Living in Geneva


Check-list before coming to Geneva


There are a number of details that need your attention prior to starting the LL.M. The decisions you make now can affect your student contribution, financial aid, and general financial well-being throughout your time spent with the Academy. We want to help you think through some of the issues and offer some guidance in regard to the following topics:


1. Making a plan

The most important thing you can do before you embark on the LL.M. journey with the Academy is make a plan! Take the time now to think about your money and how you want to spend it. The information in this section will help you think about the details of your plan.


2. Finding a place to stay

Finding appropriate and affordable accommodation in Geneva can be very difficult. Looking for a place to live can even become a quite unpleasant experience if you start it too late. You should therefore start looking for accommodation as soon as you have been admitted to the programme. Please be advised that finding accommodation in Geneva remains your responsibility alone.

The Student Office will provide admitted students with a list of student residences in Geneva. Prospective students are also encouraged to consult the latest offers of flats and studios that are published in the following local journals:


»   GHI (Geneva Home Information):
»   Tout l’immobilier:
»   Tribune de Genève:

3. Budgeting


Budgeting is not just for students – it is a life skill you can use long after you graduate. It’s about controlling your money instead of letting your money control you, understanding how you are spending your money, and making informed consumer choices.  Perhaps most importantly, budgeting can keep you from worrying about your money.

The first step in budgeting is to make a list of your anticipated monthly expenses. The financial aid budget follows a modest but liveable standard and provides recipients with CHF 1’600-1’900 per month for the 10-month 2012-13 academic year. If you are fully reliant on financial aid, this is what you will have to meet your monthly living expenses. The examples demonstrated in the earlier section under “tuition fees and cost of living” shows two different sets of budgeting choices, and the monthly expenses related to those choices, which will hopefully help you put projected expenses into perspective.



While you are in Geneva

1. Getting insurance

Health and Accident Insurance
You will need to have a health insurance covering you during the duration of your stay in Switzerland, as the Swiss law requires one for a stay longer than 3 months. Either you already have a health insurance from home covering you in Switzerland and other “Schengen states” (or you can extend its cover to Switzerland), or you can contract an insurance here in Geneva. For more information you can check these websites:


»   The Graduate Institute website's page on health insurances:
»   The University of Geneva:

The Graduate Institute, for example, has a special deal for its students with the CSS Insurance for CHF 80.- per month. For further advice, please call + 41 58 277 3070 or email

Swiss insurance companies are private and you can compare their rates on or There are special offers for students.

Foreign students who stay in Switzerland and who already benefit from a health insurance covering treatments in Switzerland can address the cantonal service for health insurance (SAM, Service de l’assurance -maladie) to seek a possible exemption. Student nationals of EU/EFTA countries are in principle covered by the Social Security of their country or place of residence. To be exempted from the Swiss health insurance, they just have to present to the SAM a copy of both sides of their European card of health insurance or a form of replacement.

Students who are not concerned have to prove that they benefit from a private health insurance that has a cover equivalent to the Swiss law requirements (LAMal.). SAM provides forms to show proof of equivalence of services which must be completed, stamped and signed by the insurance company of the student (phone: + 41 22 546 1900; email:

Please note that we have planned some short study trips abroad during the academic year, hence, you will also need to have a health insurance that covers you when you travel in Europe.

Civil responsibility insurance
All Geneva residents are required to subscribe to civil liability insurance. Household contents insurance is also strongly recommended. For a comparison of the various insurance companies and their policies see

2. Getting around Geneva - transportation

Please note that the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights is not organized into one single campus and that the LL.M. courses and tutorials take place in different venues and locations around Geneva. It is therefore important to invest in a seasonal pass that allows you to use the public transportation system in Geneva (TPG –Transport Publics Genevois).  This is also less expensive in the long run. These come at special prices for students/under 25. You will need to provide a passport-sized photo, identity card and proof of registration at the University of Geneva.  You have a choice of three passes:


»   UNIRESO 1 year: CHF 650 (adults) and CHF 450 (less than 25 years old)
»   UNIRESO 1 month: CHF 70 (adults) and CHF 45 (less than 25 years old)
»   UNIRESO weekly: CHF 35 (adults) and CHF 23 (less than 25 years old)

Upon arrival at Geneva airport, you can pick up a free ticket for public transport from the machine in the baggage collection area at the Arrival level. This ticket, offered by Geneva International Airport, allows you to use public transport in Geneva free for a period of 80 minutes.

Geneva offers a modern and efficient public transportation network with various buses tramway lines, boats and some train lines. It covers the whole Geneva canton and also offers some links to France. For more information:

3. Considering working part-time

Our students receive a student resident permit upon arrival to Geneva. This document allows nationals from the European Union (EU) to work up to 20 hours a week. Students from outside the EU are however barred from carrying paid work for the first 6 months of their stay. Our LL.M. programme is a 10 month, full-time engagement and does not allow for part-time modules. The programme is very intensive, especially in the first semester, and we therefore do not advise our students to find intensive employment that might interfere with their academic performance.

Geneva Work Permit Regulations

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:
Until graduation, 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
-   Formulaire UE for EU/EFTA citizen, available at
»   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.


After Graduation

1. Internships and job search

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:

2. 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 31 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 and Job Search”), 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.


3. 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)


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