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 residents of the municipality where you live (in Geneva, the OCPM). It will take a few weeks/months for your permit to be granted. If authorised, your visa will be sent to you by post.

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 booket; 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, authorisation 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.



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 not permitted until six months after your studies begin.

Working hours are limited to 15 hours per week, except during university holiday periods when full-time work is authorised.

However, undertaking paid work requires authorisation: for students who are members of the EU, this must be notified to the Cantonal Office for Population and Migration (OCPM) using form E. For third-country nationals, this must be authorised by the Office de la main d’œuvre du service des migrations (Migration Service Workforce Office). The steps you need to take to start an ancillary activity are available at: https://www.ge.ch/demander-permis-travail (in French) . Each employer must also submit a request, and the usual remuneration conditions for the branch must be met.



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.


1. You are a national of an EU/EFTA member country :

You live in Geneva 

To request a stay for studies, you must return the duly completed form E o the address below within 14 days of your arrival in Geneva :

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

Check the list of supporting documents to be attached to your request. (in French)

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 form E, tick “Exchange student” under “type of request”.

Upon receipt of your completed file, a B student permit will be sent to you by mail. Don't forget to give your final address in Geneva!


You live in the canton of Vaud

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


You live in neighbouring France

Check with the town hall of your municipality.


2. You are a national of a third country :

To request a stay for studies, you must return the duly completed form E o the address below within 14 days of your arrival in Geneva:

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

Check the list of supporting documents to be attached to your request (in French).

You will also need to visit the OCPM in person within 14 days of your arrival in Geneva, to announce your address and register your biometric data (photo, fingerprints of both index fingers, and signature).

The cost of the residence permit is approximately 250 CHF + 25 CHF to obtain proof of residence to be paid upon departure.

The residence permit will then be sent to you with tracked delivery. Don't forget to give your final address in Geneva!

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 are a foreign student and are doing all or part of your training in Switzerland, there are three options available to you to comply with Swiss law :


1.  You are a citizen of the European Union with a European health insurance card : 

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 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.

However, a request for exemption must be sent by mail to the SAM (Cantonal Health Insurance Service), using an exemption request form within 3 months of arrival in the canton of Geneva. Note that exemptions are only valid if you are not engaged in paid work. Foreign students engaged in paid work in Switzerland, however minimal, must register with a Swiss health insurance fund. In this case, the European card or membership in a European country of origin is not sufficient and exemptions will not be valid.

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).


2.  You are a foreign student and have private insurance in your country of origin with cover equivalent to that of Swiss health insurance :

You may be exempt from the obligation to take out basic insurance in Switzerland by submitting a request to the cantonal administration where you are living. The request must be accompanied by written evidence from the relevant foreign body giving all the necessary information. For this, you need to submit a form stating the equivalence of your insurance cover, to be completed by the foreign insurer:

Formulaire d'équivalence de l'assurance maladie [PDF - 59.2 Ko]

Formular zur Kontrolle der Äquivalenz der Krankenversicherung [PDF - 55.96 Ko]

Check form for the equivalent of Swiss health insurance [PDF - 60.98 Ko]

This form should be sent to the Health Insurance Service (SAM) of the canton of Geneva before your arrival in Switzerland :

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


3.  Neither of these options reflect your situation :

You are required to take out insurance in Switzerland. Your B or L study permit allows you to benefit from reduced health insurance. Although a premium and deductible will apply in the event of treatment, you will have access to favourable rates.

There are several different options available :

  • Simple and designed especially for international students living in Switzerland, ScoreStudies is an advantageous and comprehensive insurance solution. 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.


Other Swiss insurers also provide insurance to foreign students :

Swisscare Switzerland AG

Morgenstrasse 129

3018 BERN

Tel: +41 (0)22 823 00 40



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 all cases, exemptions have a limited duration of 6 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.

In summary, this is what you need to know :

  • Health insurance can be costly
  • 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 Health Insurance Service (SAM) 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).


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.