Either during or at the end of a course of study, a student can apply for a residence permit on the basis of a different motive (work, family reunification with a derived permit if married).
In this case, two fundamental principles apply:
- The student will be subject to strict conditions of access to the Swiss labour market (quotas and priority order).
- The student will generally have to leave Switzerland and wait abroad for the outcome of the application procedure.
However, there are exceptions to these principles:
Specific case of persons with a university degree
(Exception to the principle 1)
On 1 January 2011, as a result of a parliamentary initiative aimed at “Simplified Admission for Foreign Nationals with Swiss University Degrees” 1, the FNIA was amended in favour of persons with a Swiss university degree.
A list of Swiss higher education institutions can be found here:https://www.swissuniversities.ch/.
The concept of a “Swiss university” must, however, be interpreted in a broad way. And yet, obtaining a Federal Diploma of Vocational Education and Training is not a sufficient condition 2
A graduate of a Swiss university has the right to be granted “temporary admission” for six months right after the end of their studies in order to look for a job in Switzerland. This means that they do not have to leave Switzerland at the end of their studies.3
However, graduates do not have the right to long-term work permits. This is a simplification of the usual conditions for admission to the labour market (normally, the worker must prove that there is no one in Switzerland or in any of the EU/EFTA member states capable of performing the work).
Furthermore, the gainful activity that the graduate intends to undertake must be of “high academic or economic interest” for Switzerland. This is a vague and undefined principle. 4
Legal basis: Art. 21 para. 3 FNIA
Persons entitled to the right of residence
(Exception to the principle 2)
Persons who can prove a strong likelihood that they have the right to residence in Switzerland do not have to leave the country. The most typical example is family reunification based on marriage to a Swiss or EU citizen.5
Prior periods of stay count towards the granting of a permanent residence permit
If a student is able to convert their permit for educational purposes into a long-term residence permit, they will be eligible for a permanent residence permit (C permit) after a certain period of time. This period is generally 5 years.
However, stays for educational purposes are only taken into account if, once the course has ended, the applicant has been in possession of a long-term residence permit for two years without interruption.
Art. 34 para. 5 FNIA.