For more information about Valais, living, housing, working, and families, visit valais4you.ch.


Can you tell me a little more about Idiap?

Idiap Research Institute is a university level research institute affiliated with the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) and the University of Geneva. Idiap is concentrating research and development in the fields of Machine Learning, Speech Processing, Computer Vision, Multimedia Information Retrieval, Biometric Authentication, and Multimodal Man-Machine Interaction. Idiap currently numbers around 80 scientists, including lead scientists, postdocs, and PhD students (usually awarded an EPFL degree).

In 2000, Idiap has been selected as the "Leading House" of a large Research Network (National Center of Competence in Research) on "Interactive Multimodal Information Management" (IM2), which has opened up new opportunities for long term positions at different levels. Although Idiap is located in the French part of Switzerland, English is the primary language used at Idiap. Salaries are competitive with respect to other Swiss universities.

Can you tell me more about Switzerland?

Switzerland is situated in the central Alpine region of Europe and borders on Italy in the south, Austria and the Principality of Liechtenstein in the east, Germany in the north and France in the west. It is a landlocked country with no direct access to the sea.

The total area of Switzerland is approximately 41,300 square kilometers. There are four national languages in Switzerland: German, French, Italian and Rhaeto-Romantic (Rumantsch Grischun).

The unit of currency is the swiss franc (CHF), which is divided into 100 cents (also called Rappen in the German speaking cantons).

For more information on Switzerland you might like to visit the website of Switzerland Tourism.

Idiap is located in the town of Martigny in the Canton of Valais. Valais enjoys an exceptional and localized climate and holds the Swiss record for the number of hours of sunshine per year. (Valais has an average of 2000 hours of sunshine per year compared with 1500 for Zurich and 1600 for Geneva).The total population of Valais is approximately 327 011 hab. (31 décembre 2013). 32 797 hab. (31 décembre 2013) of those people live in Sion, the Cantonal Capital. Sion, which is found just 15 minutes by train from Martigny, has an average temperatureof –1.1 °C in January and 18.8 °C in July. The average annual precipitation is 619mm.

For weather related information go to: Swiss Weather Valais is a scenic region in the south of Switzerland, surrounded by the highest mountains of Europe, and offering exciting recreational activities, including hiking, climbing and skiing, as well as varied cultural activities. It is within close proximity to Montreux (Jazz Festival) and Lausanne (EPFL).For information on Martigny and the surrounding areas visit Martigny or Valais Tourism .

Where exactly is Idiap within Martigny?

Idiap is located in Martigny on Rue Marconi 19. Most of the staff at Idiap walk or ride a bike to work, except those that live out of town who generally travel by train or car (5 minutes from train station).For a map of the town you can visit the address and location section of the Idiap web site.


Immigration and Travel


Tell me more about the Work Permit

Non-Swiss nationals intending to visit Switzerland to work, require a work permit. An application for a permit needs to be made to the appropriate Canton (State). Most employees at Idiap have obtained either an “L” or a “B” Permit, which is valid for up to 12 months. Once a permit has been granted, it is normally renewed every year unless there are reasons against a renewal such as criminal offences or dependence on social security etc.

Once Idiap has received: two-signed copies of your contract; a copy of your qualifications; and a copy of your passport; we will commence the permit application process on your behalf. For most people the process takes between 8 and 10 weeks but of course this will be different for each applicant. Please ensure you have the flexibility to change your travel plans in the event that your permit application is delayed or denied. If you would like to apply for your family to join you in Switzerland you should provide Idiap with copies of their passport(s) and a copy of your ‘Full Marriage Certificate” when you return your signed contracts. Please note that all passports must be valid at least until the end of your work contract. The final decision regarding your permit application is made by the Authorities in Valais and not by the Swiss Authorities in your country.

It is a good idea to make contact with the Swiss Authorities in your country to advise them that your work permit application has been lodged. Ask them if there is anything further that needs to be done from your end, and ensure they have your contact details for any future correspondence.

Within 8 days of arriving in Martigny AND before you start work, you must go to the Foreign Office (Accueil “citoyen”, Rue de l’Hôtel de Ville 1) and they will finalise processing of your work permit. If you do not announce your arrival, are late to announce your arrival, or commence work before you announce your arrival you will be fined. For this visit you will need to take your passport, a copy of your work and stay authorization, and details of your current address in Martigny. The Foreign Office will later contact you when your work permit is ready for collection. This normally takes 4-6 weeks. Idiap will reimburse you for the cost of the work permit.

Do I need a Visa to enter Switzerland when I intend to work there?

Nationals of some countries will also require a visa to enter Switzerland to work. Examples of people who need a visa are those who come from India, China, The United States, Australia, Canada, Tunisia, Ukraine, Vietnam and Russia; however this list is not exhaustive. Please contact your nearest Swiss consulate or embassy to confirm if you need a working visa, and for details on how to apply for the visa. The Embassy or consulate cannot issue your visa until your work permit has been approved.

Do I need a visa to enter other countries in Europe?

Many Idiap staff members make regular trips to other European countries for holidays and even hikes and day trips. Please be aware that you MAY require a Visa to visit other European countries (check this with the authorities in your country).The Schengen visa allows people to enter one country and travel freely throughout the Schengen zone. At present, there are 15 Schengen countries, all in Europe. The 15 Schengen countries are: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Italy, Greece, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain and Sweden. It is very important to check if you require a visa for a country before you cross its border. You can do this for some European countries through links on the following site. For more information on the Schengen visa click here: Schengen visa

Will my spouse be able to work in Switzerland?

The spouse of a person holding a Swiss work permit is not automatically entitled to work in Switzerland. Family members hoping to work will be required to find their own employment and apply for their own work permit. The authorities warn that applications for a work permit may be refused. In practice, many spouses of Idiap staff have been able to find work and have been granted their own work permit. For further information ask at the Foreign Office when you arrive.

Do I need to have Vaccinations or a medical examination before I come?

No vaccinations are required for entry into Switzerland. A medical examination is compulsory for persons entering Switzerland for the first time to take up employment, who are NOT nationals of one of the following countries: Australia, Canada, New Zealand, USA and member states of the EU and EFTA. It consists of a radiological examination of the lungs to screen for tuberculosis.


Living in Switzerland


What about Health Insurance?

Health care insurance for illness and accidents is obligatory for all persons resident in Switzerland. Basic insurance must be arranged with a health insurance company after taking up residence in Switzerland or after the birth of a child. It may be possible to organise insurance with a company in your home country that covers you while you live and work in Switzerland. You must provide proof of Insurance.

Each family member must be individually insured. Each person must make his/her own insurance arrangements; the premiums are not deducted from your pay. Foreign workers in paid employment whose resident permits are valid for less than three months are also obliged to take out insurance, unless they have equivalent insurance cover for medical treatment in Switzerland. Prices for premiums are different for each insurance company. You must pay an annual ‘excess or franchise’ if you need to make a claim against the insurance (minimum 300 francs).Higher ‘excess’ can be agreed, which as a rule results in a lower premium. Depending on provider, excess, type of cover etc people at IDIAP pay between 150 CHF and 250 CHF per month.

Under the basic insurance, all health insurance companies pay for the same benefits. In principle the basic insurance covers, without limit of time, all benefits provided in the canton of residence by doctors, other recognized specialists or hospitals (general department) including maternity costs, as well as periods spent in the general department of a recognized hospital. The restriction to the canton of residence does not apply to emergencies and medically justified exceptions. The costs of the most important medicines, in accordance with a comprehensive list (LAMAL) are also met. The medical costs of long-term care at home or in a nursing home a real so mostly reimbursed (but not the costs of board and accommodation). Dental treatment is only paid for by the basic insurance if it is linked to serious illnesses. Income replacement (during sickness) is not included under the basic insurance however you can voluntarily take out ‘Loss of earnings insurance’.

For a comparison of the prices for the basic LAMal insurance you can visit http://www.comparis.ch

Additional insurance can be taken out for benefits not covered by the basic insurance. This is not obligatory and thus the insurance companies are to a large extent free to structure their offers and premiums as they please. They can also impose restrictions concerning health or refuse applications. The most popular are additional insurances that cover hospital treatment outside the canton of residence also, or meet the cost of treatment in private hospitals. For more information you might like to visit the Groupe Mutuel site. Groupe Mutuel is just one of many Health Insurance companies.

Am I covered for Accidents?

Accident insurance is compulsory for all workers. It covers not only accidents at work and occupational illnesses but also accidents which do not arise out of or in the course of employment. The insurance premiums for accidents at work and occupational illnesses are paid by the employer; those for accidents unconnected with the employment are automatically deducted from the employee’s wages. Accident insurance covers the cost of medical treatment; a daily allowance is paid from the third day of sickness, and later possibly a pension. Part-time employees who work for the same employer for less than 12 hours a week are only insured against accidents at work or on the way to work but not against accidents unconnected with their employment. In the event of illness or accident the insurance company and the employer must be informed immediately.

What about a Pension, Disability Allowance or Loss of Earnings Benefit?

The following is a rough explanation of the Swiss system. The retirement plan consists of three layers: one which is the same for everyone (AVS), one which is related to your professional activity (LPP), and one which is entirely voluntary.

The first layer (called AVS) is financed by 5.05% of your gross salary and 5.05% paid by the employer. This goes into a global fund, which is then distributed more or less equally among the population. These contributions are paid into the AVS insurance fund by the employer, who deducts half the contributions (5.05%) from the employee’s salary. Since they are compulsory contributions, all people earning a living in Switzerland must pay them. The mandatory contribution is also relevant for foreign citizens living in Switzerland. The employee receives, a “Certificate d’assurance AVS” (grey letter), with a personal number which represents their account. When you retire your AVS is paid back to you in regular monthly instalments.

The second layer (called LPP) is financed by a given amount taken from your gross salary, and again is matched by the employer. This money goes into your “private account". The method used to calculate these amounts is very complicated as this payment will evolve with time, as your gross salary changes. However, the general idea is that when you retire you can either take your LPP in regular instalments or as a lump sum. If you choose to take the LPP in regular monthly payments then the LPP amount, plus the AVS instalment, represents reasonable percentage of your last salary before you retired (approx. 80%).

The third layer is the money that you save yourself, and can take many forms, but in most cases neither the state nor the employer will interfere with this. When you leave Switzerland you may be eligible to take these funds with you. If you have any further questions regarding these payments please contact Edward GREGG, The Finance Manager

Will my electrical appliances from home work in Switzerland?

The voltage is 220 V, alternating current, 50 hertz, for appliances and electrical equipment up to 2,200 watts. For larger appliances such as cookers, washing machines etc.: 1 x 380 volts or 3 x 380 volts. Switzerland has standard European plugs.

Tell me about the Transport system?

Rail / Train

For timetables and costs of all transport systems visit the Rail website. There is also a Printed Timetable (Horaire) for Valais available from the train station for 2 CHF. It includes details of trains, buses, ferries and telecabins. Transport in Switzerland can be very expensive, so you may want to get:

  • Carte demi-tarif: Permits half price travelling on trains, boats, busses, for the whole of Switzerland. The cards are available at the train station. You will need your passport and a passport photo to purchase this card. Cards cost 150 CHF valid 1 year, 250 CHF valid 2 years, or 350 CHF valid for 3 years.
  • General Abonnement – Permits FREE travel on trains, boats, and busses for the whole of Switzerland. The basic GA for one person costs approximately CHF 3,600/ year.– in 2nd class (750 less for 16-25 year olds). You can also purchase a monthly GA but for a minimum of 4 months (265/month or 200/ month for 16-25 year olds). If you will not be using your GA for a while, you can deposit it during that time and receive pro rata vouchers in exchange (up to 30 days per year). In case of loss, your GA can be replaced. For more information see here.
  • Carte "voie 7" Costs 99 CHF and gives free public transport after 7pm. There's only one restriction, you cannot be older than 25!

Switzerland’s railway system covers more than 5,000 kilometers of track and is therefore one of the densest in the world. The greater part is run by Swiss Federal Railways (SBB/ CFF/ FFS); there are also some private railways. The railway system is completely electric. Tickets may be purchased at the ticket office or through the machines on the platform. Long distance/ International rail bookings can be made over the Internet or at the train station. Sometimes discounts are available if you book well in advance i.e. TGV to Paris. European night trains are connected to numerous destinations, as illustrated here.


It is easy to visit smaller villages and most tourist places around Martigny by bus. The Postal service runs a good, efficient and regular bus service. Check out la Poste or ask at the train station. Don’t forget to show the driver your demi-tariff card for the discount. The Railway website also offers information on buses.


If your car is not Swiss, it has to be registered with a Swiss number plate before the end of the first year, after a thorough and strict technical check (i.e. engine stains may mean that your car is rejected). This is done at the "Service Automobile" in Sion. Phone them for the details. This check is then repeated every 3 years. Note: Of course, this applies only if you actually live and work in Switzerland for an extended period. Visitors’ cars are OK.

It’s compulsory within Switzerland to carry both a red warning triangle and the registration documents of the vehicle. If you intend driving on Swiss motorways, you have to stick a vignette inside your windscreen. These cost CHF 40 for any vehicule up to 3.5 tons, are bought most easily from post offices and petrol stations, and remain valid until January 31 of the following year. Trailers or caravans must have their own, additional vignette. Getting caught without one leaves you open to a CHF 100 fine. If you prefer, it’s quite easy to avoid Swiss motorways altogether and stick to ordinary main roads, which are free and – outside urban centers at least – reasonably fast.

You can drive in Switzerland on an International driving License for 1 year. However, before the end of the year you must obtain a Swiss Driving License. This can be done through "Service Automobile" in Sion You can lodge your completed forms at the foreign office in Martigny. Please note that your license will be confiscated and only sent back to you once a decision has been made. Please note this process can take 3 months and you will not be able to drive outside of Switzerland during this time because you will not have your license! Some countries have an arrangement with Switzerland for an exchange of permits but other citizens will need to take a driving test to get their Swiss drivers license. Further details of the process can be found here and you can download the form here


If you have a bike in Switzerland you have to buy a vignette (registration) for around CHF 5, which covers road tax and third-party insurance for a year. They are available from Migros or the Post Office. It is also nice to know that you can transport a bike between any two train stations in Switzerland for CHF 15; some EC trains and the Zürich S-Bahn are prohibited during rush hours.

Are there any TV programs in English?

People who prefer TV programs broadcast in English might consider buying a stereo TV with the special dual language function. Along with the BBC and CNN, some of the channels broadcast programs with the original (English) soundtrack on one of the speakers, and either French, Italian or German on the other. This allows people with a special TV to choose to listen to the program in English. Occasionally movies are also broadcast in this manner. Look for the notation I/II in the teletext.

How do I get a mobile, landline or Internet Access?

There are several companies offering Telecommunication services. To compare their services and prices you can use the following website.

How much will it cost to live?

The Federal Statistics Office provided all kind of information relating to the cost of living in Switzerland.


Life in Martigny


Where will I live?

Before you arrive in Martigny the secretariat staff will assist you to find short-term accommodation depending on availability. This accommodation will normally be in a 1-room studio apartment that is furnished and stocked with minimum provisions (i.e. sheeting, kitchen utensils etc). Once you have arrived in Martigny and settled in, you will need to find more permanent accommodation. Rental agreements are for 1 year, and rent is normally paid monthly.Most Rental Agencies require a 3-month bond. In addition to rent, tenants will be expected to pay 100 or 150 CHFper month for heating, hot water (chauffage), cable TV etc. You must also pay the “Responsibility Civil”which covers you against accidents. The cost is around 100 CHF per year and is available from one of the manyInsurance Offices in Martigny. Most apartment blocks have community washing machines available for tenants and tenants are allocated a specifictime and day to wash. (Please also note that the majority of washing machines do not operate from 11am until 12.30 pm). Many of Idiap’s PhD students choose to rent studio (1 room) apartments. These are usually furnished and on averagecost around 750 CHF per month to rent. Of course rents differ widely according to location, amenities and size.The following average monthly rents may be used as a guide for a relatively new unfurnished apartment: 1 bedroomapartment 1100 CHF, 2 bedroom apartment 1200 CHF, 3 bedroom apartment 1400 CHF. Apartments in Valais are advertisedaccording to the number of pieces (rooms). When calculating the number of rooms in an apartment, kitchens andbathrooms are not included and large entrances are counted as half a piece i.e. a 1 bedroom apartment with bathroom, kitchen, living room and a large entrance is advertised as 2.5 pieces. Please be aware that unfurnished apartmentswill not come with any light fittings (except perhaps in the kitchen) and some will not have a stove/ oven. Following are some possible sites to check for rental ads:

This is good to see the ads first thing in the morning so you can be the first to call.

Where can I buy furniture and items for my house?

There are several places in Martigny to buy furniture. The large COOP and Migros DO+IT sell a range offurniture and household goods. There is also a second hand store in Martigny called HIOB. Most popularthough is Conforama and Fly in Conthey (25 mins from Martigny by regional train). They have regular specialsand also rent out mini-vans (35 CHF for 1 hour) so you can move your furniture. It is best to book themini-vans in advance. Conforama do not accept any credit cards. They take cash only, however there is aCredit Suisse automatic teller machine in the store.

Can you tell me more about the schools in Valais?

Schooling is the responsibility of the cantonal authorities. School attendance is obligatory for eight to nine years, and education at the State Schools is free of charge. Nursery school; which children enter up to the age of four; which is optional; is followed by Infant School for 4 to 6 year olds. The second year of Infant School is compulsory (from age 5) and is followed by primary school and secondary school. After this comes either vocational training combined with practical work of two to four years’ duration, or attendance at a higher secondary school. The grammar schools (where the national school leaving certificate can be obtained) prepare pupils for university entrance.

Where can I do my grocery shopping?

There are many places to shop in Martigny. There are 2 Migros, 2 COOPs, a PAM, 2 Denner Discounts and many many more.A Migros store are only a 5 minutes walk from Idiap. Prices vary between stores and they all have regular specials so itis worth shopping around. Migros has a restaurant attached and some staff from Idiap eat lunch there daily (mealsavailable for between 7 and 12 CHF). Shops usually close at 18:30 from Monday till Thursday, at 20:00 on Fridays, and 17:00 on Saturdays and days beforepublic holidays. Please note that most shops (not Migros and Coop) close between noon and 1.30pm daily. Some stores areclosed on Monday mornings and all day Sunday.

Does Idiap / Martigny have a social life?

In Martigny and the surrounding areas there are many interesting and varied ways to entertain yourself.Idiap has internal Mailing-Lists for staff to organize sporting and non-sporting social activities.Volleyball, Badminton, skiing and hiking activities are organized regularly and are well attended.Outings to festivals, concerts and bars and cafes are also common. Here are a few links that might be interesting: Martigny Aikido Club Thermal Pools in the region Montreux Jazz Festival Paleo Verbier Festival and Academy.

Can I improve my language skills in Martigny?

Idiap offers all staff a free French lesson for 1.5 hours per week. These classes are held at Idiap. There are also language schools in Martigny and others that can easily be reached by train. The most popular school are the Ecole-Club Migros. Prices for the courses vary greatly depending on frequency and class sizes.


Money matters


What Taxes will I pay?

Holders of “L” and “B” permits (see section on work permits above) will normally pay between 20% and 25 % tax. Taxes are automatically deducted from your salary. The rate depends mostly on your status and permit (ie single, married, no. of children...).

How do I open a Bank Account?

To allow us to pay you, you will need to open a bank account at one of Switzerland’s major banks. Idiap suggests UBS or Banque Cantonale du Valais. To open an account you will need to take your permit (or authorization letter) and passport with you. Only holders of a “B” permit are eligible for a credit card, or debit card that can be used at other bank’s teller machines.


Arriving at Idiap


What will I need to do after I arrive in Martigny?

The first thing you will need to do after you arrive in Martigny is to report to the Foreign Office so that they can finalise processing of your work permit. You will also need to open a bank account, find permanent accommodation and organise health insurance. If you have a child/ children, please also complete the form to claim the state allowance paid to families with dependent children, available from the secretariat. (please see each of the relevant sections on bank accounts, finding an apartment, insurance and the work permit for more details).

What are the rules about office hours, holidays, vacation?

Idiap is officially open between 9am and 6pm. Of course, as a research institute, Idiap’s actual hours of activity are rather 24/7, since Idiap members are more or less free to work when they prefer, especially when they are in close contact with partners in different timezone. However, there are some mandatory group activities and meetings, in addition to the regular meetings with supervisors and colleagues, that require presence during regular hours. The official work duration is 42.5 hours per week. As a full time employee at Idiap you have 20 days (4 weeks) of personal holidays per year. In addition, there are 7-8 national and religious holidays per year, depending if some of them fall on weekdays or not. Finally, given the large number of foreigners at Idiap who like to visit their family during the Xmas season, Idiap is also closed between Xmas and New Year, usually 5 days.

How will I get paid?

Idiap salaries are paid monthly. Your pay will be deposited electronically in to your Swiss bank account on approximately the 25th day of the month.

Are there any other interesting sites that I could visit?

Swiss Confederation – www.ch.ch Federal Statistics Office Swiss Teletext Switzerland in Sight Switzerland Tourism The Canton of Valais Valais Tourism Useful addresses Idiap