When an application is submitted, the migration authorities will formally carry out two procedures which are closely linked, because they are governed by overlapping conditions:
- The visa granting procedure, which is headed by the Swiss consulate abroad.
- The procedure for granting a residence permit for training purposes, which is overseen by the section of the migration authorities referred to as the foreigners police (in Geneva, the OCPM and at the federal level, the SEM).
In practice, the Swiss consulate abroad itself sends visa application files to the cantonal authority, which in turn contacts students by e-mail, sending them the additional forms to fill out.
The entry authorisation (visa) will be issued abroad. Once in Switzerland, the student has to make a request for a biometric residence permit to the cantonal authority. However, as soon as an entry permit (visa) is issued, one can consider the battle won, because the residence permit will follow.
To find out where to apply for a visa and what the procedure for doing so is, go to the Confederation’s website (available in English, French, German, Italian and Spanish). You can also go to the FDFAwebsite (available in French, German, Italian and English) and chose the “entry into Switzerland and residence” tab, and then select the relevant country.
Each consulate will give precise information on the steps to be taken and the documents that need to be provided (especially if they have to be translated or certified).
However, SEM guidelines provide general guidance on the procedure (see below for examples about specific countries). 1
The SEM has drawn up a list of documents that must accompany requests made to consulates.
In parentheses, we note here the corresponding FNIA / ASEO material requirements. To understand these requirements, see the section on admission requirements of the residence permit.
- a certificate from the institution or training establishment at which the student is enrolled (Art. 27 para. 1 let. a FNIA a FNIA)
- the diploma required for admission to the institution, certified if necessary (Art. 27 para. 1 let. a FNIA a FNIA)
- the regulations concerning course fees (fees charged by the school, tuition fees, etc.) (Art. 27 para. 1 let. a FNIA a FNIA)
- a certificate of the payment of school fees (Art. 27 para. 1 let. a FNIA a FNIA)
- a language assessment document (Art. 27 para. 1 let. a FNIA a FNIA, Art. 24 ASEO)
- proof of “adequate accommodation” (Art. 24 and 27 para. 1 let. b FNIA)
- confirmation that the student has sufficient financial means at their disposal in order to be self-sufficient throughout their studies (Art. 27 para. 1 let. a FNIA c FNIA and Art. 23 para. 1 ASEO)
- a cover letter (Art. 27 para. 1 let. a FNIA d)
- a Curriculum Vitae (Art. 27 para. 1 let. a FNIA d)
- a written commitment that the student will leave Switzerland after the end of their studies (the legality of this requirement is questionable)
It is assumed that students have already completed the registration process for the course of their choice before they submit the application to the embassy (see section on enrolling on a course). This process takes time and is subject to deadlines. So you have to begin it well in advance.
The student will then have to appear in person at the Swiss consulate during the visa application procedure. They will normally undergo an examination with questions of this kind:
- Who are you?
- Where are you from?
- Where does your family live (parents, brothers and sisters) and what kind of work do they do?
- Have you ever been abroad before (if yes, where and in what capacity)?
- Where did you complete your education?
- Why are you thinking of coming to Switzerland for your education?
- What are your plans for the future (in particular, in relation to your return to your country)?
- What are your future prospects in your country of origin (once you have finished your education in Switzerland)?
- Can the money invested in your education in Switzerland be put to profitable use once you are back in your country of origin?
- Or is the average income too low to offset the costs invested in Switzerland (departure from Switzerland must be guaranteed)?
- What income do you expect to receive in your home country after completing your training in Switzerland? 2
The purpose of these questions is above all to reject applications from people who would like to migrate permanently to Switzerland. Since the administration has broad discretion, students must sell themselves in order to make the best possible impression on the officials responsible for reviewing their case.
Legal basis: Art. 27 para. 1 let. d FNIA; Art. 23 para. 2 ASEO
The Swiss consulate will then forward the file to the cantonal migration authority (in Geneva, the OCPM) with a “brief comment and assessment of the request.” In cases where the SEM’s approval is required, the cantonal migration authority will in turn forward the file to the SEM in Bern.
The cantonal migration authority itself contacts students, usually after a few weeks, and asks them to put together a file with the additional documents required for the cantonal residence permit procedure.
In Geneva, the OCPM will request that two separate forms be completed:
- Form E
- Form 0 (avalaible only in French) on the certificate of financial support (see section on sufficient financial means)
This second form contains a questionnaire and a list of documents which partially overlap with the documents to be provided to the Swiss representation.
The OCPM requests additional details on:
- any possible internship or planned gainful activity (see the right to engage in gainful activity)
- a detailed study plan: the weekly number of hours of lessons, schedules, details of departments and total duration of studies (see section on maximum duration of studies)