Switzerland is known for its scenic nature, its winter sports and of course – the snowy Alps. However, lately, the country has been a favourite for another reason. More and more students wishing to travel abroad for their higher education are choosing Switzerland over more popular destinations like the US or UK. Swiss universities have long traditions of academic excellence and offer students an opportunity to take advantage of some of the best faculty and facilities in the world. Furthermore, since Switzerland has a relatively stable economy, universities receive a lot of government support, translating to low tuition fees and ample scholarships. If you are considering completing your higher education in Switzerland, here is a guide to everything you need to know to get a student visa:
Who needs a student visa to study in Switzerland?
Residents of the countries belonging to the European Union (EU) or the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) do not require a visa in order to enter or study in Switzerland. These citizens simply need to provide proof of enrollment in a Swiss university and register themselves with the local authorities upon arrival. Thus, if you are a EU or EFTA citizen, then studying in Switzerland is even more easy and lucrative.
However, students that do not belong to the EU or EFTA countries must apply for a student visa in order to be able to stay and study in Switzerland. There are two main types of visas that students can apply for, the C Visa and the D Visa. The C Visa is a short-term visa that is suitable for short seminars, summer school programmes and other courses that last three months or less. The D Visa is a long-term visa required for full-time programmes in higher education. Here is how you can go about applying for a Swiss student visa.
Steps to get a student visa:
The basic requirement of a student visa is proof of admission in a Swiss university. Before starting the visa application process, students must apply to Swiss universities of their choice and secure admission in any one of them. Once the student receives an offer letter and/or certificate of acceptance from a Swiss university, they can start the visa process.
Once admission is secured, the student must organise documents according to the Swiss immigration rules, which can be found on their official website. The student must have a valid passport and fill the visa application form, along with current photographs. Apart from that, there are certain documents that need to be submitted to the embassy along with the application. The letter of acceptance by the Swiss university, proof of payment of tuition fees, proof of scholarship in case of financial aid are all essential.
Furthermore, the student must furnish financial documents to prove that they have sufficient funds to cover their living costs in Switzerland. Similarly, the student must submit a CV, a letter explaining their motivation for studying in the country as well as a written commitment to leave the country after completion of the programme. Most of these documents either need to be secured from the university, the bank and other financial institutions or have to be written by the applicant themselves.
Visa application process
Once the admission is secured and all the documents organised with the student, he or she can begin the actual process of visa application. For this, they must first determine which category of students they fall into (EU, EFTA, Non-EU/EFTA, etc.) as well as which type of visa they want to apply for (long or short term).
After this, the student must schedule an appointment with the Swiss embassy or consulate in their city. Since the visa can take time to arrive, it is best to schedule an appointment as soon as admission is secured. Students must try to get an appointment no later than 10 weeks before their scheduled arrival in Switzerland. Generally, short term visas are processed faster (10 to 15 days) while long term visas can take 8 to 10 weeks to arrive.
Once an appointment is scheduled, the applicant simply needs to submit all the relevant documents at the embassy. Sometimes, the authorities might conduct a short interview or an oral test to evaluate English language proficiency. Once all the documents are submitted and the interview completed, the Swiss embassy will pass on the application to the migration authorities for approval.
What are the terms of a student visa in Switzerland?
Most of the time, in cases of a student visa, the visa is issued for the duration of the programme in which the student is enrolled. However, sometimes the Swiss authorities also issue a yearly visa which is renewed each year as per the duration of the programme.
As per the visa regulations, international students are allowed to work part time in Switzerland during their stay. They can work up to 15 hours per week during the semester and full-time during the holidays. However, before they can begin working, Non-EU/EFTA students must wait for 6 months after the start of their studies in the country. Furthermore, their employer needs to apply for a work permit for them before they can begin work.
Studying in Switzerland comes with a whole host of benefits, especially for international students looking to complete their higher education. Upon securing admission in a Swiss university, international students can begin their visa application process immediately. The process differs for EU/EFTA and non-EU/EFTA students as well as for long-term and short-term visa applicants. Certain documents such as acceptance letter, financial documents, CV and letter of purpose need to be prepared before applying for the visa. Once all documents are organised, the student can schedule an appointment at the nearest Swiss embassy and complete their application. The visa should arrive within 8 to 10 weeks of the application, in case of long-term visa and 8-10 days, in case of short-term visa.