Welcome to Geneva

1. Overview

There are 5 important steps that must be followed immediately upon arrival in the Canton of Geneva if you wish to stay here permanently or for a long time:

  1. Obtain a residence and work permit (mandatory)

    Citizens from the European Union meeting the necessary conditions for the obtention of a residence and/or work permit must report within 3 months of their arrival to the Office cantonal de la population et des migrations (OCPM)

    Citizens from other countries (outside the European Union) meeting the necessary conditions must report to the OCPM within 14 days of their arrival.

    Steps to obtain a residence or work permit:
    - permis de travail (salarié) / work permit for employee
    - permis de travail pour indépendant / work permit for freelance
    - permis de séjour sans activité lucrative / residence permit without gainful activity
    - permis de séjour pour étudiant / student residence permit
    - permis de séjour pour membres de la famille (regroupement familial) / residence permit for family members

  2. Enrol your child aged 4 or more in school (mandatory)

    Children 4-11
    Chlidren 12-15
    Young people aged 16 to 18 are required to be in training
    You can place your children in a crèche (day nursery) up to the age of 3.

  3. Suscribe to a health-insurance policy (mandatory)

    You must subscribe to a health-insurance policy immediately, but at the latest 3 months after your arrival in Switzerland (otherwise, an insurance company might be imposed upon you).

  4. Take a liability insurance (mandatory for tenants) / Assurance responsabilité civile

    Consult an insurance comparison website

  5. Open a postal or bank account


Translation services are available in case of need

Translation of official documents :
-  Liste of sworn translators

Sign language interpretation :
-  Procom, rue Caroline 7bis,1003 Lausanne, Tél. 021 625 88 22, Fax. 021 625 88 24

Find your geographical landmarks

Find the location of an organization or administration.

The BIE has created an online map for newcomers with almost 260 useful addresses :
-  Living in Geneva - Multilingual interactive map for newcomers


Emergency phone numbers

144  Medical emergencies
118  Fire and rescue emergencies
117  Police emergency
145  24-hour advice on poisoning ; https://www.toxinfo.ch/startseite_fr
112  International emergency number

Major emergencies and public protection

In the event of a major emergency (e.g. serious industrial accident, terrorist attack, tsunami, etc.), the Swiss authorities alert the general public.

They use a network of fixed and mobile sirens installed throughout the country and the Alertswiss smartphone app. This app can be downloaded from the App Store or Google Play and must be installed on your phone.

General alarm

During a general alarm, sirens emit an oscillating sound for one minute. This sound is repeated after five minutes.

In this case it is essential to adopt the right behaviour:
-  LISTEN TO THE RADIO and/or refer to the instructions issued by the Alertswiss app
Water alarm

In case of emergency in areas at risk near hydroelectric dams, local authorities trigger the water alarm (12 low tones of 20 seconds each, separated by 10 seconds of silence).

In this case the general public must:
Alertswiss website

At www.alert.swiss you will find all the information you need on current alarms and warnings, on the dangers that can lead to a major disaster, and on how to behave.

Alertswiss app

This app can be downloaded from the App Store and Google Play. It enables you to receive information directly to your mobile phone:

  • alarm, warning or information messages depending on your geographical position and/or targeted to your presets,
  • the general alarm and
  • instructions on how to behave in an emergency.

2. Housing

Where to look ?
Real estate agents (Régies)
  • "Immobilier" supplement in Tribune de Genève (Tuesdays)
  • "GHI" (Wednesdays)
  • "022" and "Tout l'immobilier" (Mondays)


International civil servants

Employees of international organizations, permanent missions, general consulates, non-governmental organizations (NGO), associations, foundations, or international sport federations can contact:

International Geneva welcome center (CAGI)
route de Ferney 106, 1202 Genève
Tél. 022 546 14 17

Necessary documents to obtain accomodation

Official certificate of residence / Attestation de résidence, to be obtained at Office cantonal de la population et des migrations

Certificate of non-pursuit / Extrait du registre des poursuites, to be obtained at Office des poursuites

Liability insurance / Assurance responsabilité civile - Home-contents insurance / Assurance ménage, to be subscribed with an insurance company.

Pratical issues and relations with neighbours

Gas, electricity, water and heating

Generally, water and heating are included in the rent. Gas and electricity are directly paid by the tenant to:


Waste sorting and recycling

In Switzerland, you must sort your recyclable waste (paper, glass, PET bottles, compostable organic waste, used batteries, aluminium, tin, etc.) from non-recyclable household waste. Your building caretaker (concierge) or real estate agent will indicate where to put your waste (containers inside your building or outside in your neighbourhood). You can contact the "service voirie" of your municipality to dispose of bulky items.

More information about recycling


Television and radio

In Switzerland, you must pay for using television and radio. This tax is mandatory and independent of the possession of radio or television receivers. Each private household pays an annual fee of 365 francs. The billing information is based on the cantonal register of the population.

You must report to SERAFE AG - Organe suisse de perception de la redevance de radio-télévision


Building caretaker (concierge) - Real estate agent (régie)

In case of need, for any breakdown or problem concerning the building, the laundry room, household waste, or other issues, please contact your caretaker or Régie.


Neighbourhood noise

Excessive noise is prohibited in apartment buildings from 9 pm to 7 am.

More information on this web page and by contacting GE-environnement, 022 546 76 00, GE-environnement@etat.ge.ch



In the event of conflict with your caretaker or your neighbours, you can contact :


Tenant's rights

Association Suisse des locataires (ASLOCA) - www.asloca.ch


3. Health

General information

For all migrant persons: the brochure "La santé à Genève. Guide pratique pour personnes migrantes" (only in FR). You will also find it in some immigrant aid associations and at the reception desk of the Office cantonal de la population et des migrations (OCPM), route de Chancy 88, 1213 Onex

For international civil servants : CAGI web pages


Health insurance / Assurance-maladie

In Switzerland, every resident (including children) must be covered by (mandatory) basic health insurance, which reimburses most medical costs (doctors, medications, hospitalisation, etc.). But some costs (dentistry, complementary medicine, some psychotherapies, private or semi-private hospitalisation, etc.) are only covered by (optional) complementary insurance, to be subscribed in addition to basic insurance.

You must contract basic health insurance immediately upon arrival in Switzerland, but at the latest 3 months after (otherwise, an insurance company will be imposed upon you). We recommend rapidly finding a family doctor (general practitioner) and a paediatrician (for your children), as waiting times can be lengthy.

If you don't speak French, chose a family doctor who speaks your language in the AMGe's directory.


The State offers subsidies to help you pay your health insurance premiums if you fulfil certain conditions.

4. Work, studies and training


The Bureau de l'intégration des étrangers (BIE) has published a brochure on existing services and job-search benefits: L’emploi à Genève - Guide pratique pour personnes migrantes (only in FR).

Higher education
Recognition of degrees, validation of prior experience and vocational training

A mechanism for recognizing degrees and validating prior experience with certification has been established in many professions. In the Canton of Geneva, the competence centre is Cité des Métiers du Grand Genève.

More information on degree recognition


5. Social insurance systems and social assistance

Social insurance systems

For almost all social insurance schemes mentioned below, the responsible Public office is Office cantonal des assurances sociales - OCAS

Unemployment insurance / Assurance chômage

Every person who has worked in Switzerland and who, during that period, paid his/her contributions to the unemployment insurance scheme for at least 12 months within the last 2 years, can, if he/she fulfils the conditions, obtain an unemployment allowance, insofar as he/she reports rapidly and no more than one day after the end of the employment to the Office cantonal de l'emploi.

You can also receive advice from trade unions or specialized associations :

Pension schemes (AVS-LPP)

Every person must be registered with the "Old-age and survivors insurance scheme" (AVS) from the age of 17 for employees or from the age of 20 for persons without gainful employment. For employees, it is the Employer who must proceed with the registration, but persons without gainful employment must register themselves. This insurance entitles you to a pension allowance from the age of 64 (for women) or 65 (for men). If you do not work, it is recommended that you register upon arrival, but the legislation provides for a delay of maximum 5 years to register by contacting the Caisse cantonale genevoise de compensation, at the OCAS.

From the age of 17, contributions to a complementary pension fund (2nd pillar) are also mandatory in certain cases (income, collective agreement, etc.); there is also a supplementary optional pension fund (3rd pillar).

Accident insurance and loss-of-earnings insurance in case of occupational or non-occupational accident / Assurance accident et assurance perte de gain en cas d'accident

Every person who works at least 8 hours a week must be insured by his/her employer against occupational and non-occupational accidents. This insurance covers medical costs related to the potential consequences of accidents. Persons without gainful employment must take out accident insurance with their health insurance company.

The (mandatory) loss-of-earnings insurance in case of occupational or non-occupational accident contributes to compensating for loss of earnings for wage earners who have suffered an occupational or non-occupational accident, or are victim of occupational illness.

For more information

Loss-of-earnings insurance in case of illness / Assurance perte de gain en cas de maladie

This insurance (which is not mandatory but is included in most collective labour agreements) can guarantee an entitlement to 80% of your wages for a maximum period of 720 days.

For more information

Disability insurance / Assurance invalidité - AI

In case of permanent incapacity, whether partial or total, because of an accident or an illness, every person is entitled to disability insurance allowances if he/she fulfils the following conditions:

  • the person resides in the Canton of Geneva and has resided in Switzerland for at least 5 years
  • he/she has paid his/her AI contributions during at least one year, and
  • the injury or damage to his/her health has occurred in Switzerland.

For more information

Maternity insurance / Assurance maternité

All women, whether employed, self-employed (wage-earners or not), or unemployed, are entitled to a 16-week maternity leave, paid at least 80% of their income.

For more information, please consult:

Family allowances / Allocations familiales

Family allowances are for the (legitimate, natural or adopted) children of employed, self-employed, or unemployed persons, or of their spouses or registered partners according to Swiss federal law. These children are entitled to only one family allowance, which may not be combined with other legal allowances of the same type for the same child.

To know more about the conditions and procedures to obtain this allowance, please contact the OCAS :

Social assistance

The Canton of Geneva is responsible for all public social and financial assistance, which is managed by the Hospice général.

Some municipalities provide information in different languages for migrants and can offer one-time financial assistance in various areas. Contact your municipality of residence.

Additional benefits / Prestations complémentaires

Subject to conditions, some categories of the residing population are entitled to additional benefits. For more information: Service des prestations complémentaires

Housing allowance / Allocation de logement

The housing allowance is an individualized financial assistance for tenants whose rent is too high in relation to their income and fortune. To know more about the conditions and application procedures for this allowance : allocation de logement.

Assistance offered by private not-for-profit institutions

Cheaper food and clothing, debt relief assistance, advice and information on social allowances (housing, health insurance) :








6. Mobility

Getting around Geneva

Maps of the Canton, with itineraries and walking routes are available at Espace Ville de Genève.

Bus, tramway and mouettes (ferries)

Practical information (schedules, itineraries, passes, etc.) is available on :

Maps and other practical information on the transport network are available at the Transports publics genevois (TPG) counters :

  • TPG agence Rive, rond-point de Rive, 1204 Genève
  • TPG agence Gare Cornavin, place de Montbrillant, 1201 Genève
  • TPG agence Bachet, route de la Chapelle 1, 1212 Grand Lancy

Geneva's network of cycling tracks covers the whole Canton.

The printed version of the map of Geneva cycle lanes can be obtained at "Espace Ville de Genève"

By car

To be allowed to drive in Geneva, you will have to exchange your national driving licence for a Swiss driving licence within one year of your arrival in the territory.

To drive a car in Geneva, you do not have to own your vehicle. You can also join a car-sharing cooperative, or practice carpooling:


Getting around Switzerland
By train
By coach
By car
By plane
By bike

7. Participation

As a resident in the Canton of Geneva, you can take part in many different citizenship, social, political, cultural, sport, or religious activities.

Participating to associations, clubs and groups

There are all sorts of groupings: community associations around national or ethnic origin, sport, music, dance, or writing clubs or associations, etc.

You will find below a non-exhaustive list:

You can also create an association. Information and advice towards the creation of associations :

Helping, volunteering
Sharing objects or services
Volunteering in municipalities, community centers or recreational centers
Joining community events

Find out about the events scheduled in your neighborhood, by contacting your municipality of residence.

Participate in an urban project

Participate in the concertation processes related to the urban evolution of your neighborhood.


If you are 18 or over and have been residing in Switzerland for 8 years or more, you can elect the members of the parliament in your municipality of residence (Conseil municipal) or its government (Conseil administratif or Mayor and deputy mayors) and participate in municipal electoral consultations

Political life

Whatever your nationality, you may be active in a political party or in political citizens' associations who present lists of candidates for municipal elections, as well as in the committees or thematic working groups of these parties.


You will find in Geneva many active religious or spiritual communities:

8. Culture and leisure

Cultural activities

The Canton of Geneva enjoys a very rich cultural life. Generally, municipalities are in charge of cultural institutions and activities. The Ville de Genève, as the biggest municipality of the Canton, hosts most major cultural institutions (concert halls, theatres, museums, etc.).

To get acquainted with the cultural events, please consult : Ville de Genève

Some other municipalities also have theatres (for example Carouge), concert halls (Meyrin, Onex, etc.), museums, or organize cultural events. Get information from your municipality of residence.

Cultural agendas

You will find information on current or future cultural events on different online cultural agendas :

Leisure general informations

Generally, municipalities are in charge of sport facilities, toy lending libraries, and children's playgrounds. They also have recreational and community centres.

Recreational areas in the Ville de Genève :

In your municipality of residence

Visits and walks

Many visits and discovery walks are offered in the Canton :


Sport facilities and activities in the Ville de Genève :

Sport facilities and activities in your municipality of residence.

Free Wi-fi
Free or reduced-price cultural events for low-income people

Most cultural events in the Ville de Genève are free of charge. Visits to the museums are also free of charge, except for temporary exhibits.

Benefits and discounts for youth and families
People with disabilities
Seniors (elderly)