When coming to Switzerland for a holiday, short stay or to study, it is important to know what type of visa you need to apply for. Visas in Switzerland are used to cover short trips to the country or for attending university. If you would like to stay in Switzerland for work, or you are in the middle of looking for a house, it is best to apply for a residence permit.
Types of visa for Switzerland
Switzerland has four types of visa:
- Swiss tourist visa
- Schengen visas for business, medical or cultural purposes
- Swiss national visa for students
- Swiss airport transit visa
Which countries need a visa for Switzerland?
Citizens of countries that are not part of the EU / EEA or EFTA will have to apply for a Swiss visa before travelling to Switzerland. In order to apply for a Swiss visa, you must request one from the Swiss embassy or consulate in the country where you are a resident.
Who does not need a visa?
Although not a member of the European Union, Switzerland has signed agreements with the EU and EFTA that allow citizens to travel between each member state without a visa. This means that citizens from EU / EEA countries (including the United Kingdom) or EFTA countries (Andorra, Brunei, Japan, Malaysia, Monaco, New Zealand, San Marino, Singapore, the Vatican City and a number of others) can enter Switzerland and stay for up to 90 days within a 180-day period.
You can check visa requirements for your specific country by visiting the official website.
Essential travel documents to enter Switzerland
Regardless of whether you require a visa or not, it's handy to have the following documents to hand when entering Switzerland:
- Valid passport with at least six months validity.
- Proof of travel insurance for the length of your stay.
- Proof of sufficient financial means to support yourself (e.g. a bank statement or payslip).
- Proof of your purpose for travel.
- Proof that you will return to your country of residence if you are not looking for a job or applying for an extension or residence permit.
You may be prevented from entering Switzerland if you are deemed to be a threat to public order, civil liberties, public health, domestic security, inter-community relations or international relations. You may also be denied entry if you are the subject of a travel ban from the EU or EFTA.
What documents do you need to apply for a Swiss visa?
If you are not covered by a visa-free travel agreement, there are several key items you will need to provide to apply for a Swiss visa, regardless of its type:
- An application form from your local Swiss embassy.
- Two passport-style photos that have been taken recently.
- Proof that you have health insurance and are insured up to 35.000 Swiss francs.
- A cover letter explaining your reasons for coming to Switzerland.
- Flight itinerary or reservation.
- Proof of accommodation for the duration of your stay such as a rental contract or hotel booking.
- Proof of financial security for the duration of your stay (i.e. you are able to spend 100 Swiss francs a day during the stay (30 francs a day for students in higher education).
Visas in Switzerland
There are four types of visa available for visitors in Switzerland, each with its own purpose and limitations.
1. Tourist and visitor visa
A tourist and visitor visa (C-visa) for Switzerland is the most common type of visa granted for short-stay trips such as holidays or visiting family. This visa is valid for 90 days and allows for travel to all parts of Switzerland and the Schengen area. On top of the documents listed above, to apply for this visa you will also need to provide:
- Proof of residency in the country in which you are applying.
- A recent letter from your employer; if you are self-employed or a freelancer and want to apply for a Swiss tourist visa, a copy of a business license or tax return is required.
2. Swiss Schengen visa
If you want to come to Switzerland for business, medical or cultural reasons from a country that does not have a visa agreement with Switzerland, you will need a Swiss Schengen visa (European C-visa). Some non-EU / EFTA nationals may also have to apply for a Schengen visa in order to enter the country to apply for a residence permit.
Is Switzerland in the Schengen Area?
The Schengen Area is a collection of 26 countries in Europe that have unified their policies on visas and thus removed most border restrictions between them, allowing for open travel. Switzerland has been part of this group since 2008.
Types of Swiss Schengen visa
Like other Schengen visas, the Swiss Schengen visa can be used in two different ways: It can either function as a single stay of up to 90 days or as multiple trips of up to 90 days within a period of 180. If you want to exit and re-enter the Schengen area on the same visa, you must apply for a multiple-entry Schengen visa. For example, if you travel home between two trips to Switzerland, you must apply for a multiple-entry visa.
If you stay in the Schengen area for 90 days, you must leave and remain outside it for 90 days before you can apply for another visa.
Required documents for Swiss Schengen visa
You will also need some additional supporting documents to apply for a Swiss Schengen visa. Exactly which documents you require will differ depending on the nature of your stay in Switzerland. It is advisable to contact your local Swiss embassy or consulate in advance to find out the exact requirements.
When applying for a Swiss Schengen visa, some common documents that may be required are:
- An invitation letter from a Swiss company and a certificate from your employer allowing travel (for a visa for business).
- A local medical report, confirmation of appointment in Switzerland from a doctor at a Swiss hospital and the payment receipt of medical fees (for a medical visa).
- An invitation letter detailing the nature of the activity and a list of applicants / crew members (for a cultural visa).
- Proof of citizenship, marriage certificate and Swiss family record book (for a spouse visa).
3. Swiss national visa
The Swiss National visa (D-visa) allows you to stay for more than 90 days in Switzerland and the Schengen area. This visa only applies to students wanting to study in Switzerland or for family members of Swiss citizens.
4. Swiss transit visa
A Swiss transit visa (A-visa) is for international airport passengers that are making a stopover at a Swiss airport while travelling to a destination outside of the Schengen area. To apply for a Swiss transit visa you must provide proof of visa for your final destination. You are not permitted to exit the airport at any point with this type of visa. If you need to exit the airport in Switzerland then you must apply for a Swiss Schengen visa.
Staying longer than 90 days
If you would like to extend your stay beyond the 90-day limit and have not applied for a national visa or residence permit, you must contact your county (canton).
To extend your visa you will require:
- A valid reason to extend your stay such as personal circumstances or inability to travel to your country of residence.
- Proof of financial means to remain in Switzerland.
- Proof of secure accommodation.
- Proof of health insurance.
The cantonal authorities only accept these extensions in exceptional circumstances and only for an additional 90 days. If you want to stay in Switzerland more permanently, you need to apply for a residence permit.
Application procedure for Swiss visas
If you are a citizen in one of the nations that is not covered by the EU / EEA, EFTA or Schengen travel arrangements, then you must apply for a visa before travelling to Switzerland.
Where do I apply for a Swiss visa?
You must apply for a visa at the Swiss mission (consulate or embassy) in your country of residence. If Switzerland does not have a mission in your country, then you should visit the next closest one to you. Rules for attendance differ by country but it is a good idea to attend the mission in person.
Make a Swiss visa application appointment
To submit your visa application, you will need to book an appointment. You can do this by accessing the official government portal. You need to bring all of the required supporting documentation to this meeting. If the Swiss mission approves your application, they will stamp a visa into your passport.
It is a good idea to reserve, but not pay for, your travel to Switzerland, until your visa has been confirmed.
Visa application fees
The application fees for travellers to Switzerland varies depending on your nationality and your age. The average cost of applying for a visa is 90 Swiss francs per person. Additional charges may be made if your application can be submitted by post.
Reduced visa fees for certain nationalities
Certain countries have made accords with Switzerland in order to reduce the cost of applying for a visa from 90 to 43 francs. These countries are Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Moldova, Russia, Serbia and Ukraine.
Can I work on a Swiss visa?
You are only able to work on a Swiss visa if you have applied for a Schengen visa for business purposes. If so, you are only able to work in the way that has been described by your employer in your visa application. Otherwise, if you want to work in Switzerland, you need to apply for residency.