Visas: Switzerland may allow foreign university graduates to stay

A sea of black graduating hats
Foreigners who graduate from postgraduate university programs in Switzerland may be able to stay under a new proposal. Photo by Good Free Photos on Unsplash
Switzerland looks set to allow masters and PhD graduates to stay in the country under a new proposal targeted at fixing the shortage of skilled workers.

Swiss universities attract students from all over the world. However, if they are not from the EU, they must leave the country after graduation, as strict quotas apply to third-country nationals.

‘Third-country nationals’ is the name given to people from countries outside the EU/EFTA states, with whom Switzerland has freedom of movement arrangements. 

Generally speaking, those who graduate from Swiss universities will be forced to leave after their degree unless they have already secured a job. 

This means that Switzerland invests for years in the education of foreign nationals, but loses out when those graduates start their careers elsewhere. 

READ MORE: How much do university graduates earn in Switzerland – and who earns the most?

At the same time, there is a shortage of skilled workers in the country, especially in the fields of computer science, technology and natural sciences.

While the Swiss government issues permits each year – 280 in 2020 and 239 so far in 2021 – critics argue this is insufficient, particularly as these visas are counted in the overall skilled worker quotas and as a result limit the opportunities for other qualified workers. 

Graduates from Swiss universities to be offered extended visas

To reverse this trend, the Federal Council wants to exempt from quotas certain foreigners from third countries who have obtained a master’s degree or who are doing a doctorate in Switzerland.

If their gainful activity is of “high scientific or economic interest” and if they work in sectors where there is a shortage of qualified personnel, they may be able to stay in Switzerland after graduation.

READ MORE: How much universities in Switzerland charge foreigners compared to locals

The Federal Council has sent the proposal to the cantons and the parties for consultation.

Swiss tabloid Blick reports that there is unlikely to be any opposition to the plan. 

No timeline has yet been laid out according to which the new visa scheme may be introduced. 


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