HES-SO Genève

IN students - preparing for your stay in Geneva

From getting a visa and insurance to finding accommodation and setting a budget, there are plenty of areas that need to be prepared for your stay in Geneva.

View all the steps you need to take before your departure and upon your arrival in Switzerland.  

Entry visa

Process to apply for a student visa


1. Check if you need an entry visa

To enter Switzerland, nationals of non-Schengen member states must have a type C Schengen visa authorising a short stay (90 days) over a period of 180 days, or a national visa, also called type D, for a long stay (more than 90 days).

If you are a national of a third country, first check whether you are subject to the entry visa requirement according to your country of origin on the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) website

If you have more than one nationality, check the conditions that apply to each one, as one of your nationalities could allow you to enter Switzerland without a visa. A valid passport is essential for excursions within the European Union.

If you are not subject to a visa, find out about the conditions for entering and staying in Switzerland at the Swiss embassy in your country of origin or residence.


2. Submit your entry visa application

Do not begin your studies with a tourist visa. It is imperative that you apply for a study visa from abroad and have it with you when you arrive in Switzerland.

To find out which Swiss diplomatic representation you should submit your request to, visit the Confederation's website.

The list of documents to attach with your form as well as the submission procedure will depend on your country of residence. This information will be provided to you by the Swiss embassy or consulate in your country of origin or residence. This is the representation that leads the visa granting procedure and will issue your visa.

You can also check the directives made by the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) which give general information on the conditions of entry into Switzerland, or the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (DFAE) website, which provides information by country on the conditions to be met.

Requests are generally processed by the relevant authorities in order of their delivery. This process can take several weeks or even several months, depending on the period and/or type of visa requested. It is therefore your responsibility to submit your request at least three months before you commence your studies. A visa costs 80 euros for an adult and 40 euros for a child between 6 and 12 years old, to be paid when submitting your application to the Swiss representation.


3. Get your entry visa

Entry into Switzerland is subject to certain conditions, and meeting these conditions will not automatically grant you a visa. Only the federal and cantonal authority criteria are valid.

Migration authorities carry out two procedures, governed by two intersecting conditions:

If your entry visa application is authorised, it will be issued abroad by the Swiss representation.

At the same time, you will be contacted (probably by e-mail) by the cantonal migration authority to inform you of the additional documents that you need to send with your submission to begin the cantonal residence authorisation procedure. Once in Switzerland, you will need to have your biometric residence permit set up with the cantonal authority and obtain your study residence permit (booklet B or L).

Residence permit
Residence permits are required for all foreign students living in Switzerland for more than three months, regardless of their nationality.

You are required to announce your arrival in Switzerland within 14 days, to be checked by the Immigration Office of the municipality where you live. In Geneva, your permit application can be made online or by mail using E form to the below adress:

Office cantonal de la population et des migrations
Service étrangers
Case postale 2652
1211 Genève 2

The conditions for obtaining a residence permit are different for nationals of EU/EFTA member countries and for third-country nationals. In this case, the B or L booklet will display the mention, or not, of the EU/EFTA.

If you are a national of an EU/EFTA member country : check the list of supporting documents to be attached to your request (in French only). Fees for the residence permit amount to 65 CHF. If you come to Geneva as part of a SEMP exchange, your permit will be free of charge. In this case, in fom E, tick "Exchange student" under "type of request".

If you are a national of a third country : check the list of supporting documents to be attached to your request (in French only) as well as the fees to be applied for third-country citizens.

For all foreign students: upon receipt of your complete file, an invitation to make an appointment to take biometric data will be sent to you. It will take a few weeks/months for your permit to be granted. If authorized, a B student permit will be sent to you by mail. Don't forget to give your final address in Geneva !

When (definitively) leaving the canton of Geneva, the OCPM requests that form D be completed and returned at least two weeks before your date of departure.This notification procedure must also be followed by Swiss nationals coming from another canton.


The L or B permits granted for study reasons differ in their validity period: less than one year for the L booklet; generally one year renewable for the B booklet.

The residence permit is issued for the duration of your training if this amounts to less than one year. If your training extends over several years, authorization is issued for one year and is renewable from year to year, but it is limited to the duration of your studies. The renewal of the residence permit is only authorized if the holder follows a training course whose program includes at least 20 hours of weekly lessons. This permit cannot be converted to a normal residence permit, accompanied by a regular work permit in Switzerland.

At the end of their studies, students have the opportunity to apply for a "job search" permit. The application must be submitted to the OCPM using form K, along with a copy of the diploma and proof of financial means. For students from a state outside the EU/EFTA, the post-training job search permit is valid for 6 months only and is not renewable. In addition, ancillary activity is only authorized up to 15 hours per week.


Holding an L or B residence permit gives you the right to travel within the Schengen area (for example, during holidays or during a study trip, for a maximum period of 90 days).


Undertaking paid work on an ancillary basis is possible, provided that it does not exceed 15 hours per week, except during the university periods when full-time activity is authorized (40 hours per week). For students who are nationals of a state outside EU-EFTA, ancillary activity is allowed at the earliest six months after the start of studies.

In each case, undertaking paid work requires authorization using form E, which must be filled by the employer. Third-country nationals must wait for a decision from the Immigration Office (OCPM) before starting their activity.

You live in the canton of Vaud

Submit your request for a residence permit to the Population/Immigration Office in your municipality of residence.

You live in neighboring France

Check with the town hall of your municipality.

In the event of an activity (including an unpaid internship) in the canton of Geneva, a work permit must be requested using the online border work permit application form, regardless of the duration of your activity/internship.

Health insurance (LAMal)
Health insurance is compulsory for anyone domiciled in Switzerland, even temporarily. Students must insure themselves against the risks of illness by their own means throughout their studies, as well as during internships, whether carried out in Switzerland or abroad.

For an internship or exchange abroad, make sure that your insurance cover also extends to the country of your stay. If this is not the case, you will need to take out additional insurance.

If you hold a B permit, you must declare your health insurance to the Cantonal Health Insurance Service (SAM - Service cantonal de l'assurance maladie).


1. You are a citizen of the European Union  

Without employement in Switzerland:

Under bilateral agreements between Switzerland and the European Union (Bulgaria and Romania not included), you are exempt from compulsory Swiss insurance. Your European health insurance card must however be valid for the entire duration of your stay. Swiss law on health insurance is applicable. Entitlement to benefits, fees and cost sharing are in accordance with Swiss law.

In Geneva, a request for equivalence as well as a copy of the European health insurance card must be sent by post to the Cantonal Health Insurance Service (SAM - Service cantonal de l'assurance maladie) within 3 months of arrival.This service will issue the exemption from affiliation to an insurance in Switzerland:

Service cantonal de l’assurance-maladie (SAM)
Route de Frontenex 62 - 1207 Genève

To obtain reimbursement for health care services, you must send your invoices to the LAMal Joint Institution in Solothurn, which coordinates the payment of medical costs, giving your bank details in Switzerland (not abroad) :

Institution Commune LAMal
Gibelinstrasse 25 - 4503 Soleure
Tel. +41 32 625 30 30
Fax +41 (0)32 625 30 90
E-mail: info@kvg.org

Please note: 92 CHF per invoice is payable by you for each month of treatment (deductible)

With employement in Switzerland:

If you are engaged in paid work in Switzerland, however minimal, you must register with a Swiss health insurance fund. In this case, the European card is not sufficient and exemptions will not be valid. Students who have private foreign insurance may be exempted, provided that their insurance coverage is equivalent and that a request for exemption has been submitted and accepted by the Cantonal Health Insurance Service (SAM - Service cantonal de l'assurance maladie)


2. You are a citizen from a state outside the EU/EFTA

You may be exempt from the obligation to take out basic insurance in Switzerland only if you hold private insurance in your country of origin with cover equivalent to that of Swiss health insurance.

In Geneva, a request for equivalence, accompanied by written evidence from the relevant foreign insurer giving all the necessary information, must be sent by post to the Cantonal Health Insurance Service (SAM - Service cantonal de l'assurance maladie) before arriving in Switzerland:

Service cantonal de l’assurance-maladie (SAM)
Route de Frontenex 62 - 1207 Genève

The exemption has a duration of three years, with the possibility of requesting an extension of up to three years. After this period, you will need to take out Swiss health insurance. This step causes considerable changes to costs. It is therefore important to plan modifications to your income accordingly.


3. You are required to take out insurance in Switzerland

If no exemption from compulsory insurance is possible (for ex. European students with employment or third-country nationals without equivalent private insurance coverage), you must take out health insurance approved in Switzerland within three months of taking up residence.

However, your B or L study permit allows you to benefit from student health insurance provided at favorable rates, with the possibility to work alongside your studies if needed, which you may freely choose. Indeed, following your application for authorization to stay in the canton of Geneva, the Cantonal Health Insurance Service (SAM - Service cantonal de l'assurance maladie) will send you an information letter and ask you to provide the name of the LAMaL insurer you have chosen. Without a response from you, you will be automatically affiliated, without consideration for premiums and cost sharing.

Insurance solutions for foreign students:

  • Simple and designed especially for international students living in Switzerland, Scorestudies offers advantageous and comprehensive insurance solutions. Registration is done online. In the event of membership, Scorestudies takes care of the exemption procedure with the competent cantonal authorities.
  • The Swiss Insurance Association for Foreign Students (SIAFS) also promotes basic accident and health insurance at good price in Switzerland for international students.
  • Since October 2023, Swisscare has been offering a new product specially designed for foreign students in Switzerland, which meets all the requirements of the LAMal and includes a telemedicine service. The insurer also manages the exemption process with the cantonal authorities.

Other Swiss insurers provide insurance to foreign students :

Swica Organisation de santé Genève

"Student Care"

Rue de Lausanne 80


Tel. +41 (0)22 908 33 66



Groupe Mutuel

Mutuel Assurance Maladie SA

"Academic Care"

Rue des Cèdres 5


Tel. 0848 803 111



Golden Care

Boulevard Helvétique 31


Tel. +41 (0)22 786 12 00


In summary, this is what you need to know :

Only basic insurance is compulsory

The benefits are the same for each health insurance fund

You are free to choose your health insurance provider.

Additional insurance is optional. This covers things that basic insurance does not: dental care, private hospitalisation, alternative medicine, some treatments that are not recognised, etc. Unlike basic insurance, additional insurance has the right to refuse clients or attach certain terms.

The Cantonal Health Insurance Service (SAM - Service cantonal de l'assurance maladie) in Geneva is responsible for ensuring the application of the federal law on health insurance. It can help you get :

A subsidy in the event of a modest or difficult economic situation

An exemption from the obligation to take out Swiss insurance if you already have equivalent cover in your country

Information on the prices of the various health insurance providers.

For a better understanding of how health insurance works in Switzerland, you can also refer to the brochure “Help for adults - a practical guide for 18-25 year olds” (in French), published by the Hospice Général (Geneva institution for social action).

Your residence is in France:

If you are a member of an EU/EFTA state, you are not subject to the obligation to take out insurance in Switzerland, provided that you do not exercise a gainful activity in the territory. Healthcare in Switzerland is available to you on presentation of your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). On the other hand, if you carry out a gainful activity in Switzerland during your studies (even minimal), you are required to apply for cross-border worker status and to choose between the French CMU or the Swiss LAMal.

If you are a national of a third country, please contact the French authorities.


Geloge Foundation

The HES-SO Genève Foundation for student housing - GELOGE - offers different types of housing in its three halls of residence (“foyers”), primarily for students registered with one of the HES-SO Genève schools:

Halls of residence

As an HES student, you have access to the following halls of residence, which welcome students from universities in the canton of Geneva:

Other housing options are also available:


Accommodation with a host home and flatsharing

Free or low rent accommodation is sometimes offered in exchange for daily services provided to the host for a fixed period: www.ensembleavectoit.com

You may also wish to check the following websites for private rooms and shared apartments to rent in Switzerland and abroad:


Online platforms and adverts

Check the regularly updated online adverts on the intranet, accessible only to UAS students (using your AAI login).

Other useful platforms:

Cost of living
The cost of living is high in Switzerland. To assess your expenses and adequately plan the budget you will need as a student at the HES-SO Genève, consult the summary table available online.
Taxes and personal tax

Any person aged 18 and residing in the canton of Geneva for at least 90 days (30 days if working) must complete a tax return, even if there is no income to declare.

Foreign students and Swiss nationals will receive an initial communication containing the instalments to be paid following their announcement to the OCPM, as their income is not yet known to the tax authorities. In a second letter, they will receive the tax declaration, which must be completed.

Unless otherwise noted, the deadline for sending in your tax return is March 31 of each year. However, an extension may be requested.

We recommend that you open an e-démarches account so that you can complete your tax return online.

Please note that if the necessary steps are not taken, the tax authorities will proceed with an automatic tax assessment, sending you an invoice corresponding to the estimated taxes, as well as a fine. Furthermore, failure to declare will make it impossible to obtain a scholarship, housing assistance or health insurance subsidy.

If you are a foreign student, don't forget to notify your tax authorities of your departure from Switzerland or Geneva. 

You have no income:

Consult the procedure for completing your tax declaration. If you have not received any income in Switzerland and do not have a credit bank account, you will in principle not be subject to taxes.

We recommend that you indicate on your tax return your student status, the reason for your stay in Switzerland or Geneva and your lack of income, and attach a copy of your study certificate.

You have an income:

Consult the procedure for completing your tax return. We recommend that you pay installments in advance every month. You can estimate the amount of your deposits online.

If you are a foreign student living in Switzerland with a B permit (long-term residence) or an L permit (less than one year's residence), vou do not need to complete a tax return as you will be subject to withholding tax. This means that your tax will be deducted monthly from your Swiss salary and transferred by your employers to the cantonal tax authorities. So that your employers can establish the amount to be deducted from your salary, you must provide them with a withholding tax declaration.

Personal tax

If you are an adult and are domiciled in the canton of Geneva, you are subject to a personal tax. You must pay this tax using the QR-bill included in the letter from the tax authorities, to be paid within 30 days. This tax costs 25 francs a year and is used to finance public medical assistance.

If you don't have a Swiss bank account or have returned abroad, you can pay the personal tax by bank transfer.

You may be exempt from the personal tax if you are a minor, live outside the canton or abroad, have no assets (no credit bank account, no personal vehicle, etc.), benefit from full social support (welfare, asylum seeker, refugee, etc.) or if your annual income does not exceed:

  • CHF 3,400 for a single person;
  • CHF 5,000 for a married couple;
  • CHF 4,500 per taxpayer in the case of partial splitting;

If you wish to be exempt from the personal tax, you must dispute it by sending a letter of complaint within 30 days of receipt of the invoice to:

Administration fiscale cantonale
Service de taxation
Case postale 3937
1211 Genève 3