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The basics
Switzerland: Visa Guides - Must read

Applying for a student visa in Switzerland

Here is everything you need to know about getting a visa to study in Switzerland.

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International students from outside of Europe will usually need a visa to study in Switzerland, but there are a few exceptions. Make sure you check with the Swiss Embassy in your country or the Swiss Federal Office for Migration for information relating to the country you are applying from.


Also, it is important to apply for a visa well in advance of your studies. Although the application process usually takes 6-12 weeks, it can take longer. And you don’t want to be rushing around on your last few days before you leave organising a visa, do you?!


EU students:

If you are a citizen of a country in the EU, then you do not need to apply for a visa to study in Switzerland.


Also, citizens of European Free Trade Association (EFTA) countries (Iceland, Lichtenstein, Norway) do not have to apply for a visa.


Interestingly, if you are a citizen of Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, or Singapore you also don’t have to apply for a visa in Switzerland. However, you do have to obtain a residence permit, which is explained later.



Non-EU students:

If you are a citizen from outside of the EU, you will usually need a visa to study in Switzerland. You can have a look at this website to check whether you definitely need a visa.


For those who do require a visa, there are two different types which can work for students. For shorter courses, a Schengen visa provides you with a maximum stay of three months. For something a bit longer-term, such as an Undergraduate or Masters degree, you will probably need a National D visa. Both of those are explained in a bit more detail below.


Schengen visa

This allows people to stay in Switzerland for three months, so it will suit students who will be undertaking short courses in the country, but not those who are studying on a course at degree level. Unfortunately, you cannot extend your Schengen visa. If you want to stay on in Switzerland, you have to go back to your home country and reapply for a different visa from there.


National visa

The National visa is for students who need to stay in Switzerland for more than 90 days. This is the visa you need to apply for if you are studying a degree, whether it is postgraduate or undergraduate. You cannot apply for these visas without an enrolment certificate from your university, so make sure you have that ready. Also, you have to organise a meeting with the Swiss embassy in your home country, where you will be told what documents you need.


What documents will I need for the student visa?

  • A valid passport
  • 2 valid passport photos
  • Proof of sufficient financial means for your period of stay in Switzerland. You must be able to show that you have at least 30 swiss francs per day at your disposal for the length of your stay.
  • Proof of healthcare insurance that can cover you for hospitals fees in the case of an accident.
  • A CV (read our guide to writing a CV for help)
  • Confirmation of your enrolment certificate at your Swiss university.
  • Copies of all your educational certificates/diplomas from previous institutions.
  • A ‘motivation’ letter explaining why you want to study in Switzerland and what it will bring to your career.


Once you arrive, you have just two weeks to register for a residence permit at your canton’s migration office, so make sure you don’t forget to do that! A residence permit is a legal document which allows you to stay in Switzerland for more than three months. Although people from Japan, Malaysia, Singapore and New Zealand don’t require visas to enter the country, they have to provide the same documents that others do for a visa if they wish to receive a residence permit for Switzerland.


If you need any other help with housing and accommodation when you’re in Switzerland, have a look at our guide for all the info you’ll need!


Excited about studying in Switzerland? Get searching for courses now! You can also find out a bit more about pursuing your studies in the country by visiting the Studying In Switzerland website.