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How to secure a student visa for Switzerland

Switzerland is home to some of the world’s top universities, but depending on your nationality, you may need a student visa. Source: Shutterstock

Switzerland is known for many things, some of which include Swiss chocolate, cheese, watches, the Swiss Alps and professional tennis players Roger Federer and Martina Hingis.

Culture and tourist attractions aside, the country is also renowned for education. Students who are keen to pursue their tertiary studies in this central European country will find it a memorable experience. Switzerland is home to some of the world’s top universities, including ETH Zurich and École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), ranked 11th and 35th respectively in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2019.

Public transport in the country is efficient – Switzerland has an extensive train and bus network, making public transit convenient for students. The country is also unique, with a whopping four national languages spoken: German, French, Italian and Romansh.

So, if you have your heart set on studying in Switzerland for a course longer than three months, here’s our guide on how you can obtain a student visa for Switzerland:

Do I need a student visa?

If you’re an EU student, you won’t need a student visa. However, you will need to register with the local Residents’ Registration Office to obtain a residence permit within 14 days of arriving.

Non-EU students (with the exception of nationals from Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand and Singapore, who will need to apply for a residence permit before arriving if you plan on staying longer than 90 days) will need to apply for a multiple entry long stay visa (Visa D) from a Swiss embassy in your home country.

You can use this website as a reference for Swiss embassy locations.

Where can I apply for my visa?

According to the Swiss Federal Department of Justice and Police website, where you apply for your visa depends on your place of residence. You can submit your visa application either:

  • Directly at a Swiss representation abroad
  • By filling out the visa application online
  • At an external visa service provider
  • At the representation of another Schengen State

Check your options here.

When should I apply for my student visa?

It can take approximately six to 12 weeks for a visa to be issued. Visa fees typically costs around €60 (£52 or USD$68), but you will need to contact your embassy for clarification.

What documents to I need to include in my application?

Typically, you may need:

  • A valid passport (for at least three months beyond the planned duration of your stay)
  • Four recent passport-sized photographs
  • Three completed forms of Application for long stay visa (visa D)
  • A letter of acceptance from your chosen institution
  • Proof of sufficient funds (e.g. bank statement, scholarship, etc.)
  • CV
  • Proof of language skills (as courses may be taught in languages such as German, French or English)
  • Proof of health insurance
  • Proof course payment has been made
  • A motivation letter (a written personal statement in which you declare the reasons why you wish to study in the country)
  • A written commitment that you will leave the country upon completing your programme

Make copies of the original documents for the embassy as you may need them, while you may also be asked to bring or submit additional documentation, so only use this list as a reference. Take note that you may also be asked to attend an interview.

Your university may be able to advise you on your visa application, but it may be best to contact your nearest embassy or consulate for inquiries.

Can I work while studying?

EU/EEA students can work part-time for up to 15-hours per week during the term.

Students of other nationalities can work six months after beginning their studies. However, your employer will need to obtain a work permit for you.

You can also stay up to six months after graduation to look for a job.

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