If you’re a student that wants to study in Switzerland but you are not quite sure what you need to do to be prepared. Since Switzerland is a part of the Schengen zone, a Schengen visa will win you the right to go to the country, but if you want to stay there as a student you must take a few more steps. The procedures are of course different for EU/EFTA and non-EU/EFTA students.

EU/EFTA resident students

Are you an EU/EFTA resident? In that case, you won’t need a visa. You will only need to register with their local authorities in the town you are staying in within 14 days of arriving in Switzerland. That’s where you will get a residence permit.

The applicant must prove that they have come to Switzerland to study and that they are enrolled at a university. For this, they will need a certificate from the school or institution. They also must prove that they have health insurance and can cover their living costs during their stay. The residence permit is usually issued for the duration of the programme, but depending on the student’s situation, it might be issued yearly.

Students can hold jobs but for no more than 15 hours a week, otherwise, they must apply for a work permit. The student’s family (spouse and children) can join the student in Switzerland, but the student has to show they have enough resources to accommodate them.  

Switzerland visa for non-EU/EFTA

As for non-EU/EFTA member states students, they must apply for a visa at the Swiss embassy or consulate in their home country. The application must include a few documents.

  • A certificate from the school or institution to be attended,
  • Proof of payment of school fees and means of support during studies,
  • A written commitment that you will leave Switzerland upon completion of the programme,
  • Your CV

Swiss authorities may also organise a language test to make sure the student is able to follow lessons.

Afterwards, you will need to apply for a saying permit. The cantons are responsible for issuing permits.

What type of Visa do I need?

Depending on the duration of your studies there are two types of visas which you can apply for.

  • C Visa –  is a short-time visa that allows its keeper to reside in Switzerland for a short period of time. This visa is perfect for summer schools, seminars, and language schools that last up to three months.
  • D Visa – is a long-time visa for people looking to study, work, or reside in Switzerland. International students are granted a Schengen visa for a period of one year with the possibility of extension.

Swiss visa appointment

Where do you apply?

The first step, after getting the acceptance letter from your university, should be setting an appointment with the Swiss embassy or consulate in your area. These procedures take time, so make sure to set the appointment 6 months prior to your studying. The processing time for the short stay visas is around 10-15 days and for long stay visas, eight to ten weeks

Your documents will need to be in French, German, or English. If they are not that language, you will need a certified translation of those documents.

Switzerland student visa requirements

Applying for a visa can be a bureaucratic and tiring experience.

  • Application for long stay visa (visa D) – three forms, filled and signed
  • Four passport-size photographs
  • Passport – valid three months beyond the planned stay
  • Letter of acceptance issued by a Swiss university
  • Proof of payment of the registration and tuition fees – original and copy
  • Proof of sufficient financial coverage of living costs in Switzerland for the duration of schooling (21,000 CHF or 19,200 EUR at the beginning of each year of your studies)
  • Scholarship/Loan proof – Letter of an institution that all expenses for the study will be covered by the scholarship or loan
  • CV
  • Letter of motivation
  • Commitment to leave Switzerland on completion of studies

Work and study

Working while studying is an option for many foreign students in Switzerland. While some universities don’t recommend that as it can be distracting and affect your academic work. Other schools facilitate job searches with job boards and other advisory services.

  • The working hours for students are limited during the school year and there are a few requirements that you fulfil.
  • International students can work up to 15 hours a week
  • During semester holidays international students can work up to 100%.
  • Students from outside the EU/EFTA countries may start working only 6 months after starting their degree program.
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