Frequently asked questions
Living in Switzerland
At the heart of Europe, Switzerland is divided into three geographical areas: the Alps, the Plateau, and the Jura. The diversity of landscapes and environments contributes to Switzerland’s attractiveness as a place to live and work.
At the end of 2020, the permanent resident population of Switzerland reached 8,670,300. Switzerland’s four national languages – German, French, Italian, and Romansh – are evidence of the multilingualism that is part of everyday life.
In the Swiss federal government, the federalist system and direct democracy are a guarantee of both individuality and cohesion. Switzerland pursues an active foreign policy, particularly with regard to the EU. Switzerland’s neutrality and its humanitarian tradition allow it to play a role as host country for international organisations and to exercise Protecting Power mandates.
Do you want to know everything about work permits, long-term residence permits, moving, buying a house or land, withholding tax, social insurance, family reunification, or staying in Switzerland without gainful employment? Then go to the dedicated Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) page: Living in Switzerland
Would you like to know the unemployment rate for university graduates? Go to the Federal Statistical Office (FSO) page dedicated to this subject: Universities: unemployment rate
Living in the canton of Vaud
The canton of Vaud lies in the southwestern Switzerland between Lake Geneva and Lake Neuchâtel, the Alps, and the Jura mountains. Located in the Lake Geneva region, it is in the French-speaking area of Switzerland, which is more often referred to as “Romandie”.
With an area of 3,212 km2, it is the biggest canton in French-speaking Switzerland and one of the largest of the 26 cantons that make up Switzerland. Its neighbours are France and the Swiss cantons of Geneva, Neuchâtel, Fribourg, Bern, and Valais. Sometimes described as a ‘summary of Switzerland’, the territory of Vaud is a beautiful balance between cities, countryside, lakes and rivers, and the vineyards and mountains of the Alpine and Jura ranges.
Total area: 3212 km2 (7,8% of Switzerland’s territory)
Agricultural area: 1336 km2 of which 39 km2 is vineyards
Forest area: 1037 km2
Unproductive area: 516 km2
Habitat and infrastructure area: 321 km2
(Source: OFS, Statistique suisse de la superficie
Find out all about the canton’s economy, sport, tourism, and local produce on Vaud.ch.
Arrival in the canton of Vaud
For the first four things to do when you arrive in the canton of Vaud, click here.
You have fourteen days to register and present yourself in person at the Residents’ Registration Office (Service du contrôle des habitants).
Who is concerned? These procedures concern you if you wish to live in Lausanne for more than three months.
How do you go about it? When you arrive, you must go to the Office in person. The procedures vary depending on the case: registration with the commune of Lausanne.
Studying in Switzerland
Tuition fees vary from institution to institution, generally between 500 and 2,000 Swiss francs per semester – sometimes more for foreign students. For more information, you can refer directly to the institution concerned, or visit the swissuniversities website.
If you are from a country not covered by the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons (AFMP) and you wish to come and study in the canton of Vaud, you must complete – or have the school complete – the application form for a temporary residence permit for study purposes.
This form is also available in English: English study request form for non-EC/EFTA nationals.
The admissions requirements are specific to each university, whether accredited or not. You can refer directly to the website of the institution in question.
If you are seeking recognition of a foreign qualification in Switzerland, please refer to the information provided by the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI).
Studying in the canton of Vaud
There are various websites available for you to look for/find accommodation, such as the FMEL – the University of Lausanne (UNIL) housing platform.
The languages used at the universities depend on the field of study. Teaching is generally in French, but may be in English, with lectures in both languages. In some fields of study, lectures may be in German.
You can find out about applying for scholarships from the Cantonal Office for Scholarships (OCBE).
For Swiss students wishing to study abroad
If you need to have a degree authenticated and then legalised for a foreign destination, the Directorate General of Higher Education and then the Prefecture of the District of Lausanne are your two required and successive interlocutors: see “Requesting the authentication of Vaud university diplomas for foreign countries”.
How can I find out whether a Swiss degree at the upper secondary level will be recognised for admission to a foreign university?
University requirements in terms of the necessary entrance qualifications – and in some cases, also in terms of the subjects studied, grades obtained, and minimum language level – differ from country to country and, within a country, also from university to university. For this reason, it is not possible to give a precise answer.
Indeed, the chosen tertiary-level institution is often solely responsible for admissions decisions. It is therefore up to the institution to decide on admission and to communicate the procedures it applies. For example, if you plan to study abroad, you should contact the admissions department of the chosen university as soon as possible to clarify the admissions requirements.
For students of Swiss nationality who have lived abroad and are returning to Switzerland
How can I find out if a university degree (Bachelor’s or Master’s) earned abroad by a Swiss citizen will be recognised in Switzerland on the labour market and/or by the SERI?
In Switzerland, the exercising of certain professions is regulated. Regulated professions are those whose practice is regulated by law, such as the health professions. This means that to exercise these professions, having certain professional qualifications is requirement (degree, certificate, attestation of competence, etc.). In this case, recognition of the foreign degree by a competent authority – the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation, or SERI, in Switzerland – is essential.
If the profession is not regulated in Switzerland, recognition of a degree by SERI is not required to legally practise said profession in Switzerland. For example, professions in the industry, arts and crafts, sales, commerce, hotels and restaurants, construction, etc. sectors are generally not regulated. Therefore, hiring decisions are left up to the employer according to the specificities of the labour market and its needs. In this case, the holder can have their professional qualifications recognised. They can practise their profession and apply for jobs directly with the foreign degree.
For foreign university degrees that enable access to a non-regulated profession, holders can apply for a recommendation of recognition of the degree. The umbrella organisation of the Swiss universities – swissuniversities – can issue a recognition recommendation to persons seeking employment. This recognition recommendation is a comparative assessment that is not legally binding. In Switzerland, there is no recognition for degrees that provide access to a non-regulated profession.
These two procedures take place once the degree is earned, not before the start of studies.
No guarantee can be given that a foreign qualification will be recognised by a Swiss competent authority.
Indeed, any recognition of a degree goes through an individual process. Each dossier is individually examined. Various criteria are taken into consideration depending on the applicable legal basis, the particularities of the education/training, and even the professional experience. In addition, both the legislation and the internal procedures may be subject to change by the time the degree is awarded. For these reasons, there is no “list” of recognised courses or institutions, respectively. An exception is made for the fields of architecture, medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine, pharmacy, nursing, and childbirth. For these regulated, so-called “sectoral professions”, the education/training standards are harmonised at European level. As a result, there is a list of automatically-recognised qualifications which is available in Directive 2005/36/EC, issued by the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union.