16 September 2011
Switzerland’s immigration regulations are strict. The first thing to know is that your student visa is only a residence permit, it does not per se entail a right to work in Switzerland. A separate application for a work permit must be submitted. The likelihood of the success of such an application is dependent on the period of employment or internship and your nationality. The general principles of the system may be summarized as follows:
Part-time work during the terms (semesters)
The Academy strongly discourages its students to work part-time during the terms, in particular if the employment or internship represents more than 10 hours of work per week.
- EU/EFTA: citizens of the EU and of EFTA Member States are allowed to work part-time (20h/week) during term time and full time outside of term time, until the expiration of their student visa, which can in most cases be extended to the end of September.
- Non-EU students are not allowed to work during the first six months of their stay in Switzerland, that is, until 20 February 2012. After that date, they are allowed to work 15h/week during term time, and full time outside term time until their student visa expires.
Internship after the Spring term ends
Students of all nationalities are allowed to do an internship, part time or full time, from the end of classes early June until the expiration of their student visa. A work permit nevertheless has to be applied for, but it is subject neither to quotas nor to requirement to give EU workforce any form of precedence.
In order to obtain a work permit for such an internship, students will need:
To fill in the relevant from, in two copies:
- Formulaire M for non-EU/non-EFTA citizens, available at http://www.ge.ch/etrangers-confederes/fr/doc/m4-1-formulaire-non-ue.pdf
- Formulaire UE for EU/EFTA citizen, available at http://www.ge.ch/etrangers-confederes/fr/doc/ue4-1-formulaire-ue.pdf
- A letter from the Academy stating that the internship is compatible with the programme, creates no delay in its completion and is in conformity with the educational purposes of the program.
- A letter of engagement of your future employer.
- A copy of your student visa (Permis B étudiant).
- A copy of your passport or ID.
- Two pictures of you, passport-sized.
Please feel free to show this document to possible employers.
You have a right to a six-month extended stay for internships and job search. Here’s how it goes:
According to the amendment added to Article 21 of the Foreign Nationals Act (effective since January 2011), foreign nationals who have just completed a higher education programme and are holding a diploma from a Swiss university (or academic institutions qualified as 'haute école Suisse') can file a request with local authorities to obtain an extended six-month stay in Switzerland in order to search for a job related to their studies. This new policy aims to create an environment in which foreign nationals can be on an equal footing with Swiss nationals when it comes to entering the Swiss labor market.
It is important to note that this six-month extension (starting from the date of your completion of the program) is provisional and will be granted based on your financial means and adequate housing in Switzerland. In other words, you have to satisfy local authorities that you can afford all related expenses of living in Switzerland for the period of six months. If granted, the extended stay will mean that your priority is to search for a job; therefore, you are not allowed to work more than 15 hours per week. This extension is to be granted once and cannot be extended.
For more information on this amendment, please visit the Confederation website:
Work permits after graduation
Categories of nationals to be considered for work permit:
EU-17/EFTA: 15 first EU Member States, EFTA Member States, and Cyprus and Malta. Nationals from these countries are, by and large, assimilated to Swiss nationals. Obtaining a work permit is a simple formality.
- Citizens of France, Germany, Austria, Italy, Spain, Portugal, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxemburg, Greece, Cyprus, Malta, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein, have full rights to freedom of movement since June 1, 2007.
EU-8: 8 next EU Member States: quotas in place and precedence given to EU-17/EFTA workforce (employer must demonstrate that he cannot fill the position with an EU-17/EFTA national) until 30 April 2012.
- Citizens of Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Slovakia, Estonia, Lithuania, and Latvia, must meet special requirements until 310 April 2011. After this date, they should be included in the EU-17/EFTA category.
- EU-2: same as EU-8, but restrictions in place until 2016.
- Non-European Member states: quotas and precedence given to EU nationals unless they have completed a University-level diploma in Switzerland within the last six months – see below. (Normally employer must demonstrate that he cannot fill the position with an EU national or a national of an EFTA Member State).
New regulation for non-EU citizens
During a period of six months after your graduation (see above, under “Internship after the Spring term ends: After graduation”), work permits for non-EU citizens are not subject to quotas and conditions of precedence for Swiss citizens and EU nationals. This means that, in theory, you should be able to obtain a “proper”, long-term work permit relatively easily if you graduate from the Academy and apply for such a work permit within the six months after your graduation. Please note the prospective position must involve an activity of particular scientific or economic importance (such as being a specialized lawyer). In addition, internships and short term contracts will not be considered for the work permit. In any event, this law (amendment to Article 21 of the Foreign Nationals Act) has entered into force very recently and it remains to be seen how exactly the authorities handle such cases in practice.
It should also be noted that many employers may still hold unfounded belief that it is virtually impossible to obtain a work permit for a non-European national. In any event, you still have to convince them that you are the absolute best candidate for a position and that they should seek advice from lawyers specialized in such questions.
Duration of your student visa
Typically, you will get a one-year student visa which can be extended for six more months provided that you can satisfy local authorities of your adequate means to remain in Switzerland to search for a job related to your studies. (See above)
Internships in France: the “Convention de Stage”
French law firms will ask you for a “Convention de stage” in order to do an internship with them.
The “convention” essentially states that you will be enrolled as a student during the entire duration of the internship. For non-EU citizen, this allows reducing the duration of immigration procedures from four months to a few days; it guarantees the issuance of an “internship ‘work’ permit”; and it reduces the social costs that French companies have to pay for their employees, resulting in a higher salary for the intern.
Such a “convention” must be signed by the employer, the intern, and the University at which the intern will be enrolled during the duration of the internship.
We are happy to sign such “Convention” if the duration of the internship does not extend beyond the date of your graduation from the Academy. We are unfortunately unable to sign a “convention” for any period after your graduation, as you will no longer be a student of the Academy.