Studying in Switzerland
Switzerland supports students from other European countries studying at the ZHAW.
Switzerland is currently not a full member of Erasmus+, the EU exchange programme for education, training, youth and sport. Nevertheless, exchanges and cooperation with European partner universities continue to flourish. The Swiss European Mobility Programme supports Swiss students, as well as those from EU countries who wish to spend a semester in Switzerland.
Between 2011 and 2013, Switzerland was a member of the EU’s Erasmus programme. As a result of the referendum on the “mass immigration initiative” in 2014, Switzerland is not part of the follow-up programme, Erasmus+. However, Switzerland is aiming to become fully involved in this new programme in the near future.
Students from abroad who wish to take advantage of the Swiss-European Mobility Programme (SEMP) must be enrolled to study at the ZHAW for a minimum of three months and a maximum of 12 months. Through this programme, Switzerland also supports students combining their studies with an internship.
Coming to the ZHAW as a visiting student
If you are interested in coming to the ZHAW as a visiting student (SEMP, free mover or completing an internship), please contact the International Relations Offices in the ZHAW School which corresponds to your subject area.
The ZHAW works with the Erasmus Student Network and offers a buddy service to help international students feel at home on campus quickly. Under the motto “Students helping students”, the buddy service helps to make the transition to life at the ZHAW smoother.
As a student from abroad, you are assigned a “buddy”, a person who - where possible - is studying the same subject area as you. The service is optional so you can decide whether you wish to use it. A few weeks before the beginning of the semester, your buddy will make contact with you. Your buddy might help, for example, by collecting you from the airport or the railway station.
In your first few days here, your buddy will help you to familiarise yourself with life at the ZHAW and in Switzerland. Your buddy can help you to open a bank account, explain the ticketing system on public transport, and introduce you to life at the ZHAW. You can also contact your buddy at a later stage if you have any questions or problems. Buddies do not, however, carry out administrative duties, such as arranging accommodation or issuing a residence permit.
Classes in English
Classes at the ZHAW are taught predominantly in German. However, the ZHAW also offers several degree programmes, modules and courses, as well as some continuing education options in English. The International Relations Offices will help you to plan and organize your stay in Switzerland and will assist you as you organize your study programme. Depending on availability and after agreement by the relevant International Relations Office, you may also be able to select modules and courses beyond your usual field of study.
|Subject Area||Date||Short courses|
|Social Work||Fall / Spring||Bachelor’s Degree International Course Offerings|
|Social Work||Fall / Spring||Master’s Degree International Course Offerings|
|Health and Social Care||7.1.–1.2.19||Winter School 2019|
|Nursing||4.–15.3.19||European Nursing Module|
|International Business||on request||Tailor-Made Study Trips|
Insurance, visa and residence permit
Health and accident insurance
According to Swiss law, everybody residing in Switzerland for more than 3 months must be insured against sickness and accidents. Swiss insurance companies are obliged to provide basic cover for all applicants without any conditions or waiting period. You can choose your insurer from a large number of insurance providers. All providers offer the same basic cover, which is regulated by law. However, it is still worth comparing premiums, since they may differ widely from one provider to the next depending on your age. Some insurance companies offer foreign students special insurance plans with good conditions. You should arrange the required insurance cover within three months of arriving in Switzerland. If you have not done this, the authorities responsible will assign you to an insurance provider.
You may be covered by your existing health insurance in your own country during your stay in Switzerland. If this is the case, you can apply for exemption from the compulsory insurance requirement: "Application for exemption from health insurance obligation".
Liability insurance is not compulsory for students at the ZHAW. However, we recommend all students to take out liability insurance cover. If you have a liability insurance policy in your home country, please check whether the cover is also valid in Switzerland before you arrive.
Social security contributions
Swiss and foreign students whose residence under civil law is in Switzerland must pay contributions amounting to at least CHF 478 annually to Old Age and Survivors' Insurance (AHV), Invalidity Insurance (IV) and Loss of Earnings Insurance (EO) from 1 January following the student’s 20th birthday.
From 1 January following the student’s 25th birthday, students who are not in paid employment must pay contributions that are based on their social circumstances (i.e. they no longer pay the minimum contribution).
Students do not have to make contributions to AHV, IV and EO if:
- the student has certification from the employer or the compensation office that contributions of at least CHF 478 have been made from the student’s earned income or compensation for loss of earnings in the relevant year;
- the student is in Switzerland solely for the purpose of studying and the student’s residence under civil law is not in Switzerland;
- the student’s spouse makes AHV, IV and EO contributions in Switzerland and is employed according to the terms of AHV, and the contributions made amount to at least CHF 956 (i.e. twice the minimum amount).
The ZHAW is legally required to register all students who are 20 years of age or older on 31.12. of the year with the Social Insurance Authority (SVA). For this reason, it is essential that students inform their degree programme administrative office of their 13-digit social insurance number. Students who are obliged to pay AHV contributions will receive a questionnaire within the course of the first six months of the year. This questionnaire must be filled in, signed and returned to the SVA Zürich in all cases. Students who have not received this questionnaire by the end of July must contact the SVA directly. All questions related to AHV contributions for those who are not in paid employment should be addressed to:
Röntgenstr. 17, Postfach
Tel. +41 (0)44 448 50 00
Other AHV-related questions can be addressed to any of the AHV offices. See also:
- AHV Website (Information in English on a limited number of topics)
- Information sheet (in German only): Beiträge der Studierenden an die AHV, die IV und die EO
Visa and residence permit for foreign students
Depending on their nationality, people who wish to study at the ZHAW must fulfill different conditions. If they intend to work, they need a work permit. All foreign students are required to register with the Residents' Registration Office within 14 days of their arrival.
Please note that a standard Schengen visa is not sufficient for foreign students to begin studying at the ZHAW. Students from EU / EFTA countries need a valid passport or identity card in order to enter Switzerland. Students from Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand and Singapore are exempted from the visa requirement. However, upon arrival in Switzerland, they must apply for a residence permit and submit the same documentation as students who are subject to the visa obligation. Students from all other countries (third countries) need an entry permit ("Einreisebewilligung") as well as a visa. You should apply for an entry permit at the Swiss Embassy in your home country. If your application is approved by the authorities in Switzerland, you can then apply for a visa at the embassy. You will need various documents for your application (including confirmation of enrolment at the ZHAW). Ask for a checklist from the person in charge at the ZHAW School you have applied to. All documents must be originals and submitted together with translations into German; translations must be authenticated by a notary. In some cases, documents in English are accepted. You can grant authorisation to a designated person at the ZHAW to act in your name, so that we can deal with the paperwork for you.
When students from non EU/EFTA countries (third countries) apply for their visa, they must submit proof of access to a sum of CHF 21,000 per year in a Swiss bank account or other approved financial institution. This money serves as a guarantee to cover their living costs, including compulsory health insurance premiums, during their stay in Switzerland.
Foreign students who hold a residence permit are permitted to work part-time in Switzerland. During the semester, you can work a maximum of 15 hours per week. During the holidays, your working hours can be extended. EU nationals receive a work permit from the Residents' Registration Office of the municipality where they are living. Students from non EU countries and from Bulgaria and Romania must apply for a work permit at the Office for Economy and Labour ("Amt für Wirtschaft und Arbeit AWA") in Zurich. This is best done by your (future) employer.