Switzerland is the world’s most innovative research countries and has a long tradition of attracting international students and researchers. Here is some practical advice to help you settle in quickly.
If you are a citizen of the EU/EEA or certain other countries you will not need a visa to enter Switzerland, although you will need a residence permit once in Switzerland to study or research. If you are not a citizen of the EU/EEA, you will need to apply for a national “D” visa and work/residence permit in person at the Swiss embassy or consulate general in your country of residence in order to study or research in Switzerland. There are quotas on the number of work and residence permits that can be issued to foreign researchers.
Regardless of whether you need a visa to enter Switzerland, every student and researcher must obtain a residence permit for the period of their stay in Switzerland within 14 days of arrival. You have to apply for your residence permit in person at a Citizen’s Registry Office (Einwohnermeldeamt/Services des habitants) in your canton. You will be asked for your passport, proof of matriculation or employment contract, your lease, evidence of adequate financial resources (exempt for those with student visas). You will receive your residence permit in a few weeks. The type of permit depends on how long you will be in Switzerland. Short-term L permits are issued for a year and can be extended for a total of two years. Annual B permits are valid for a year and can be renewed annually for long-term employment.
Bringing Your Family
Spouses and dependant children of both EU/EEA nationals and non-EU/EEA nationals may accompany you to Switzerland although you must show that your accommodation is large enough for all family members, and you have the financial resources to support all family members. If you are not from the EU/EEA your must include your family members on your immigration application form. In principle, a spouse is permitted to work in Switzerland if they get a residence permit with authorization to work.
Shortly after registering with the Citizen’s Registry Office, you will receive a letter requesting that you take out compulsory health insurance within three months. Health insurance is mandatory for anyone residing in Switzerland for more than three months. You can choose your insurance provider yourself and many offer special packages for foreign students. Monthly premiums range from 80 CHF to 350 CHF depending on your age. The benefits that the providers offer as part of their compulsory plans are regulated by law but they are free to set their own prices.
Students and researchers from EU/EEA countries should get a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) before coming to Switzerland. The EHIC card will cover any medical you require while in Switzerland.
To open a bank account in Switzerland you will usually need to bring the following documents: ID card or passport, Swiss residence permit, and your employment contract. Major banks in Switzerland include UBS, Credit Suisse, Swiss Raiffeisen, and Julius Baer. It is a good idea to have a few weeks worth of living expenses available in your home bank account that you can use until you get your Swiss bank account and salary deposit set up. Check with your home bank before you travel to make sure you will be able to use your bank card abroad.
Learning the Languages
English is the lingua franca of research at many Swiss universities, but much of daily life is conducted in German (and Swiss German), French, Italian, or Romansch. Learning the language of your canton will help you integrate and improve your experience in Switzerland. Most major universities offer partially subsidized German or French courses aimed at foreign students and researchers.