Military duty

Compulsory military service includes compulsory registration, deployment and service as well as the obligation to serve as a substitute.

Military service

All male Swiss citizens are subject to compulsory military service; women are only subject to voluntary conscription. It consists of the following partial obligations:

The obligation to register The obligation to register applies to all conscripts, regardless of whether they are fit for service or unfit for service. They must register their place of residence, or any change of residence, not only with the residents' registration office, but also with the local head of section. Failure to do so may result in a disciplinary penalty.
The Conscripts Conscripts are obliged to undergo military recruitment and perform military or civilian service in person. However, if it is determined during recruitment that a conscript is unable to serve for health reasons, he or she is exempted from further personal service obligations.
Compulsory substitute Conscripts who do not perform personal military or civilian service in a calendar year are subject to compulsory substitute service: they pay a special tax as a substitute. If the service obligation is still completely fulfilled afterwards, the amount paid can be reclaimed.

The obligation to serve

Compulsory service at a glance

A Swiss citizen's first military service is basic training (recruit school) and recruitment, which takes place shortly beforehand.
Recruit school must be completed in the calendar year of the 20th birthday (conscription age) and lasts 18 or 23 weeks (Gren RS). On simple request, it can be completed earlier, but under no circumstances before the 18th birthday. Postponement to a later age is only possible until completion of secondary school or for special reasons. Studying is not a reason for postponement!

Cadre training
Compulsory service also includes a possible obligation as a cadre with longer basic training. During the first seven weeks of basic training, a selection is made according to personal abilities and military requirements. It may happen that someone is conscripted against their will. This possibility should therefore be included in personal planning even if there is no interest.

Recurrent courses
After basic training, annual three-week refresher courses must be completed (cadre additionally up to one week of preliminary training). The dates of these courses can be found in the public notice, but are also published electronically.

Compulsory service ends with the completion of a grade-dependent number of days of service or by reaching an age limit.

Other Swiss compulsory service includes civil defence and community service.

Civil protection

The range of tasks of civil defence is: protection, care and support

Civil defence has a wide range of tasks and provides protection, care and support. It is primarily positioned as the second echelon of the civil defence system. Members of the Civil Defence are responsible for the care of people seeking protection, but also for the protection of cultural assets. They support the command organisations and the

partner organisations of civil protection. They also carry out community service missions and repair work following incidents.

National protective service obligation
Civil defence is based on a national service obligation (protective service obligation). Men with Swiss citizenship who are fit for protective service and are not doing military or civilian service are generally obliged to perform protective service.

Regulated by the Confederation and cantons
The Confederation creates the legal basis for civil defence and issues guidelines within the scope of its responsibilities, in particular with regard to recruitment, personnel, training and deployment as well as alerting and protective structures. The cantons are responsible for implementing the federal guidelines and for the organisation of civil defence.

Hazards determine the structure
The organisation of civil defence is based on the hazard analysis and the topographical conditions and structures in a canton, municipality or region.

The organisation may vary:

  • Compulsory protective service: compulsory service in civil defence
  • Compulsory protective service: a national service obligation

National compulsory service is performed either in the army (compulsory military service) or in civil defence (compulsory protective service), or in exceptional cases in civilian service (compulsory civilian service). Men with Swiss citizenship who are fit for protective service are obliged to perform protective service. Persons liable for military and civilian service are not liable for protective service. Persons liable for military service who leave military service do not become liable for protective service if they have completed at least 50 days of military service. Recruitment for civil defence and the army is carried out jointly.

Compulsory military service begins in the year in which conscripts turn 20 and lasts until the end of the year in which they turn 40. The Federal Council may increase the period of compulsory military service in the event of armed conflict.

Those obliged to perform protective service are entitled to pay and compensation for loss of earnings, food, transport and accommodation. They are covered by military insurance and their training and deployment days are taken into account when calculating the military service tax.

Those obliged to perform protective service must follow the orders of the service. In the event of a call-up, they must report for duty in accordance with the instructions of the commanding authority. Members of the protective service may be required to take on cadre functions and fulfil the associated services. If necessary, they must also fulfil off-duty duties, in particular in preparation for training services and deployments.

Postponement of service

You can submit a DVS (request for deferment of service) for civil defence no later than three weeks before joining the service.

Substitute tax
Swiss citizens who do not perform military or civilian service must pay a military service tax. The military service tax is reduced by 4 per cent for each day of service in civil defence.

Source: FOCP

More information on civil defence in Switzerland

Community service

Civilian service is an alternative service for those who cannot perform military service for reasons of conscience.

Since 1996, it has been possible to refuse military service for reasons of conscience and perform alternative civilian service instead. The service performed is in the public interest and is used where resources are lacking for the fulfilment of important tasks in society.

Alternative civilian service lasts longer than refused military service, 390 days or 1.5 times as long for full conscientious objectors. An initial deployment of at least 54 days (in the year after admission) or a "long" deployment of at least 180 days (as a substitute for military service, no later than three years after admission) and further deployments of at least 26 days each can be freely organised by the person liable to serve within certain limits.

A simplified admission procedure will apply from April 2009. The condition is that you are fit for military service but cannot perform such service for reasons of conscience.

An application for admission to civilian service must be submitted in writing on the form provided by the Civilian Service Administration. The earliest deadline is the military administration's orientation day. The exact regulations can be found on the website of the Civilian Service Administration.

Coordination with studies
Caution: At first glance, coordinating your studies seems easier than military service. But this is not the case! Please note the following:

  • A 'first' deployment of at least 54 days must be completed in the year following admission;
  • A 'long' deployment of at least 180 days must be completed within three years of admission as a substitute for military service;
  • Further deployments last at least 26 days and are therefore longer than military service;
  • Persons serving through must also complete their civilian service in one go;
  • There are not enough civilian service positions available to allow a 'free' choice of dates (e.g. semester holidays);
  • An application for civilian service includes a cooling-off period of four weeks - so it does not offer a 'short-term solution'.

More information on civilian service in Switzerland

Compensation for military service

Anyone who is unable to perform their service must pay the military service tax.

The military service tax is levied for each year in which a person liable for military service does not perform military or civilian service. The decisive factor is whether the person has completed service appropriate to their age by the end of the year. A postponement of service within the calendar year therefore does not result in an obligation to pay compensation. It also does not apply if a service has already been completed, e.g. if the RS has been brought forward or if the administration postpones it for military reasons.

Amount of the replacement levy:
The tax is levied with the federal tax and amounts to 3% of the income earned in Switzerland and abroad, min. CHF 400/year. This amount is reduced:

  1. For services rendered in the calendar year: 
  • 50% for >50% of the days of service; 
  • 100% for >= 80% (civilian service from 26 days, operational service from 10 days); 
  • for those required to perform protective service: -4% per day of service.
  1. For total days of service completed by the end of the year: 
  • 10% per full 50 days of service (civilian service: 75)


Conscription rate and days of service:

A WK (refresher course) amounts to 19 days of service in three weeks.

During the period of military service, you may apply for a maximum of 3 justifiable "personal leave days". This leaves 16 days of service remaining and does not require a compensation payment.

In the case of so-called "partial service" of less than 16 days of service, approx. half of the replacement fee is required.

In the case of 9 or fewer days of service (individual days of service), the full replacement fee is required, likewise in the case of a postponement of service.  


Anyone who fulfils their personal service obligation at a later date is entitled to an interest-free refund of the fee paid once it has been completely fulfilled.


By way of exception, conscripts are exempt from the obligation to pay compensation:

  • Who have acquired or lost citizenship in the same year; 
  • With a significant disability; 
  • Who did not serve due to a health impairment in the line of duty; 
  • Who have been on uninterrupted leave abroad for more than three years; 
  • Who fulfil military duties in their second home country; 
  • Partially dual citizens, in accordance with an international treaty.

Mehr zum Thema

The Swiss abroad who return to Switzerland, who are of military age and fit for service, are required to return to military service.

As soon as Swiss nationals abroad move to Switzerland - or commute to the University of St.Gallen - they become liable for military service. If conscripts wish to leave Switzerland, they must apply for leave abroad. This is normally granted quickly, except

  • For conscripts who work or study in Switzerland (cross-border commuters); 
  • For stays abroad of less than twelve months; 
  • If there is a personal requirement, e.g. for basic training.

If a stay abroad of less than 12 months is planned, e.g. as part of an exchange semester, military service may be postponed (see Postponement of service).

Obligation to register
During the first three years of a leave abroad, citizens liable for military service are subject to compulsory registration. They must register with the relevant Swiss representation while abroad.

Duty to serve
Personal service obligations are suspended for the duration of leave abroad. Military equipment must therefore be returned before the leave begins. Upon return, the equipment is re-equipped; however, if the leave abroad has lasted longer than six years, reintegration is usually not required.

Replacement obligation
As they are not performing personal service, Swiss nationals abroad are subject to the replacement obligation. This does not apply to dual nationals who fulfil military duties abroad. If the leave abroad lasts longer than three years, the military service tax is waived.

More information on Swiss nationals abroad in the Swiss Armed Forces

Military service is voluntary for Swiss women.

As a woman, you can volunteer for military service. Since the army reform XXI, all functions and all ranks are open to women. There are no gender-specific restrictions whatsoever, but there are also no longer any restrictions. Only the sporting limits have been adjusted.

The following formal minimum requirements apply:

  • Swiss citizenship;
  • At least 18 years old;
  • Completion of the RS is possible up to the calendar year of the 25th birthday.

In addition, your fitness for service and - depending on your function - other skills will be tested during recruitment. The Armed Forces will inform you about the various functions and specific requirements.

The first step is to register for recruitment, which is also offered to men. Only after all the clarifications have been made do you have to make a permanent decision. After this "definitive" signature, you are obliged to do the same as your male colleagues.

More information on women in the Swiss Armed Forces

In principle, possession of another nationality has no influence on a Swiss citizen's obligation to perform military service.

Compulsory military service exists regardless of any other nationality. As a dual citizen, you must therefore also fulfil your obligations. However, if you have already completed military or alternative service abroad, you are excluded from personal service in Switzerland; you are therefore "only" subject to the alternative service obligation.

Switzerland has concluded bilateral agreements with some countries on the compulsory military service of dual nationals, which provide for special regulations. These take precedence over the general regulations.

Germany, France, Italy, Austria
 A person belonging to the state fulfils his/her service obligations towards the state in which he/she lived on his/her 18th birthday. However, he/she can also voluntarily join the army of the other state instead. Anyone who fulfils their service obligations in one of the neighbouring countries is not liable to serve or be replaced in Switzerland.

Unfortunately, the situation with Germany is still unclear: although an agreement has been ratified, compulsory military service has now been suspended in the FRG. How the agreement is to be interpreted under these conditions remained unclear until May 2014.

We recommend that affected students travelling from Germany to Switzerland to study should register at the Residents' Registration Office:

  1. directly to the head of section;
  2. explicitly refer to the agreement;
  3. submit a copy of a valid German identity card & proof of residence in Germany.

As of May 2014(!), you will not be called up for Swiss military service until your obligation to serve has been clarified.

A US-Swiss dual citizen born in the USA is not subject to compulsory military service during a stay of up to two years in Switzerland. If the stay lasts longer, the general regulation applies again.

More information on dual citizens in the Swiss Armed Forces