For members


What you should know about the Swiss government’s child support payments

Called ‘Familienzulagen’ in German, ‘allocations familiales’ in French and ‘assegni familiari’ in Italian, this financial aid is given to residents of Switzerland who have children. This is how this system works.

What you should know about the Swiss government's child support payments
Child benefits in Switzerland are at least 200 francs a month. Photo by cottonbro on Pexels

The purpose of child support benefits — called in Switzerland the family allowance — “should partly compensate the costs that arise for parents in relation to dependent children”. This includes both biological and adopted children.

Who is entitled to receive these benefits?

Anyone who is employed or self-employed, and earns at least 592 francs a month can claim family allowances.

Those not working are also entitled to the benefits, unless their annual taxable income exceeds 42,660 francs.

How much is the family allowance?

At least 200 francs a month is paid for each child up to 16 years of age, which is when the compulsory education ends in Switzerland.

 However, children with chronic illnesses or disabilities are entitled to receive allowances until they turn 20.

This is the minimum amount mandated by law, but some cantons pay more. For instance, Geneva’s allowance is 300 francs per child.

To find out what the rules are in your canton of residence, click here.

But the payments don’t stop at 16. If the child is still studying or is in vocational training, they are entitled to receive 250 francs a month until they turn 25.

READ MORE: Cost of living: The most – and least – expensive cantons in Switzerland

What about foreign residents?

If you live and work in Switzerland — and therefore pay taxes here — then you have the right to receive child benefits the same way as Swiss citizens.

This also applies if you are a cross-border worker: you can claim Swiss family allowances, even if your children live in an EU or EFTA country.

But if your partner works in your home country (France, Italy, Germany, or Austria), then you will receive the family allowance there. You will, however, be paid any difference between that amount and the family allowance payable in Switzerland.

This is how you can apply for child benefits

The payments will not come automatically when your child is born or adopted. The parent with the highest income must apply for these benefits. If you don’t do this immediately, or if for some reason payments are delayed, you can claim up to five years of arrears.

If you are employed, you will have to apply to your employer for family allowance. They will forward your application to the cantonal department in charge of family allowances, and you will receive  payments on monthly basis.

If you are self-employed or not working at all, contact the family compensation fund for guidelines on how to apply.

These are the relevant links in German, French and Italian.

You must also report to these authorities any changes in your personal, financial and professional situation, as they may impact your eligibility for the allowances.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: What cross-border workers should know about taxation in Switzerland

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For members


Can I have a fire in my backyard or courtyard in Switzerland?

The winter months are on their way and the weather is getting colder. If you’re lucky enough to have a backyard, can you light a fire?

White marshmallows toast over a fire
If you want to toast marshmallows in your backyard in Switzerland this winter, first make sure it's OK. Photo by Leon Contreras on Unsplash

Even if you own a property, the rules for what you can and cannot do in Switzerland can be relatively restrictive. 

As we covered in the following article, laws or tenancy rules can prevent you from doing several types of activities in your own backyard, including felling trees or washing your car. 

You can also be prevented from certain activities on particular days. For instance, rules, bylaws and tenancy arrangements may prevent you from mowing your lawn or hanging out your laundry on a Sunday. 

READ MORE: What am I allowed to do in my backyard or apartment courtyard in Switzerland?

As the weather gets colder, you might be tempted to stock up the fire pit, fire basket or fire bowl with wood and set it alight. 

The rules for lighting fires are also relatively complex. What you are allowed to do will depend on your canton, your tenancy arrangement and the type of fire. 

Can I light a fire on my own property in Switzerland? 

If you’re living in one of the few Swiss houses to have a fireplace, then you are presumably allowed to use it, unless tenancy regulations prevent it at certain times. 

You are also usually allowed to have a barbecue or grill either on your balcony or in your backyard, provided the noise and smoke is not excessive. 

READ MORE: Can I have a barbecue on my balcony in Switzerland?

Whether or not you are allowed to have a fire in your backyard however will depend on the rules in your canton. 

You are generally prohibited from burning any waste in Switzerland, other than typical forest or garden waste (i.e. wood, grass, twigs, sticks and leaves). 

That however can also be restricted at certain times of the year.

In Zurich, for instance, fires in backyards are only permitted from March to October, meaning that you will need to find other ways to stay warm in the winter months in Switzerland’s most populous canton. 

Even if lighting fires is permitted, you may want to check with the rules of your rental contract to see if you are technically allowed a fire. 

What about fires in the forest or open parks? 

A campfire might also sound like a nice way to spend a winter evening, but this may be restricted or completely prohibited depending on the circumstance. 

There is no federal ban on fires in forests and other outdoor areas, provided you are not burning waste (other than garden waste etc) and you are not producing excessive emissions. 

The rules are the same on August 1st, Swiss National Day, where special bonfires usually require a permit. 

Note that there are special rules for burning old Christmas trees, which is prevented by law.