If you want to study in Switzerland, find out the visa and immigration requirements for students, postgraduate studies, and post-doctoral researchers.
If you are planning to study in Switzerland, different conditions apply for citizens who are from a country in the European Union or European Free trade Association (EFTA) (EU countries plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland). Read more in our guide for EU/EFTA nationals moving to Switzerland.
If you are not an EU/EFTA citizen, the information below outlines the Swiss student visa requirements and conditions. The information given here is for guidance only and you should seek specific advice from the Swiss Federal Office for Migration (FOM) – see below for contact details – or from the Swiss embassy or consulate in your home country.
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. You can find links to Swiss universities through CRUS (Rectors Conference of the Swiss Universities). 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.
Certain nationalities will require a visa to enter Switzerland. You can check to see if you need a visa here. 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 cannot come to Switzerland on a three-month tourist visa and change it to a student residence permit after you have arrived in Switzerland. Thus, even if you are exempt from needing an entry visa, such as Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Japan, Malaysia or Singapore nationals, you will still need to apply for a residence permit before you arrive if you plan to stay longer than 90 days.
You can read in-depth visa information in Expatica’s complete guide to Swiss visas and permits.
Applying for a Swiss visa
You’ll need to apply for a visa through the Swiss embassy or consulate in your home country. You’ll need to complete an application form and submit supporting documentation, in French, German or English, so you may need to translate your documents.
For short-term Schengen C visas, documentation includes:
- a valid passport/travel ID
- proof of adequate financial resources to cover your costs while you’re in Switzerland
- healthcare/accident insurance
- confirmation of booked courses including fees paid
- 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
For a long-term D visa, documents will include:
- a valid passport/travel ID
- proof of adequate financial resources to cover your costs while you’re in Switzerland, whether yourself or a sponsor, such as copies of bank statements or a letter from the bank
- proof of healthcare insurance which includes cover for accidents.
- motivation letter outlining why you want to come to Switzerland to study and how this will be beneficial to your career
- confirmation of enrolment at a recognized Swiss educational institution
- confirmation of course fees paid
- your CV
- copies of previous educational certificates and diplomas
- a signed letter confirming that you will leave Switzerland at the end of the course
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 postgraduate 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.
When you arrive in Switzerland
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.
Working in Switzerland while you’re a student
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 straight away. 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.
Foreign graduates in Switzerland
After you’ve completed your course you can obtain a residency permit allowing you to stay for a further six months to look for a full-time, permanent job. During this job search period, you can work for up to 15 hours a week. This permit cannot be extended after six months.
To apply, you’ll need to go to the cantonal migration offices and provide:
- a certificate or other proof that you have finished your course
- evidence that you can support yourself financially during this time
- proof you have somewhere suitable to live
Once you find employment, before you can actually start the job, the employer must submit an application to the authorities in the canton where you’ll be working. While foreign graduates from Swiss university-level educational institutions are treated the same as Swiss graduates in terms of entering the job market – that is, the job does not have to be offered to Swiss or EU candidates first – the employer will still have to prove that the job (or you) is of particular economic or scientific importance before you will be issued with a Swiss work permit.
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.
Family members of students coming to Switzerland
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.
Read more about bringing a partner or relative to Switzerland.
For more information
Federal Office for Migration (FOM): the Swiss government’s official site for information on all aspects of immigration to Switzerland.
+41 58 465 11 11 | Monday to Friday: 9–11am and 2–4pm.
Cantonal authorities: Each canton has its own cantonal immigration and labor market authorities that issue permits and will be able to provide detailed information on the application procedures. Find the contact details of your specific Swiss canton for information. Click here for the addresses of all the cantonal authorities, for online access via their websites and for the details of the communal authorities.