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Types of Swiss long stay national visas

If you want to stay in Switzerland for a period that’s longer than 90 days, you have to apply for a residence permit. However, before the residence permit, depending on your nationality, you need to apply for a Switzerland long-stay visa.

The Switzerland long-stay visa is also known as a national or D-visa.

The Switzerland long-stay visa is issued to third-country nationals who want to move to Switzerland to work, study or to be with family. As such, it is different from the Swiss Schengen Visa which only allows stays of up to 90 days.

The Schengen visa requirements and conditions are largely the same for all Schengen countries, while the requirements for the long-stay visa are specific to Switzerland.

One thing that immigrants may find confusing is that they think if they obtain a long-stay visa, they can stay in Switzerland long-term.

However, the long-stay visa only allows third-country nationals to enter Switzerland with the purpose of applying for a residence permit. It is the Switzerland residence permit which allows you to live and work in Switzerland long-term.

What are the Types of a Switzerland Long-Stay Visa?

Depending on your reason for wanting to move to Switzerland and obtain a Swiss residence permit, these are the types of long-stay Swiss visas you can apply for:

  • Switzerland Study Visas. You apply for a Swiss study visa if you want to pursue studies in Switzerland and have been accepted to a Swiss educational institution beforehand.
  • Switzerland Work Visas. If you want to be allowed to work in Switzerland legally, you must apply for a Swiss work visa.
  • Switzerland Family Reunion Visas. You can apply for a Swiss family reunification visa if you have a family member who is a Swiss citizen/permanent resident and you want to join them there.

The requirements and conditions for obtaining a type of visa depend on your purpose of travel

How to apply for a Switzerland Long-Stay Visa?

If you are from a country who is required to apply for a Swiss long-stay visa, then you must apply for a Swiss visa in person at the Swiss representation (embassy/consulate) in your country.

Check if you need a Switzerland National visa

Citizens of most countries have to apply for a long-stay visa for Switzerland.  The countries who are exempt from applying for a Switzerland long-stay visa are:

  • Schengen countries.
  • Future Schengen member countries (Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, and Romania).
  • Andorra.
  • Brunei.
  • Great Britain.
  • Ireland.
  • Japan.
  • New Zealand.
  • San Marino.
  • Singapore.
  • Vatican City.

Fill the application form

You have to download the application form and fill it in. Prior to submitting the application, you have to make an appointment at your country’s Swiss representation.

Complete the document file

You must submit all the necessary Switzerland visa required documents along with the application form. The documents change depending on the reason you want to obtain a long-stay visa for Switzerland. For example, if you want to study, you may be required to provide a document proving you have been accepted into a Swiss educational institution. For work, you will need to show you have a Swiss employer.

When applying for a Swiss long-stay visa, you must meet the following conditions and have the required documents:

  • Three completed, signed and dated application forms. They have to be in either German, French, Italian, Spanish or English.
  • Valid passport with at least two blank pages.
    • You must also include three copies of the passport’s relevant page: pages 1-4, the last page, pages showing the validity, and all pages containing a previously issued visa.
  • Four pictures. They must be passport size, biometric, and recent.

Additional documents may be required based on the purpose of travel and the country you are applying from.

Keep in mind: Every document that you are required to provide has to be in triplicate and translated in either English or one of Switzerland’s official languages (German, French, Italian or Romansh).

After submitting the application

After you have submitted your application, the Swiss representation in your country will forward it to the competent cantonal migration office in Switzerland. You will receive a visa if the cantonal migration office in the region you want to live authorizes it.

After receiving the Swiss long-stay visa

After you receive your Swiss long-stay visa, you will have a limited amount of time during which you can enter Switzerland. Once you are there, you will have to register at your local Residents Registration Office in order to make arrangements for you to get your residence permit. You must do this within 14 days.

Switzerland has 26 cantons or regions. Each of the cantons is responsible for issuing residence permits for the foreign nationals who wish to live there. So, if you want to live in a certain canton, you will have to apply for your Swiss residence permit at the appropriate cantonal migration office.

Learn more on how you can apply for a Swiss residence permit here.

Difference Between the Swiss National Visa and Swiss Residence Permit

Citizens of the Schengen area, and most citizens of EU and EFTA do not need a Swiss visa to enter Switzerland. The citizens from those countries are allowed to move to Switzerland without a visa.

However, everyone, regardless of their nationality, has to apply for a Swiss residence permit for stays of over three months in Switzerland.

And everyone who isn’t in a citizen of the EU, EFTA, or the Schengen area has to obtain a long-term visa (D-visa) to be allowed entry in Switzerland with the purpose of obtaining a residence permit.

The long-stay visa has a validity, during which time you can enter Switzerland and submit your application for a residence permit to one of the cantonal offices.

So, the difference between a Switzerland long-stay visa and a Swiss residence permit is:

  • The long-stay visa allows entry in Switzerland but you need a residence permit to be allowed to live there.
  • Not everyone has to apply for a Switzerland long-stay visa, but everyone, regardless of the nationality, does need a residence permit.
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