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One needs to understand the following:

Within migration law, a holder of an original right to stay (in this case, a holder of a residence permit for educational purposes) is entitled to bring family members to Switzerland, which is referred to as providing them with a (derived) right to stay. There is confusion about the distinct perspectives of the holder of the original right and the holder of the derived right. In this section, the right to family reunification is considered from the point of view of the student, that is, the holder of the original right to stay. This guide does not consider those intending to study with a “derived” residence permit, which is a different matter.

Students do not have a legal right to an original permit. Therefore, the law does not give them the right to obtain a derived permit for their family members.

However, in some cases (which generally do not concern holders of residence permits for studies) such a “right” can be inferred from Art. 8 of the ECHR. One should contact a legal advice centre for further information on this. 1

According to the FNIA, students can apply to the authorities for a derived right to stay for the following persons:

  • their spouse (or registered partner if they are of the same sex)
  • their children (unmarried and under 18 years of age)

Family members must:

  • live in the same house as the student (exceptions are possible!)
  • the whole family must have appropriate accommodation
  • the whole family must have sufficient financial means

Legal basis: Art. 44 and 45 FNIA

Family reunification can be requested very quickly (for children over 12 years old, within 12 months of the granting of a permit!). One must be extremely attentive to these deadlines.

Specific questions arise when a student wishes to bring over their spouse/registered partner who has children from a former union. In those instances, we are referring to partial family reunification. One should seek out information for each individual case.

  1. Annotated Code of Migration Law vol. II Art. 44 FNIA N°2.