken out for the new replacement value, i.e. the insurance payout in the event of a claim will correspond to the current market price and will allow you to purchase a new replacement for the damaged item. For a list of contents insurance policies and to compare policy prices, you can consult the Confederation’s website.

Note that in the canton of Vaud, it is compulsory to take out fire insurance from the cantonal establishment for insurance against fire and natural disasters (ECA). For more information, consult the ECA website (in French).
Civil liability insurance covers you if you cause loss or damage to someone else, voluntarily or otherwise. It also covers you when people, animal or objects for which you are responsible for cause loss or harm to someone else. Although it is not compulsory, it is strongly recommended that you take out a civil liability insurance policy. In matters of loss or harm to third parties, Swiss law features the principle of unlimited liability. As a result, the damages claimed are often very high.

Find more information on the Confederation’s website.

Citizenship and naturalisation

In the canton of Vaud, non-Swiss nationals acquire political rights at the municipal level if they are 18 years old, have lived continuously in Switzerland for at least the last 10 years, have been continuously resident in the canton of Vaud for at least the last three years, and if their current home is in a municipality in the canton of Vaud. The canton of Vaud has published a leaflet that provides the information required to help foreign nationals access voting rights. This leaflet can be viewed and downloaded on the State of Vaud website (in French).
Becoming a naturalised Swiss citizen not only gives you access to civil and political rights but is also an expression of belonging to and participation in the Swiss community. Information on the naturalisation procedure can be found on the State of Vaud’s website (in French).
To obtain Swiss nationality, naturalisation applicants must be able to demonstrate their language levels (A2 for the written language and B1 for the spoken language) in the form of the fide language passport. There are four accredited language assessment centres in the canton of Vaud. These are ECAP Vaud, Ecole-club Migros Vaud, Inlingua Lausanne in Lausanne and Proactif Formation in Vevey.

You can find all the details of the language passport, the addresses of these institutions and other recognised language certificates on the fide site.

Taxes

Everyone who lives or has a source of income in the canton of Vaud is required to pay taxes in accordance with their income and wealth. There are two methods of payment: taxation at source, where the employer directly deducts your taxes from your salary (for permit types L, B, N and F), and annual tax returns, submitted in February-March, where payment is made in monthly instalments (for permit type C).

For details on taxes, visit the website of the Cantonal Tax Administration (ACI) (in French).

Preventing racism

The cantonal office for the integration of foreigners and the prevention of racism (BCI) offers a listening and support centre for anyone who has been affected by discrimination. This is a free service. If the discrimination incident happens in Lausanne, you can contact the Lausanne Office for Immigrants (BLI) (page in French), which also offers a free service.

Leisure

In all regions of the canton, a range of extracurricular activities (holiday camps, young people’s activity centres, activity days, advisory services for young people, etc.) are available to children and young people, and are run by organisations or municipalities, or are set up and operated directly by youth groups.

A list of activities for children can also be found on the Children page.

You can also contact your municipality or visit the website of the youth activities liaison group (GLAJ) (in French).
Lists of local associations are available from your municipality. The cantonal office for the integration of foreigners and the prevention of racism (BCI) maintains a list of migrant organisations in the canton, available on the Leisure and Citizenship page or on the State of Vaud website (in French).

In addition, a range of organisations hold events to raise awareness of discrimination and prevent it from occurring in the canton of Vaud. They are listed in the BCI’s online catalogue (in French) under the “Protection contre la discrimination” (“protection against discrimination”) section.
The canton of Vaud boasts a very wide range of cultural activities: festivals, traditional fairs, shows, exhibitions, films, concerts, etc. To stay up-to-date on the cultural activities available in your region, you can visit the Leisure and Citizenship page, which lists a range of activities and features links to help you in your search.
The canton of Vaud features magnificent landscapes, both in the countryside and in the mountains, as well as many sites and monuments that are well worth a visit. To discover your region, you can contact the canton of Vaud tourist office (OTV).