How to Get a Student Visa for Switzerland

Regardless of your future career plans, you will definitely receive top education and have the chance to engage in groundbreaking research work while studying in Switzerland. Apart from having a significant number of highly ranked universities, Switzerland is one of the top 20 wealthiest countries in the world and also one of the safest in Europe.

After being admitted at a university, the next step is to check if you need a student visa for Switzerland. Don't worry, the application procedure is just as simple as Swiss watches are accurate and precise.

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1. Apply to a Swiss university and get your acceptance letter

If you’re still not sure where you want to study in Switzerland, you will have to decide before you can start your student visa application process. After being accepted at a Swiss university, you’ll get an acceptance letter required for the visa application.

These are some of the most popular academic disciplines in Switzerland:

Consider some of the best universities in Switzerland:

2. Find out if you need a visa to study in Switzerland

Let's first see which students need a visa and/or a residence permit to study at a Swiss university:

  • students from the European Union (EU) don't need a visa if they plan to stay for less than 90 days. To stay longer, they need to contact the competent Cantonal Authority and apply for a residence permit within 14 days after arriving in Switzerland.
  • students from EFTA countries (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway) follow the same rules as EU students. No visa is required for stays shorter than 3 months, but they need a residence permit for longer periods.
  • students from non-EU/EFTA countries need to apply for a visa to enter Switzerland. They can apply at the local Swiss embassy or consulate in their home country. After arriving in Switzerland, they also need to apply for a residence permit.

Non-EU/EFTA students can apply for 2 types of visas:

  • short-term visa (up to 90 days, Schengen visa): if you plan to study a short-course or a language programme. You can submit a short-term visa application online.
  • long-term visa (over 90 days, National visa): if you plan to study a full-time degree. You can submit a long-term visa application only in-person, at a local Swiss embassy or consulate in your country.

The residence permit is valid for the entire duration of your studies or for one year. You can renew the permit until you finish the academic studies. Remember to apply for the renewal at least 2 weeks before the expiry date!

3. When and where to apply for the Swiss visa?

If you need a long-term visa, you should schedule an appointment at the Swiss embassy or consulate in your area as soon as you get the acceptance letter from the Swiss university. Schedule the appointment for a visa interview as early as 6 months prior to studying in Switzerland but no later than 10 weeks before your departure.

Unless the application form and all required documents are in French, German or English, you will need a certified translation of all documents in one of these languages.

Processing time:

  • Short-stay visas: 10–15 days
  • Long-stay visas: at least 8–10 weeks

4. Language requirements for studying in Switzerland

There are no specific language requirements for a Swiss visa. On the other hand, universities will require proof of language proficiency when you apply and that proof is usually sufficient for the Swiss embassy officers.

In some cases, the embassy will want to evaluate your language knowledge based on a short interview at the consulate or even an oral and written test.

The Swiss representation will send the entry application, including documentation and assessment of language proficiency to the relevant Cantonal Migration Authorities for their approval.

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5. Documents required for the student visa in Switzerland

  • Three forms of “Application for long-stay visa” filled and signed
  • Four passport-size photographs
  • Passport (valid 3 months beyond the planned stay)
  • Letter of acceptance issued by a Swiss university
  • Proof of payment of the registration and tuition fees – original and copy
  • Proof of sufficient financial means to cover living costs in Switzerland for the duration of your studies (provide evidence of having 21,000 CHF or 19,200 EUR at the beginning of each year of your studies)
  • Letter of institution in case all expenses for the study will be covered by a scholarship or loan
  • CV
  • Letter of motivation
  • Commitment to leave Switzerland after completing your studies

6. Working in Switzerland during your studies

If you intend to work in Switzerland, you need to report it to the relevant immigration authority.

International students can take up part-time work for up to 15 hours a week during the semester and they can work full-time during holidays. But there's a catch for non-EU/EFTA students: they can only begin working 6 months after the start of their studies. For non-EU/EFTA students, the hiring company/employer needs to apply for a work permit.

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