EXPLAINED: How to get a working holiday visa in Switzerland
Switzerland has its own ‘working holiday visa’ scheme for younger people, although there are some important differences you should know about. Here’s what you need to know.
Over the past few decades, countries around the globe have rolled out ‘working holiday visa’ agreements.
These visa schemes, largely targeted at young people, allow people to work and live in a particular country, usually for a set period of time and pursuant to certain conditions.
In recent years, Switzerland has expanded its own form of a ‘working holiday visa’, although there are some important differences to be aware of.
What is Switzerland’s ‘working holiday visa’ scheme?
Known formally as ‘international trainee exchange agreements’, Switzerland’s scheme places the emphasis on work rather than holiday.
Unlike some of the better known schemes like those in place in Australia, applicants are discouraged from moving around and are generally required to stay with the one employer for the duration.
The goal of the visa scheme is to allow applicants to “expand their occupational and linguistic skills in Switzerland”.
The visa scheme runs for 18 months and cannot be extended.
During that time you will be entitled to live and work in Switzerland, while you can also leave and re-enter Switzerland for the duration of the 18-month timeframe.
Which countries does Switzerland have working holiday visa agreements with?
The agreements are made between countries, meaning your fate will depend on whether your government has at some point struck a deal with Switzerland.
If you are from the European Union or an EFTA country (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland), then you will be able to live and work in Switzerland as is - and will not need to go through this process.
If you come from outside the EU, you will only be able to apply for this visa if you are a citizen of the following countries:
Australia, Argentina, Canada, Chile, Indonesia, Japan, Monaco, New Zealand, the Philippines, Russia, South Africa, Tunisia, Ukraine and the United States.
What are the prerequisites?
In addition to being a citizen of one of the above countries, there are various education and age criteria which are applied.
Age: You must be between 18 and 35 years of age. The age bracket is 20 to 30 if you come from Australia, or 18-30 if you come from either Russia or New Zealand.
Education: You must have completed an apprenticeship or university in order to apply. Canadians are permitted to work during their undergraduate study in Switzerland.
Work: You need to work in the profession you’ve been trained/educated in. The work must be full time and you are not allowed to be self-employed.
Employer: You need to find a placement before applying, with a written contract of employment as your evidence.
What if I love my job and I want to stay?
The visa ends at 18 months and cannot be extended.
This means that if you love your work - and your life - in Switzerland, you won’t be simply able to extend the visa indefinitely.
Instead, you’ll have to go through the usual channels for a work/residency permit.
One option may be an L Permit. This is for short-term stays of up to 12 months, although occasionally this can be extended to 24 months if you stay with the same employer.
Generally, people with these L permits can only change jobs if they cannot continue to work for their current employer and on the condition that they stay in the same sector and continue to carry out the same profession.
They will also have to apply to cantonal authorities to be able to change job.
More information about work permits can be found at the following links.
Why does this scheme exist?
While the language of the visa scheme emphasises the growth and development of the applicant, there are of course benefits to Switzerland under the scheme.
Swiss employers get the expertise of foreign workers, while the applicants are required to pay rent and tax.
There are also a number of reciprocal arrangements with other countries, which allow Swiss citizens to work and travel abroad.
What is the process?
In order to apply, you must have the following:
- Two originals of the official application form, fully completed and signed;
- Two copies of the contract of employment with the training programme;
- A copy of the applicant’s vocational diploma or university degree;
- A current CV;
- Copies of employment certificates (where applicable); and
- A copy of the applicant’s passport (identity pages)
Once you have evidence of your work offer from a Swiss employer, you can fill out the application form here.
You should do this in your home country.
Applications made in Switzerland, i.e. to your embassy or consulate, will not be accepted.