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Switzerland Entry requirements & Visa

In 1985 in Schengen, Luxembourg, the Schengen Agreement was signed by five of the ten member states of the European Community. The Convention implementing the Schengen Agreement in 1990 made provision for the removal of border controls between the participating countries
In 1985 in Schengen, Luxembourg, the Schengen Agreement was signed by five of the ten member states of the European Community. The Convention implementing the Schengen Agreement in 1990 made provision for the removal of border controls between the participating countries. As of 2009 there are no border controls at borders between 22 countries in the European Union. Robust controls are in effect at the external borders of the EU, however. The 22 full Schengen members are Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, Sweden, Spain, Slovenia, Slovakia, Portugal, Poland, Netherlands, Malta, Luxembourg, Lithuania, Latvia, Italy, Hungary, Greece, Germany, France, Finland, Estonia, Denmark, Czech Republic, Belgium, and Austria. Switzerland was the latest admitted to this group, at the end of 2008, even though it is not a member of the European Union. Liechtenstein, Norway and Iceland are not EU members either, but special agreements with those countries allow them to participate. Some of the newer EU members do not yet participate in the Schengen agreement. These countries include Cyprus, Romania, and Bulgaria. Ireland and the United Kingdom are not participants in the Schengen agreement at this time.

If you live in one of the 22 Schengen countries, you should still carry your valid passport or identification card because you may have to prove your identity at some point. There are times when national security or public order requires limited periods of checks at borders between the 22 Schengen nations. And at the external borders of the EU you'll need a valid ID or passport.

For some non-EU countries, the requirements are generally a valid passport with a visa for those who plan to stay longer than three months. This is the case for Americans, UK Nationals (as long as the passport is endorsed British National Overseas, British Overseas Citizen, British Overseas Territories Citizen or British Citizen), Canadians, Australians, New Zealanders, and Irish. South Africans must have a valid passport and a Schengen visa. Nationals who hold a passport that's valid for three months after exiting Switzerland, endorsed with a multi-entry visa valid for all the Schengen states may travel to Switzerland without a visa from these countries: United Arab Emirates, Thailand, Taiwan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman, Kuwait, and Bahrain.

All travelers have to have the documents necessary for their next destination, and passports have to be valid at least three months beyond the period of the visit if a visa is required. Tourists and business visitors who go to Switzerland repeatedly, but stay less than three months on each visit have to apply for a residency permit if the total of their stays exceeds six months within a one-year period.

Part of the Geneva Airport is located in France and some flights from France to Geneva are considered domestic, while others are considered international. Passengers must have proper entry documents for either of the destination countries. Basel/Mulhouse airport is located on French territory. Passengers at Basel or Geneva airports can enter into either France or Switzerland with the proper documentation. Basel and Geneva have two different exits: one to Switzerland and the other to France. Passengers can exit to the French part of the airport with a French or Schengen visa if it is required.

Students who are not EU nationals or UK nationals need a student visa in order to study in Switzerland. Applications are available at the Swiss Embassy. For student visas, these documents are required: three copies of the completed application form; proof of sufficient funds (recent bank statement); return or continuation ticket and visa for next country if required; passport valid for at least three months after the intended visit; one recent passport-sized photo.

Some students can get residence permits under these conditions: the applicant is arriving alone; applicant guarantees departure at the end of the study period; applicant is able to prove financial means; institution of study attests in writing that the applicant has been accepted; the study program is fixed; and the applicant wants to attend an institution of higher learning such as a university.

All foreign students have to arrive in the town they will be living in within 10 days of arriving in Switzerland. They must have the following documentation: passport with student visa if necessary; bureau of foreigners statement of arrival; bureau of foreigners student questionnaire; the school's proof of acceptance; a passport-size photo (recent); proof of financial means or proof of financial aid, or guarantee from parents or guarantee from a third party who lives in Switzerland and can prove notarized financial means for the student's upkeep. Student visas generally cost about US$150, and residence permits cost US$15 to $22 per semester.

Students must pay their school fees, and take their receipt to town authorities to prove they are officially registered in that school. Because processing of a visa application can take two months or more, students should file their application at least two months before arriving in Switzerland.

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