Complete guide to Switzerland long stay visa for students, the required documents, eligibility criteria, and FAQs

If you want to study in Switzerland, but you are a foreign national, you will need to apply for a Switzerland Student Visa. The Swiss student visa is a type of national visa for Switzerland.

There are some conditions you must meet before applying for a Swiss student visa. In some cases, you may not even need to apply for a visa at all. It all depends on your nationality.

So, if you have made up your mind about pursuing higher education in Switzerland, here are the answers to some of the most common questions about Switzerland student visas.

How can I get a Switzerland Student Visa?

Getting admitted into a Swiss educational institution

The first thing you have to do if you want to study in Switzerland is getting accepted into a Swiss educational institution.

Once you have your certificate of enrollment at the educational institution you want to study in, then you can apply for a Switzerland student visa.

Check if you need to apply for a Swiss student visa

Most foreign nationals who want to enter Switzerland and remain long-term, have to get a Swiss visa. However, even though everyone needs a residence permit, nationals from certain countries are exempt from applying for a long-stay Swiss visa. Those 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.

But, even if someone is exempt from applying for the long-stay visa to enter Switzerland, everyone, regardless of their nationality, has to apply for a residence permit if they want to stay longer than three months.

Gathering the required documents

When you apply for a Swiss student visa, you must meet certain conditions and submit the required documents. For every document that you are required to submit, you have to provide the original along with 3 copies of it, translated into English or one of Switzerland’s national languages (French, Italian, German, or Romansh).

The requirements for a Switzerland student visa are:

  • The standard mandatory requirements for every Swiss visa application.
  • Completed and signed application forms in either German, French, Italian, Spanish or English.
  • A valid passport with at least 2 empty pages. It must be valid at least three months after your planned leave from Switzerland.
    • You must also have three copies of your passport’s relevant pages (pages 1-4, the last page, the issue, and expiry page, and copies of all previous visas.)
  • Four recent pictures. Passport-size and biometric.
  • Paid visa application fee.
  • Proof of sufficient funds (copies of bank statements or a letter from the bank). This can be provided by either you (the student) or your sponsor.
  • Confirmation you have paid the course fees for your first year.
  • Certificate of enrollment at your school.
  • Your study plan.
  • Copies of previous educational certificates and diplomas.
  • Letter of motivation in one of the Swiss official languages.
    • It must also include your plans for the future, such as professional development once you finish the course.

Submitting the Switzerland student visa application

You apply for the Swiss student visa at the Swiss representation in your country. The procedure for applying for a student visa for Switzerland is largely similar to the application procedure for all Switzerland visas.

The application procedure for a Swiss student visa is as follows:

  1. Make an appointment at your country’s Swiss representation (embassy/consulate).
  2. Download, fill in and sign the application form. (In some cases, you can find the application forms at the Swiss representation where you apply.)
  3. Submit the documents in person at the Swiss embassy/consulate.
  4. Pay the Swiss student visa fee.

After you submit your Swiss student visa application, the Swiss representation in your country will forward it to the competent cantonal migration office* in Switzerland. After the cantonal immigration office authorizes your application, the Consulate General of Switzerland will give you the visa.

*Switzerland has 26 cantons, and the migration office of each canton decides who they will issue visas to.

After you receive the Swiss Student Visa

If you are issued a Swiss student visa, you can then enter Switzerland.

Within 14 days of arriving in Switzerland, you have to register your arrival at your local Residents Registration Office and visit the cantonal migration office where you will be living in order to obtain your residence permit from. (The same applies to nationals from countries who are exempt from a Swiss long-stay visa.)

You can find the addresses, contact information, and websites of each canton’s migration offices here.

The type of Swiss residence permit that you will need as a student is a B permit. It can take as long as eight weeks for you to receive your B permit. During that time, you will receive an attestation that lets you open a Swiss bank account but you cannot leave the country.

Your B permit, once you receive it, will be in the form of a biometric card.

Learn more about the types of Swiss residence permits here.

How Long is the Switzerland Student Visa Valid For?

Initially, a Switzerland student visa, or more specifically, the B permit you receive to be allowed to stay for your studies, is valid for one year. However, if your studies last longer than that, you have the option to extend it. You have to provide updated proof of income/financial means to be allowed to extend your Swiss student visa.

In addition, after you graduate, you have the right to apply for a residency permit which allows you to look for a permanent job in Switzerland. This permit is only valid for six months and it cannot be extended.

You can apply for the six-month permit which allows you to look for work at your local cantonal migration office. You need to provide proof that you:

  • Have finished your course.
  • Can provide for yourself financially during your stay.
  • Have a place to live.

Can I work with a Switzerland Student Visa?

You are only allowed to work fifteen hours a week in part-time jobs as a student. You can work full-time during the holidays. However, you can only start working after six months of living in Switzerland, and your employer has to obtain a work permit for you.

The same rules of work apply for the six-month period after you graduate when you are looking for a full-time, permanent job.

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