Culture-crammed cities and sky-high drives, terraced vines and turreted medieval castles, glacier-frosted mountains and one ravishing Alpine view after the next – Switzerland packs a whole lot into a little land.
Enjoying everything Switzerland has to offer is the easy part, but figuring out the country’s entry requirements can, in some circumstances, be less straightforward. To make things clearer, here’s our guide to entering Switzerland, giving the lowdown on the different visa types available and the rules you’ll need to navigate for trouble-free travels.
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Do I need a visa if I’m an EU citizen?
Though Switzerland is not in the European Union (EU), it is part of the Schengen area, which means that nationals from the 26 countries that fall within this border-free region, including Austria, France, Spain, Italy and Germany, do not require a visa to enter Switzerland. There is no time limit on how long visitors from Schengen countries may stay in Switzerland.
Alongside Schengen countries, visas are currently not required if you hold a passport from the UK, Ireland, the USA, Canada, Australia or New Zealand, whether visiting as a tourist or on business. Citizens of other EU countries outside the Schengen area, along with Norwegians and Icelanders, may also enter Switzerland without a visa. A maximum 90-day stay in a 180-day period applies.
What about visitors from outside the EU?
If you are arriving from a non-EU country, you’ll need your passport or EU identity card – and visa if required (see below) – to clear customs. All non-EU travelers must carry a passport valid for at least three months beyond the planned departure date from Switzerland and issued within the last ten years.
Travelers from a country outside the EU that isn’t on the visa waiver list will have to apply for a short-stay Schengen Visa to enter Switzerland. This visa allows for unlimited travel throughout the 26 countries in the Schengen zone for a 90-day period. If you are planning to visit other countries alongside Switzerland in the same trip, apply for your visa at the consulate of the country you will spend most time.
In Switzerland, carry your passport at all times. Swiss citizens are required to always carry ID, so you will also need to be able to identify yourself at any time.
Get your urban kicks in Switzerland’s cities, including pretty Zurich © canadastock / Shutterstock
How do I get a visa for Switzerland?
If you require a visa, apply at your nearest Swiss consulate in your country of origin. Documents needed include two recent passport-size photographs and valid travel document (passport) with an expiry date at least three months longer than that of the visa requested.
You may also be asked to show a return ticket, as well as proof that you have full medical insurance for the duration of your stay and the financial means to support yourself during your visit to the country. You’ll also need proof of civil status, details of your accommodation, and documents proving that your visit is for tourism purposes.
Schengen visas cost €80 for adults and €40 for children (aged 6-12; there is no charge for children under 6). Visas can only be extended in exceptional circumstances.
For a list of Swiss embassies abroad and embassies in Switzerland, see the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFD). Embassies are in Bern, but Zürich and Geneva have several consulates.
In regards to working holidays, EU citizens, Norwegians and Icelanders are permitted to work in Switzerland for up to 90 days a year without a permit. Other foreigners and EU citizens on longer assignments will need a permit. For details visit the State Secretariat for Migration online.
Do I need proof of a COVID-19 vaccination to enter Switzerland?
No, travelers are not currently required to present any proof of COVID-19 vaccination upon arrival in Switzerland. No proof of recovery or recent testing is required either. Masks are not mandatory but are advised in crowded indoor spaces and on public transport.