Visas and permits to study in Switzerland
If you want to come to Switzerland to study at a university or equivalent, first you must find a course and get accepted onto it. Once you have confirmation that you have a place (a certificate of enrolment), you can apply for a visa (if you need one) to study in Switzerland.
For courses of up to three months – summer courses, language schools – you may need a short-term Schengen C visa; for courses longer than three months, you may need a long-term national D visa.
You’ll need to apply for a visa through the Embassy of Switzerland. You’ll need to complete an application form and submit supporting documentation, in English.
For short-term Schengen C visas, documentation includes:
If you’re under 18, a birth certificate and authorization to travel if coming to Switzerland alone, or copies of parents’ visas if they will be accompanying.
You may also be asked to sit a language test to make sure that you will be able to follow lessons.
If you want to undertake post-graduate studies, you’ll need to submit proof that you’ve been admitted to a post-grad course and have the appropriate qualifications, sufficient financial means and somewhere to live.
You have 14 days after your arrival in Switzerland to register your arrival and arrange to get your residence permit from the cantonal migration offices (if required). While you are waiting for your B permit (which may take some weeks), you’ll be given attestation that will allow you to open a bank account but won’t allow you to leave the country. You’ll be issued with a permit B in the form of a biometric card. It’s valid for a year and renewable.
If you are coming to Switzerland to study you may take up part-time work for up to 15 hours a week in term time and full-time during holidays, but only after you have lived in Switzerland for six months.
If you already hold a Master’s degree from a foreign university and you’re in Switzerland working for your Swiss university or institute, you don’t have to wait six months but can start work straightaway. Your employer will need to get a work permit for you. You will need to maintain your full-time student status and show that you are continuing to make progress in your studies.
if you want to continue your studies as a postgraduate at a Swiss university, you can apply for a residence permit to stay but you must already have an offer of a place. It is the employer who submits the application on your behalf. The maximum residence period is two years.
Your family members cannot come with you or join you while you are a student in Switzerland. This is because students are issued with a temporary residence permit (e.g. permit B) and only foreigners holding a settlement permit C can bring their families to join them. However, there are some exceptions: those holding Confederation grants, doctoral students, visiting professors, post-docs and other academics.
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