Services for NGOs

The CAGI assists international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) already established or seeking to do so in the Geneva region.

Internships

“The internship allows you to acquire essential professional experience to complete training with practical skills. In Geneva, internships that meet the following criteria are considered non-problematic:

  • the internship must be offered as part of a certified training (with certification from the training institute). This can be a compulsory or an optional internship,
  • the internship must allow orientation after a first finished course of study (eg Bachelor), with a view to a second course of study (eg Master’s), provided that the usefulness of the training is certified by the training institute organizing the second course,
  • the internship has the objective of professional or social reintegration and comes under a federal or cantonal legal system.

Internships meeting the above criteria are not subject to the minimum wage (see the “employer’s obligations” chapter below).

The provisions relating to the protection of workers (labour law and law on accident insurance) apply to interns. The internship has the same characteristics as an ordinary salaried job but with the following particularities:

  • the internship contract must have a fixed duration,
  • the internship contract must be tripartite. The work report must be validated by a third party (eg University; integration organization).

Work in Switzerland for foreigners is regulated and a work permit must be obtained from the eighth day of professional activity (including internship) whether it is paid or not. The steps to obtain the work permit must be carried out by the employer with the competent cantonal authority, in Geneva the Cantonal Office of Population and Migration (OCPM).

The procedures and criteria for granting work permits differ according to the nationality, the place of residence and the purpose of the stay of the future intern.

A. Non-resident intern in Switzerland

EU/EFTA citizen

Facilitated procedures exist for nationals of European Union (EU) and European Free Trade Association (EFTA) countries. Any request must be sent before the start of the internship to the OCPM by the employer via form M (if the intern lives in Geneva) or online (if the intern is a cross-border worker). If the trainee lives in the canton of Vaud, the request must be sent to the Service de la population du canton de Vaud (SPOP) . If the duration of the internship is less than 90 days, a notification procedure for short-term online activities is sufficient.

Citizen of a third country

If the trainee is a citizen of a third country, a permit application must be sent to the OCPM using form M . The future intern must wait for the authorizations of the cantonal and federal authorities before being able to start their internship. It is recommended to submit the permit application 6 to 8 weeks before the start of the internship.

The following cumulative conditions must be met:

  • Intra-curriculum internship: the internship must be part of the studies. Exceptionally, an internship carried out shortly after the end of the studies and presenting a significant interest for International Geneva may be accepted if a training plan is provided.
  • Remuneration: the NGO must guarantee a monthly income of CHF 2,660 to the intern. Either the NGO pays the remuneration directly, or the NGO ensures that the intern benefits from a monthly grant of CHF 2,660 granted by their university or another organization for the completion of this internship. If the amount of the scholarship is lower, it is up to the NGO to complete this amount up to a maximum of CHF 2,660. It should be noted that a reasonable part of the remuneration may be borne by the employer in kind (eg: accommodation, food, public transport subscription, social security contributions on the employee’s part, compulsory health insurance in Switzerland). The amount of CHF 2,660 corresponds to the average monthly expenditure budget for studying in Geneva (source: University of Geneva).
  • Duration: the duration of the internship should generally not exceed 4 months. Exceptionally, it may be longer than 4 months if the intern is a master’s student and if the request is of significant interest to International Geneva.
Young professionals

Switzerland has concluded exchange agreements for young professionals (interns) with the following countries: South Africa, Argentina, Australia, Canada, Chile, United States, Japan, Monaco, New Zealand, Philippines, Russia, Tunisia and Ukraine.

Under these agreements, young professionals can apply for a work permit in Switzerland to perfect their professional and linguistic knowledge. Authorizations are issued for a maximum period of 18 months.

Further information regarding the admission procedure as well as the official application form and a model employment contract can be found on the website of the State Secretariat for Migration .

B. Resident in Switzerland for study

Internship as an integral part of studies (intra-curriculum)

Students in possession of a permit B for studies who must carry out a compulsory internship as part of their studies (according to the study plan) may be authorized by the OCPM directly as long as it does not exceed half of the complete training. The application must be submitted to the OCPM using form E (2nd page), accompanied by a certificate from the school stating that the internship is an integral part of the studies (e.g.: compulsory 3-month internship as part of International Organizations-MBA of UNIGE).

Additional activities (extra-curricular internship)

EU/EFTA citizen

Students enrolled in a Swiss university or a Swiss university of applied sciences and residing in Switzerland (student B permit) who wish to carry out an internship or extra-curricular employment must submit an application for a work permit to the OCPM (form E – ancillary activity). This authorization allows students to work a maximum of 15 hours per week during course periods and full-time during university holidays.

Citizen of a third country

Non-European students cannot carry out any gainful activity during the first 6 months following their arrival on the territory. After this waiting period, students wishing to carry out an internship or extra-curricular employment must apply for a work permit from the OCPM ( form E – ancillary activity). This authorization allows students to work a maximum of 15 hours per week during course periods and full-time during university holidays.

Ancillary work may be authorized if the student is enrolled in a Swiss university or a specialized university, if the management of the school or university certifies that this activity is compatible with the training and does not delay its completion, and if the remuneration and working conditions are met .

Under Swiss law, employment relationships during an internship fall under labour law, in accordance with the usual terms of employment contracts. The employer is therefore required to comply with the obligations incumbent on him/her under articles 319 et seq. of the Code of Obligations and the Labour Act.

In terms of insurance and social charges, the employer is also required to respect the obligations incumbent on him/her, by virtue of the provisions laid down in federal and cantonal law. These obligations relate to AVS/AI/APG contributions, occupational accident insurance, non-occupational accident insurance, and occupational pensions.

A. Remuneration

Under Article 39J, letter b, of the Labour Inspection and Relations Act (LIRT), internships that are part of a training or integration scheme are not subject to the minimum wage.

Article 56E of the Regulations for the application of the law on inspection and labour relations (RIRT), specifies that “internship contracts within the meaning of article 39J, letter b, of the law are internships:

  • of orientation between 2 training courses; or
  • vocational or social reintegration, governed by federal or cantonal law; or
  • professional and social reintegration, organized by the municipalities, subject to the unanimous approval of the supervisory board; or
  • provided for in a training course; or
  • validated by a training institute.”

Any other internship must be considered as a first job subject to the minimum wage. Set at 23.- gross francs per hour when it came into force, the minimum wage according to LIRT was indexed to 23.14 gross francs per hour on 1 January 2021.

B. Social insurance & accidents

The payment of a salary implies that the intern is affiliated with the various compulsory social insurances (see the page “Social insurance” for more information). However, derogations make it possible, in specific cases, not to have to deduct certain social security contributions. Thus, when income does not exceed CHF 2,300 per year, contributions to compulsory insurance will only be collected at the request of the insured. Similarly, when the intern has not entered the year of their 18th birthday, none of the social charges mentioned above should be levied.

In terms of occupational pensions (LPP), the intern’s salary is in principle not subject to contributions, unless: the contract is concluded for a period of more than three months; the intern receives from the same employer a remuneration greater than 1762 francs per month (2018 value) and that they are over 17 years old (art. 2 and 7 LPP as well as art. 1j letter b OPP2).

With regard to accident insurance, under article 1a of the Federal Law on Accident Insurance (LAA), interns (just like other workers employed in Switzerland, including apprentices and volunteers) must be insured against accidents. Thus, the employer will be obliged to subject the intern to accident insurance and, therefore, to pay a minimum contribution set by the LAA even if the intern does not receive any salary (art. 115 paragraph 1 letter b OLAA).

The intern is required to join a Swiss health insurance fund within three months of entering Switzerland. However, if the internship contract is less than 3 months and the intern’s health insurance coverage is equivalent to Swiss health insurance, the obligation to take out insurance is waived.

For more information, consult the brochure of the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH), Compulsory health insurance in brief.

The internship contract is subject to the legal provisions which govern the employment contract (article 319 and following of the Code of Obligations – CO). The internship contract must, at a minimum, contain the following elements:

  • training objectives and nature of the occupation (specifications, work plan),
  • duration of the contract (start and end date of the internship),
  • working week,
  • reference person,
  • remuneration paid and list of benefits offered by the organization (e.g. catering, reimbursement of transport and accommodation costs, etc.) as well as the terms of its payment,
  • conditions for issuing an internship certificate,
  • name of the parties signing the contract (tripartite contract).

Employment Exchange

International Geneva Employment Exchange for NGOs, Permanent Missions and Consulates for posting jobs, internships and volunteering opportunities.

Other useful information
to recruit and employ staff

CAGI Recruitment Platform
Financial assistance for recruitment purposes
Social insurances
Swiss labour law
Tax regime for employees
Volunteering
Work permit and visa

CAGI services
for NGOs and Permanent Missions

Founded by the Swiss Confederation and the Republic and Canton of Geneva, the Geneva Welcome Centre is the single entry point for the support and integration of employees of International Geneva and their families, NGOs and visiting delegates.