Reader question: Can I stay in Switzerland after graduating from a Swiss university?

Helena Bachmann
Helena Bachmann - [email protected]
Reader question: Can I stay in Switzerland after graduating from a Swiss university?
Some students may be allowed to stay, while others will have to leave. Image by Marcela from Pixabay

Most students who finish studying at a university in Switzerland, return to their home countries afterwards. But a number remain — or would like to stay — here. Can they?


On average, over 30 percent of students in Swiss universities are foreigners.
The reason many choose to study here, according to a recent study, is that “thanks to the reputation of its education system, Switzerland welcomes an ever-increasing number of international students to its universities every year.”

The process of enrolling is pretty straight-forward, especially for those from the EU / EFTA states who don’t need a visa to enter Switzerland; they just need to register with their local authorities within 14 days of arrival and request a residency permit.

The procedure is more complicated for non-EU / EFTA students, who must apply at a Swiss embassy or consulate in their home country for a D-visa to enter and study in Switzerland. 

They will have to show proof of university enrolment and, once here, apply for a residence permit based on the D-visa.

READ ALSO: How can foreigners get into a Swiss university? 

But what happens when you graduate?

If you want to remain in Switzerland and take advantage of your new degree to look for a job, your ability to do so depends on your passport.

Here too, nationals of EU / EFTA countries have an edge: they can remain in Switzerland for up to three months while they seek employment.

Beyond this period, they must apply for a residence permit from the Swiss commune in which they are living.

That is a relatively simple process as well: they just need to submit a valid identity card or passport, as well as official confirmation of employment or an employment contract.

Once that is done, they will receive the B permit, allowing them to work in Switzerland for the duration of the permit’s validity, usually five years.


However, things are not as simple for those from outside the EU / EFTA zone. 

After they graduate and their D-visa effectively comes to an end, they typically have to leave the country.

If they want to work in Switzerland, they have to go through the same process (in their home countries) as other non-European workers, who are subject to a limited number of quotas that each canton has at its disposal to hire people from outside Europe.

They have a chance of getting a permit only if they are highly skilled specialists who can’t be recruited from among Swiss or EU / EFTA workforce.


However, things are about to change.
Non-EU/EFTA citizens who graduate from Swiss universities with a degree in a field suffering from a shortage of qualified professionals will be allowed to remain in Switzerland.

In March, the Council of States, Switzerland's upper house of the Federal Assembly, accepted this change to the current legislation, following the National Council’s approval of the proposal.

It is not yet known when this new rule will enter into force though.

READ ALSO: Switzerland allows non-EU university graduates to stay and work



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