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Steps you need to take to move to Switzerland from USA, available pathways for Americans, and FAQs

If you are a US national, then you can enter Switzerland without a visa if you are only staying short-term (up to 90 days). However, if you want to move to Switzerland from USA, then you have to follow the usual entry and stay procedures.

Do I Need a Visa to Move to Switzerland from the USA?

Yes, for stays longer than 90 days, you have to apply for a Switzerland long-stay visa. You can apply for the Swiss long-stay visa (also known as a national or D-visa) at the Swiss embassy/consulate responsible for your state.

How Can I Move From USA to Switzerland?

To move to Switzerland from the USA you must go through these simple steps:

  1. Apply for a Swiss long stay visa. After you apply for the long-stay visa and receive it, you are free to enter Switzerland.
  2. Apply for the relevant residence permit. After you enter Switzerland, you can register at the cantonal immigration and labor market authorities in Switzerland and get your Swiss residence permit. Everyone, regardless of nationality, needs a residence permit if they want to stay and work in Switzerland for longer than three months.
  3. Apply for a permanent residence.

We recommend that American expats in Switzerland get adequate health insurance coverage from a certified provider. You can get a free international health insurance quote at International Citizens Insurance or Insubuy.

What type of visa should I apply for when moving to Switzerland from the US?

The type of Swiss long-stay visa you apply for depends on the reason you want to move to Switzerland. So, whether you want to join a family member, study, or work, you will have to apply for the Swiss visa accordingly.

In addition to the standard requirements for a Swiss visa, there are additional requirements and conditions for each specific type of visa. The types of Swiss long-stay visas are:

  • The Swiss Family Reunification Visa, which is granted to US nationals who want to join a family member (spouse/partner or a parent) living in Switzerland, either temporarily or permanently.
  • The Swiss Work Visa, which is granted to US nationals who want to move to Switzerland for work. You must already have found a job in Switzerland before applying.
  • The Swiss Study Visa, which is granted to US nationals who wish to move to Switzerland to continue their higher education. You must already be enrolled in a Swiss educational institution to be eligible for it.

Where Do I Apply for Swiss Visa if I Want to Move to Switzerland From the US?

You can apply in one of two ways: mail-in or drop-off. This means you can either mail the completed application or drop it off personally at the Swiss embassy/consulate responsible in your place of residence. You can drop the application off Monday to Friday at the reception, from 9 am to 12 (noon).

For long-stay visas, you do not need to have an appointment beforehand.

Embassy of Switzerland in Washington

You should apply at the Swiss Embassy in Washington if you live in the following US states:

  • District of Columbia (DC)
  • Delaware (DE)
  • Illinois (IL)
  • Indiana (IN)
  • Iowa (IA)
  • Kansas (KS)
  • Kentucky (KY)
  • Maryland (MD)
  • Missouri (MO)
  • Nebraska (NE)
  • Virginia (VA)
  • West Virginia (WV)
  • Northern Mariana Islands (MP)
  • Guam (GU)

Consulate General of Switzerland in Atlanta

You should apply at the Swiss Consulate General in Atlanta if you live in the following US states:

  • Alabama (AL)
  • Arkansas (AR)
  • Florida (FL)
  • Georgia (GA)
  • Louisiana (LA)
  • Mississippi (MS)
  • North Carolina (NC)
  • Oklahoma (OK)
  • South Carolina (SC)
  • Tennessee (TN)
  • Texas (TX)
  • Cayman Islands

Consulate General of Switzerland in San Francisco

You should apply at the Swiss Consulate General in San Francisco if you live in the following US states:

  • Alaska (AK)
  • Arizona (AZ)
  • California (CA)
  • Colorado (CO)
  • Hawaii (HI)
  • Idaho (ID)
  • Montana (MT)
  • Nevada (NV)
  • New Mexico (NM)
  • Oregon (OR)
  • Utah (UT)
  • Washington (WA)
  • Wyoming (WY)

Consulate General of Switzerland in New York

You should apply at the Swiss Consulate General in New York if you live in the following US states:

  • New York (NY)
  • Connecticut (CT)
  • Maine (ME)
  • Massachusetts (MA)
  • Michigan (MI)
  • Minnesota (MN)
  • New Hampshire (NH)
  • New Jersey (NJ)
  • North Dakota (ND)
  • Ohio (OH)
  • Pennsylvania (PA)
  • Rhode Island (RI)
  • South Dakota (SD)
  • Vermont (VT)
  • Wisconsin (WI)
  • Bermuda
  • Puerto Rico
  • US Virgin Islands

How Can I Get a Swiss Long Stay Visa?

To apply for a Switzerland long stay visa from the US you must go through these steps:

  1. You must pay all the required visa fees.
  2. When you submit your application, you must also include an envelope with your address and tracking number as the recipient. The envelope must be prepaid. The visa authorities at the embassy/consulate will use this envelope to return your application if it is not complete.
  3. After you submit your long-stay visa application at the Swiss embassy/consulate in the US, they will forward it to the immigration office of the canton in which you want to move to. There are 26 cantons in Switzerland, each of which is in charge of issuing residence permits to foreigners who want to settle into that particular canton.
  4. If the cantonal authorities authorize your application, they will notify the Swiss representation in the US, who will issue your visa.

See: Switzerland long stay visas.

What are the Required Documents to Move to Switzerland From the US?

When you apply for a long-stay visa in the US, you must have a set of documents which the Swiss cantonal authorities will use to review your application and make a decision.

Some of the requirements vary based on what your reason for wanting to move to Switzerland is. There may be different requirements when applying for a Swiss work visa than for a family reunion visa, for example.

However, there is a standard set of documents everyone must submit, such as:

  • A completed and signed long-stay (national/D-) visa application form. (Three copies)
  • Four passport pictures. They must be:
    • Identical
    • Recent (no more than six months old)
    • 35–40mm
    • Your face must take up 70–80% of the photograph
  • Two copies of your valid passport or travel document showing:
    • Your photo
    • Your personal information
    • Your signatures
  • If you are not a US Citizen: Two notarized copies of your proof of residency in the USA, such as copies of your Green Card, H1B visa, or F-1 visa.
  • If you drop off your application: Visa Application Drop-off Form.

After the cantonal migration office authorizes your application, you have to submit your original passport or travel document at the Swiss embassy/consulate in order to receive your visa.

Keep in mind that the Swiss authorities reserve the right to request any additional documentation they deem necessary. You may also be required to appear at the Swiss embassy/consulate in person in order to enter an interview.

What Swiss residence permits can I apply for?

After you receive your long-stay visa, you can enter Switzerland. Once there, you will have 14 days to register at the cantonal migration office and receive your residence permit.

The type of Swiss residence permit you can receive is:

  • Permit L for short-term residence. This permit is valid for one year and can be renewed only once. So, the maximum amount of time you can spend in Switzerland with an L Permit is 24 months. The L Permit is tied to a specific job or company, and if you want to work in another place, you may not receive another permit.
  • Permit B for temporary or initial residence. The B Permit is also valid for one year, but it can be renewed annually unless there is a reason why it should not. It is also usually restricted to one canton or employer. However, after living in Switzerland with the B Permit for ten years, you can apply for a Permanent Residence Permit (C Permit), hence it is called an “initial” residence permit.

Learn about other types of Swiss residence permits here.

It is important to note that you will not receive permanent resident status on your first entry, let alone a Swiss passport. You need to have lived in Switzerland for a minimum of five years (in most cases, ten years) before you are eligible to apply for permanent residence. You need ten years of continuous residence in Switzerland to apply for Swiss Citizenship.

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