Visas, residence permits and work permits for Switzerland
How to obtain a Swiss visa or work permit
Switzerland is one of the world’s most innovative research countries and has attracted international students and researchers for some time. This article provides information which will help you get your visa no matter your nationality and focuses on UK and US residents in particular.
How to get a Swiss visa: application requirements
The Swiss representation responsible for your place of residence abroad can issue your visa. There are two types: Schengen visas for entering the Schengen Area and remaining up to 90 days and national type D visas for longer stays.
You can download application forms for both visas from the State Secretariat for Migration. Websites of Swiss representations abroad provide additional visa application forms in local languages. Both the procedure and the documents you must submit vary based on your country of residence, nationality and the purpose of your stay. You can visit the site of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs to view the application conditions for your situation. Depending on your employment status, you may need additional documents.
Unless you are a citizen of the EU/EFTA or certain other countries, you will need a Schengen visa to enter Switzerland. If you intend on remaining longer than 90 days, you must apply for a residence permit for your stay in Switzerland within 14 days of arrival regardless of your nationality. You must apply in person at a registration office (Einwohnermeldeamt) in your canton, where you will need to present your passport, proof of matriculation or employment contract, lease and evidence of adequate financial resources (unless you have a student visa).
You cannot submit applications for Schengen visas earlier than three months before your planned entry into the Schengen Area. You should submit your application no later than three to four weeks before your planned departure to leave enough time for processing.
Generally, you will need to submit the following documents:
Complete application form
Your passport and copies of previous visas (your passport/residence permit must be valid for at least three months beyond your return date and have at least two blank pages)
Travel medical insurance
A cover letter
Proof of accommodation
Proof of civil status
Proof of sufficient financial means
Photo requirements for a Swiss visa
When applying for a visa, you must submit two photos unless specified otherwise. The photo requirements are the same for all Schengen countries:
Two identical colour photos, no older than six months
35 x 45 mm
Your head should occupy 70-80% of the photo
Use a proper level of focus, contrast and brightness
Use a brightly lit/coloured background without patterns
Look straight at the camera and do not tilt your head
Wear a neutral face expression and close your mouth
Avoid wearing colours which match the background
Use high-quality paper and a printing resolution of at least 600 dpi
Your eyes must be visible and open
You may wear only religious headwear
Your face must be clearly visible from chin to forehead
If you are a UK citizen in possession of a full UK passport or a BOTC (British Overseas Territories Citizen), BOC (British Overseas Citizen), BPP (British Protected Person) or BS (British Subjects) passport, you do not need a visa to enter Switzerland. However, you will need one if you are a UK resident and a citizen of one of these countries. You can apply for a visa through the Swiss Embassy/Consulate or, alternatively, you can contact a Swiss visa application centre such as TLScontact offices or fill out a form on the IAM website.
In addition to the documents listed in the first section, you will need the following to obtain a Swiss visa in the UK:
One passport photo with a light background, properly coloured and showing all face features. It must be less than three months old and must be attached to the application form with a paper clip
Biometric data (only if you haven’t provided biometric data within the last 59 months):
A copy of the passport bio page with the photo
Do keep in mind that requirements may change depending on the progression of Brexit, so it is a good idea to check them on a regular basis. This page on the Swiss Confederation and the UK provides detailed information on the application and entry process.
Swiss visas for US residents
If you are a United States citizen with a valid US tourist passport, you do not need a Schengen visa to enter Switzerland. However, you will need one if you are a US resident and a citizen of one of these countries. You can apply for a visa at a Swiss representation in the United States only if you have a legal residence status in the United States.
In addition to the documents listed in the first section, you will need the following to obtain a Swiss visa in the United States:
For foreign US residents only: original of valid US alien registration card or valid US residence visa
One passport photo less than three months old
All documents must be in English, German, French or Italian or officially translated by a certified translator.
Swiss consular services are available through its embassy in Washington and consulates in Atlanta, New York and San Francisco. Waiting times may be up to five weeks, so it is advisable to book your appointment in advance. Except for rare instances, you must submit your application in person.
Swiss work permits for scientists and researchers
The website of the Federal Institute of Technology(Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich, ETH Zürich) is a good place to start looking for information on visas and permits if you want to work at a university, but one thing is true no matter where you are from and no matter what type of position you are pursuing in science and research: you will need a work permit. Your chances of receiving one generally depend on existing work quotas, your educational background, your work experience and whether an EU/EFTA candidate is available for the position.
Unless you are a student or related to someone with a settlement permit, you must obtain permission to work before entering the country. Once you have secured employment, your employer will submit an application to the local cantonal employment service, which will review and forward it to the Federal Office for Migration (Bundesamt für Migration) for approval. You will get your residence and work permit when you arrive in Switzerland.
Application forms and specific requirements vary from canton to canton, but you generally need to submit the following:
Photocopy of your passport/travel ID data page
Copies of job advertisements
Evidence of other effort to get work
Copies of qualifications (in German, French, Italian, or English)
Information on your university/place of higher education
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Overview of Swiss work permits
Type of Permit
A short-term residence permit that allows you to stay in Switzerland for up to one year
An initial or temporary residence permit that is valid for one year but can be extended annually as long as there are no grounds for it not to be reissued
A settlement permit for those who have been living in Switzerland for ten continuous years (five for US and Canadian citizens)
A work permit for residents of other EU/EFTA member states who work in Switzerland