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The complexity of Swiss migration rules makes it easy to get lost in a web of jargon and acronyms. When we speak about permits, we usually refer to them alongside certain letters (B, C, F, G, etc.). This is how we designate the different types of residence permit – that is the identity cards that the authorities issue to foreign nationals to certify their status.

Legal basis: Art. 32 et seq FNIA; Art. 41 FNIA, Art. 71 ff ASEO

A permit is a residence permit that can cover very different legal situations. The permits which concern us here are L or B permits.These are both issued as authorisations for a stay with a specific purpose, but differ in the length of their validity (less than one year for L permits and normally one year with the possibility of renewal for B permits).

A B permit may, for example, have been issued for educational purposes. It may also have been issued for gainful employment, for medical treatment in Switzerland, for the fact of having been granted asylum and so on. Permit holders’ rights and obligations vary considerably across these different situations.

The specific purpose discussed in this guide is residence for educational reasons.

The rules governing B and L student permits are totally different depending on whether or not the holder is subject to the free movement of persons in the EU. The permit is accordingly marked (EU/EFTA) or not.

The conditions for granting a permit for educational purposes are laid out in Art. 27 of the FNIA and 23 of the ASEO and, for Europeans, in Art. 24 of the Annex to the AFMP.

In Geneva, this concerns around 5000 student permits (data from the Tribune de Genève, 24.9.2012).

38% of students at the UNIGE are not from Geneva (source in French: Data on student body).

Note: the absence or expiry of a residence permit for studies does not necessarily mean that it is impossible to stay or study in Switzerland. There are cases in which foreign nationals can study in Switzerland under other types of residence status (family reunification, asylum, temporary admission, the authorisation of permanent residence), or by residing with an irregular status. This guide does not discuss these cases.