US nationals can travel to Switzerland without a visa. They can stay as a tourist within Switzerland and the Schengen area for a period of a maximum of 90 days within a period of 180 days. At ISAP the semesters are a bit longer than 90 days, so coming as a tourist means missing the beginning or the end of the semester. In case you plan to study at ISAP for a longer period, in most cases it is recommended to apply for a long stay visa. This visa is also called a national visa or a visa D.
You can apply for a long stay visa at the Embassy or one of the Consulates of Switzerland in the USA before traveling to Switzerland. To find out the responsible authority in your case click here.
With the long stay visa you can travel to Switzerland. After you have arrived in Switzerland, you need to register at the municipality where you are staying. Please note that this registration needs to be done within 14 days after arriving in Switzerland. If you are registering in the Canton of Zurich, the municipality will forward your registration to the Migration Authority in Zurich. The Migration Authority decides about residence permits.
You will need to provide several documents, e.g. a passport/identity card and a rental contract. For an overview of all the documents please inform yourself at the municipality. The responsible authority is called ‘Einwohnerkontrolle’ in German. In the city of Zürich you will have to be at the responsible authority of the municipality, called the ‘Kreisbüro’. There are several of these authorities, responsible for a part of the city. To look up the responsible ‘Kreisbüro’ in your case, you can fill in your Swiss address on this website.
It is possible for US citizens to travel to Switzerland without a visa as a tourist. Please be aware that you are allowed to stay within the whole Schengen Area a maximum of 90 days within a period of 180 days. This also means that when you have visited the Schengen Area recently before coming to study at ISAP may affect the maximum amount of days that you are allowed to stay within Switzerland. There is a tool here to calculate the maximum amount of days that you are allowed to stay. You can use it to plan your stay in Switzerland.
At ISAP the semesters are a bit longer than 90 days, so if you come only for this period, you will miss the beginning or the end of the semester. In case you plan to study at ISAP for a longer period, in most cases it is recommended to apply for a residence permit for study reasons.
Please note that it is not possible to apply for a long-stay visa for study reasons while being in Switzerland/the Schengen Area. You will need to file your application when you are in the USA.
Switzerland is divided into Cantons. Each Canton has its own Migration Authority. The following information is based on ISAP’s experience with the Canton of Zürich. Please be aware that policies may be different in other Cantons of Switzerland. The information below is only for the situation where you plan to live in the Canton of Zürich.
You can find the application form here.
There are a few important things you should know for your application for a long stay visa:
With the long stay visa you travel to Switzerland and register at your local municipality. The municipality will forward your registration to the Migration Authority. The Migration Authority will decide about your residence permit. Usually, students at ISAP receive a residence permit B that is valid for a period of 1 year. Every year you will need to renew your permit (the migration office will send you a letter to inform you that the permit will expire).
As a US citizen you need a work permit to work in Switzerland.
In the first 6 months of their stay in Switzerland, students who are citizens of the USA are not allowed to work. After that, they can work up to a maximum of 15 hours per week during semester weeks and up to full-time outside of the semester weeks.
You can find all the details about it on the website of the work authority in Zürich here. However, it is in German. Please ask the Front Office ([email protected]) for more information.
If you are staying in Switzerland on a long stay visa, you need to get (Swiss) health insurance. Having health insurance in the USA in general does not exempt you from this obligation. Costs vary widely depending on your situation and your wishes. You can compare prices here and here.
A relatively cheap option for students who are only temporarily in Switzerland is to get health insurance with Swisscare. You can only insure at this company if you are exempted from the compulsory Swiss insurance.