Switzerland, officially the Swiss Confederation, is a country situated between France, Germany, Italy, and Liechtenstein, geographically in Western and Central Europe. Its federal authorities are localized in Bern, other big cities are Zurich, Geneva, and Basel.
Switzerland is not a member of the European Union but it participates in the Schengen Area - the largest passport-free travel area in the world.
As a country forming the Schengen Zone, Swiss nationals can travel without a visa to any Schengen Zone country. As there are no border controls within the Schengen Zone, citizens and residents of Schengen Zone state but as well holders of Schengen Tourist Visa are authorized to come and stay in Switzerland for up to 90 days during the 180-day period.
The Schengen Area countries have a common policy about tourist visas but every country operates its own policy about other visas.
Schengen Zone countries
Switzerland is the member country of the Schengen Area together with:
Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Germany, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, and Sweden.
There are also three micro-states: Monaco, San Marino, and Vatican City that keep their borders with Schengen Zone countries open so you can visit them if you hold a Swiss visa.
The overseas territories of Spain and Portugal: the Canary Islands, Azores, and Madeira island are also available for Schengen Visa holders and visa-exempt countries nationals.
Visa-free regime with Switzerland
The Swiss Confederation is a highly popular destination for tourism and education. This is a rich, developed country that has the highest nominal wealth per adult, and its cities such as Zürich, Geneva and Basel are on the highest place in the world’s ranking in terms of quality of life. For these reasons, Switzerland has established strictly executed immigration laws.
If you are planning a visit to Switzerland for tourism or business, you may apply for a Swiss Short-Stay Visa. But maybe you don’t have to. At the moment there is a list of 62 countries in which citizens can enter for the purpose of tourism, visiting, and business doing the Schengen Zone visa-free. If you hold a biometric passport from one of the following countries, you can go to the Swiss Confederation visa-free:
- Albania, Andora, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Australia
- Bahamas, Barbados
- Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Brunei
- Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica
- El Salvador
- Georgia, Grenada, Gwatemala
- Honduras, Hong Kong
- Macao, Malaysia, Marshall Islands, Mauritius, Mexico, Micronesia, Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro
- New Zealand, North Macedonia, Nicaragua
- Palau, Panama, Paraguay, Peru
- Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent
- Samo, San Marino, Serbia, Seychelles, Singapore, Solomon Islands, South Korea
- Taiwan, Timor Leste, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tuvalu
- Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United States of America, Uruguay
- Vanuatu, Vatican City, Venezuela
Moreover, if you have a status of a resident of the Schengen Zone country or have an EU family member’s residence or EU long-term residence permit - you do not have a visa to Switzerland either. There is a visa-free entrance also for holders of passports of a “British National Overseas”, “British Overseas Territories Citizen”, “British Protected Person”, “British Subject” and special residence card as a diplomatic or consular staff.
Switzerland tourist visa (Visitor Visa)
A Swiss tourist visa is exactly the same as the Schengen short-stay visa.
This visa can be issued by any state of the Schengen Zone. Holding a Swiss visa you can stay in the Schengen Zone for up to 90 days for tourism or business purposes within 180 days.
Keep in mind that the immigration policy in Switzerland is very restrictive, so you have to know what exactly are tourism and business purposes.
Tourist purposes are defined as:
- Sightseeing and rest
- Reunion with family and/or friends
- Participation in sports and cultural events
Business purposes are:
- Enrolling in an internship or a short-term training course
- Participating in a business meeting, fairs, conferences, presentations, etc.
- Making market research
There are also 3 possible purposes for applying for a Portuguese tourist visa:
- Airport or seafarers transit
- Medical reasons
- Official visit
With a Switzerland short-stay visa you are not allowed to take the job, study longer than 3 months, or stay in this country more than 90 days during a 180-day period. If you want to come to this country for more than 3 months, apply for a Swiss long-term visa.
Switzerland visa application
The institutions authorized to grant a Swiss visa are embassies and consulates of the Swiss Confederation.
Depending on your place of residence, you can submit your visa application either:
- at a Swiss diplomatic mission abroad
- by filling out the visa application online
- at an external visa service provider
- at the representation of another Schengen Zone country
Complete the forms carefully and sign them. Submit the filled in and signed forms with other documents which are:
- your passport issued within the last 10 years and valid for a minimum of 3 months after the end of your planned stay in Switzerland. At least two blank pages of the passport must be blank
- copies of older visas if you have any
- 2 printed color passport-style photos meeting the requirements and taken within the last 3 months
- Proof of the travel medical insurance valid in all European Union covering a minimum of €30,000 of medical costs
- your travel plan
- proof of financial means which can be:
- 3 months bank statement
- employment contract stating your salary
- proof of an income from a rented property
- retirement benefit plan.
- a letter of declaration from a sponsor in Switzerland with their contact data
- any other documents proving that you have the means to support yourself while stating in Switzerland
- Addresses of accommodation in Switzerland
- certificate of the criminal record of the home country (you must that you have no open crime case involvement)
- proof of payment of the Swiss visa
After you submit your documents, you need to schedule a meeting in the Swiss diplomatic mission near you. Check, if you can set the appointment online or this is required to do it by email or phone. Once you make the Swiss visa appointment, remember to get to the embassy or consulate-general on time, otherwise, your meeting may be canceled.
The consular officer will interview you, it usually takes up to 15 minutes. What questions can you expect? For example about your civil and family status, so the good idea is to take with you a copy of the marriage certificate, birth certificate of children, death certificate of a spouse if you have any. Another question might be about your professional situation, the own business you run, or your education. But the standard question you will come across are usually:
- What is the purpose of traveling to Switzerland?
- How many days do you plan to be in Switzerland?
- Which Schengen Zone countries do you intend to visit?
- do you have relatives or friends in Switzerland?
After the meeting, wait for 10 minutes to obtain a written report that you have to sign. You will be given the visa decision during the next 20 working days or 2 months if you apply for a long-term visa.
Swiss Visa for Children under 18
All travelers to Switzerland regardless of their age must have their own visas.
The conditions for Swiss visas for minors are the same as for adults, the only difference is that this is the parent or the legal guardian who submits the visa application in the name of an under-age child and be present in the Swiss embassy or consulate during the visa appointment with a child.
Submit a valid passport of your child and 2 color, printed passport-style photos meeting requirements. Additionally, there are some documents you have to present too:
- Proof of your regular income (work contract with specified monthly income or a 6-last-months bank statement or business license)
- Notarized travel permission from the second parent/legal guardian (or both of them if the child travels with the third person)
Long-stay Swiss visas
Depending on your intentions, there are two types of visas that you can apply for. Switzerland C Visaaka Swiss short-stay visa aka Switzerland tourist visa, and Swiss D Visa – a long-time visa for people looking to study, work, or reside in Switzerland. International students usually are granted a Schengen visa for a period of one year with the possibility of extension.
Applications for visas for over 90 days must be filed directly with the responsible Swiss representation. It is impossible to do it at another Schengen State representation as every member-country has its own long-stay visa policy. The Switzerland long-stay visa is issued to non-EU nationals (who do not this) who want to move to Switzerland to work, study, or reunite with family.
EU citizens are allowed to enter, reside and look for work or to establish themselves as self-employed in Switzerland.
There are 3 types of long-stay Swiss visas:
- Study Visas
Apply for a Switzerland Study Visa if you want to pursue studies in Switzerland and you already are on the list of students of an educational institution in Switzerland. You must show a certificate from the school or university. You also must prove that you have health insurance and can cover the living costs during the stay. Keep in mind, that students must not work (as a paid job) more than 15 hours a week, otherwise, they must apply for a work permit.
- Work Visas
Apply for Switzerland Work Visa if you want to work in Switzerland legally and you already have the company offering you a job. A third state national can take a job in Switzerland only if the employer shows that they made “intensive efforts” to find a Swiss, EU/EFTA citizen or any foreign national already in Switzerland with a permit to work. Moreover, employers must show why those with priority who applied were not suitable for the job. Obtaining a permit to work in Switzerland depends on many factors, including your nationality, the skills, experience, and education you have, etc. (for example, temporary teaching positions, managerial or specialist transfers, highly qualified scientists, or certain jobs involving art and culture, among others, can also obtain work permits under special circumstances).
- Family Reunion Visas
Apply for a Switzerland Family Reunification visa if you have a family member who is a Swiss citizen/permanent resident and you want to join them there.
Remember that for unmarried couples there are different rules.
Swiss Visitor Visa for Unmarried Couple
If you have a life partner in Switzerland, you can go for a Tourist Visa to join them, but there is also a possibility to apply for a Switzerland Visitor Visa for Unmarried Couples.
In order to obtain it, need to prove that you have met in-person at least once before you submitted the application (in Switzerland or another country). Submit copies of your passport showing entry stamps with the same date.
You also have to present documents confirming that the relationship has existed for some time. This can be correspondence through social media, post, email, phone bill, air ticket, pictures together, etc.
- Letter of Invitation from your partner including your name, birthday, address, and the nature of your relationship
- Cover letter explaining how long you intend to stay, where you will be accommodated, and details your partner - it must be signed by your partner
- Copy of your partner’s ID and passport or their Swiss residence permit.
- Certificate of residence (obtained from the municipality) of your partner.
- Confirmation of partnership, signed by both you and your partner.
Switzerland for holidays
Switzerland is a small but absolutely unique country full of great places to visit. Breathtaking alpine peaks, magical turquoise lakes, and the countryside with ancient towns do discover - Switzerland really does have something for every traveler!
Tourists are charmed by mountain scenery, fabulous nature, and a wide range of sports such as hiking, biking, climbing, paragliding, or skiing, and unusual attractions.
Of course, there are some MUSTS to see in Switzerland. Everybody wants to see The Matterhorn - Switzerland's iconic, pyramid-shaped peak that is one of the highest mountains in the Alps.
And most of the tourists go to the medieval city of Bern, Switzerland’s capital. Take a stroll around the old town’s narrow cobblestone stones, buy souvenirs in enchanting boutiques or visit the Albert Einstein Museum. Bern’s old town is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
You cannot miss Lake Geneva, Europe's largest Alpine lake, where you can take outstanding pictures and have fun with windsurfing, water skiing, and kayaking. On the shores of Lake Geneva, you can find the Chateau de Chillon that has inspired artists and writers for centuries. Do the name Lord Byron, Jean Jacques Rousseau, and Victor Hugo tell you something? You can find their footprints in this dreamy castle.
Are you eager for something less touristic? Discover St. Beatus Cave with many stalactites and stalagmites, and a number of underground waterfalls and lakes or Saut de Brot - looking like a fantastical little bridge between the canyon walls.
You also will be amazed by Lucerne. This impressive, surrounded by three large mountains medieval city is situated on the shores of Lake Lucerne and tempts by cozy restaurants, ancient churches, lovely squares, and plenty of boutiques to explore.
Being in Switzerland you cannot miss medieval abbeys that are part of the Swiss landscape. Visit Abbey Library of Saint Gall, one of the oldest surviving libraries in Europe and for sure one of the most beautiful. You will be absolutely enchanted not only by its large collections but also by its wooden balconies, shaped into flowering shapes and designs, and artworks were installed in the ceiling.
Switzerland is multicultural, open for visitors, and full of charming surprises. Go there and see for yourself!