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Legal basis: Art. 27 para. 1 let. a FNIA

General information

Migration law requires that when applying for a permit, students provide evidence of their enrolment in a school that meets the requirements previously described.

This the main condition for granting an authorisation for a stay for educational purposes.

There is no a priori mention in migration law about the procedures and conditions of enrolment required by educational and training establishments. However, migration law exerts a strong influence on the procedures that institutions draw up for foreign students. This is one example of how the foreign nationals police impacts on other private or public entities in Swiss society.

Enrolment procedures vary form one school to another and change every year. One should contact specific institutions for further information.
A discussion of the regulation on international recognition of diplomas goes beyond the scope of this guide. General information is available on this website:

For the UNIGE, you should check which diplomas are required (and the minimum average grades) and what additional exams may be needed. These exams can either be linguistic only (a French language test) or may cover general subjects (ECUS).

A complete list (by country) can be found on the admissions website.

The language requirements for admission to UNIGE are distinct from those required under migration law for the issuing of a residence permit.

Proof of payment of study fees (tuition fees)

You will be asked to attach this document to the application form. Here again, the fees vary from one institution to another, and even between different state educational institutions (university, university of applied sciences and arts, ETH, etc.).

For the past few years, there has been a tendency in Switzerland to increase these fees. Often, these policies are put into place by applying differentiated fee increases depending on whether a student is a Swiss or foreign national. Thus the ETH and the University of Applied Sciences and Arts Western Switzerland have implemented substantial fee increases for foreign nationals with a view to increasing them for everyone.

The University of Geneva is no exception. In the autumn of 2016, the university’s Rectorate attempted to introduce a differential enrolment fee for foreign nationals. After being confronted with student organising, it was forced to withdraw the measure. More information here:

Examination of students’ language skills

The institution’s board must check that an applicant has the required level of education and language skills.

Legal basis: Art. 27 para. 1 let. a FNIA; Art. 24 para. 3 and 4 ASEO

A student’s ability to follow an educational programme is of course a purely subjective matter. By stipulating this as a requirement within migratory law, the foreign nationals police control the prerequisites set by educational institutions.

SEM guidelines (No state that students should demonstrate language proficiency when they submit their application. The SEM makes mention of knowledge of a Swiss national language first, and of English second. The SEM provides an evaluation form for linguistic competence.

For university courses, the SEM requires that students evidence a B2 level in the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR). The University of Applied Sciences and Arts does not prescribe any preparatory language course if no demand is made for superior language skills.

This language requirement is dubious given that many courses at the UNIGE are given in languages other than French. However, the law stipulates language requirements in order to verify that students “have the ability to succeed in their education – no more, no less”1.

  1. Favez in RDAF 2009 I, p.221. 221.