Work regulation support & FAQs

We invite students who want to combine work and studies to carefully read the following, which provides important information about working in Switzerland and answers other frequently asked questions.

Before contacting us, try to find the answers to your questions below. This page is updated regularly to reflect current information.

Index

 

Working on your Student B Permit:


Earning credits for internships:


After graduation:


Other frequently asked questions:








When I get a job or internship offer, how soon can I start working?

 

Many employers in Geneva may ask you to start work almost immediately sometimes within a week or even a few days after offering you a position.

However, before you can start any job, internship, or volunteering opportunity in Geneva, you must request a "work authorisation" from the OCPM. The delay before you can start working will vary depending on your nationality:

  • Swiss citizens do not need work authorisation and can start work immediately.
  • EU citizens can start working as soon as they submit their work authorisation application (the same day that you put it in the post box).
  • Non-EU citizens can start working only after they receive a response from the OCPM. This can take 3 weeks or more after the date you submit.

It is mandatory according to Swiss law to follow the work authorisation procedures.








Work authorisation information

 

A work authorisation is mandatory for non-Swiss nationals residing in Switzerland with a B Permit, classified as formation, and whom have already received an employment offer in Switzerland.

Here are the important information to know about the work authorisation:

  • Students should send a work authorisation request to the OCPM before the start of their job/internship.
  • A work authorisation is valid for one employer, should you receive an offer from a different employer in the future, you would have to request another work authorisation.
  • If your contract with an employer gets extended, you do not have to ask for another work authorisation as long as your student B permit is valid until the end of your contract.

In addition, non-Swiss students are subject to the following work restrictions :

  • Employment activity cannot exceed 37.5%, which is equivalent to 15 hours per week during the academic semester and 40 hours per week during the official holiday (winter and summer break). See the academic calendar to know the dates of each period.
  • An exception can be made for students to work full time during the academic semester if they are getting ECTS for their internship (and we recommend to do so ideally in their 4th semester where they have less classes). Students can get an internship validated for credits once during their studies. Contact your department for more information.
  • Non-EU/EFTA nationals are not allowed to start a work activity for 6 months upon their arrival date in Geneva unless they are getting ECTS for their internship. EU/EFTA nationals can start immediately upon their arrival in Geneva.

If your internship/job is abroad, you do not need to request a work authorisation from the OCPM.

Check out our wonderful visual to help you understand when to ask for a work authorisation and more about the process itself!








How to request A Work authorisation

 

If you need any assistance for your work authorisation request, please reach out to the Career Services by providing us with the following information:

  • Employer's name

  • Start and end date of the internship

  • Number of working hours per week

  • Your arrival date in Switzerland

  • Whether you will validate this internship as ECTS

  • Will this job/internship be paid or unpaid

  • Are you currently receiving a United States federal loan for your studies here at the Institute?

  • If paid, will you be paid minimum wage (24.32CHF.-/hour)

A work authorisation is mandatory to start an activity, whether paid or not. Once you have found an employer, you must gather and complete the following documents:

  • E form

    • Select "activité accessoire" for internships/jobs up to 15h per week

    • Select "stage dans le cadre des études" for internships validated as ECTS (important: make sure you include the ECTS validation attestation in your OCPM request)

    • Ask your employer to sign the form

  • Copy of your passport

  • Copy of your current B permit

  • An OCPM attestation from the Career Services confirming the internship/employment is compatible with your studies (please contact us at career@graduateinstitute.ch providing the information requested above)

An invoice of 65CHF.- (for European citizens) or 95CHF.- (for non-European citizens) will be sent to you or the employer.

Send your request before the start of the work activity to the OCPM per post or in person.

You can send or drop your work authorisation application at:

Office cantonal de la population et des migrations (OCPM)
Service des étrangers
Route de Chancy 88
Case Postale 2652
1211 Genève 2








If my internship contract gets extended, do I need to request another work authorisation?

 

You do not need to request another work authorisation if your contract gets extended with the same employer, as long as your B permit is valid for the entire duration of the extended contract.

 








AS A NON-SWISS STUDENT, HOW CAN I WORK FULL-TIME DURING MY STUDIES?

 

According to the Swiss law, as a non-Swiss student, you can work full time if:

  • You work for an organisation abroad, may it be working abroad physically or working remotely from Switzerland. The Swiss laws do not apply in this case. Rather, the regulations of the country apply where you are working remotely apply, and you do not need to request a work authorisation from the OCPM.
  • OR, you ask for your internship to count as credits. This can only be done once during your studies. For this, you must reach out to your department (mint@graduateinstitute.ch / madis@graduateinstitute.ch) for them to approve your request.
  • OR, you work for an intergovernmental organisation that could provide you with a legitimate card (CDL) that would replace your student B permit. See the list of organisations that can usually provide you with a CDL.








As a Non-EU/EFTA citizen, if I wish to work before the 6-month latency period, how can I do that?

 

You have two options to work prior to the 6-month latency period, you can:

  1. Work remotely for an organisation that is located outside of Switzerland and therefore, the Swiss laws do not apply.
  2. Get your internship/job validated as credits by your department. However, please keep in mind that you can get your internship/job validated as credits only once during your studies.








Tripartite AGREEMENT

 

If you need a tripartite agreement or internship agreement (convention de stage) for your future employment, send your request to career@graduateinstitute.ch with the following information:

  • Employer's name

  • Start and end date of the internship

  • Number of working hours per week

  • Your arrival date in Switzerland

  • Whether you will validate this internship as ECTS

  • Will this job/internship be paid or unpaid

  • If paid, will you be paid minimum wage (24.32CHF.-/hour)

Please specify in the email subject line "Your name - internship agreement".

Important information: for legal reasons, we cannot provide an internship agreement for an internship that goes beyond your graduation date.








What are the work regulations for PhD students?

 

Like Master's students, PhD students can work with any employer in Switzerland for up to 15 hours per week.

However, there are some differences. PhD students can work up to a maximum of 20 hours per week only if the work is directly related to their thesis, and if the position is at the Graduate Institute (teaching assistants and research assistants). If these conditions are not met, students are only allowed to work up to 15 hours per week.

Under no circumstances can a PhD student work more than 20 hours per week in Switzerland. PhD students cannot get credits for a job/internship.








Can I work as a consultant on my Student B Permit?

 

No. You cannot register as an independent contractor or consultant while on your student B Permit. What we suggest instead, is to see with your employer if the role can be reconfigured as an internship that is part of your curriculum, for which you will need to get credits.

There is an exception to this rule: if your employer is an International Organisation and offers you a CDL for the consultancy then you can do it.








Earning credits for internships

 

Students in the Interdisciplinary or Disciplinary Masters Programmes can earn 3 ECTS credits if they intern during their studies. An internship can be validated once during their studies. Please be so kind as to fill in this internship proposal form and send it to your master's programme team by email 15 days before the start of your internship:

Interdisciplinary Masters: mint@graduateinstitute.ch

Disciplinary Masters: madis@graduateinstitute.ch

Students are legally allowed to work full-time when they earn credits for an internship.

Students cannot ask for their internship to count as credits when they are on a leave of absence.

If you are a US citizen receiving US federal loans for your studies at the Graduate Institute, you cannot receive credits for an internship.

The maximum amount of time that you can do an internship for credits is one year if you are doing a two-year master's programme. For example, you could do a maximum of one 12-month internship, or two 6-month internships, etc. Remember this when planning your internships during your studies.

Important information: Internships in Geneva canton that are paid less than minimum wage (24.32 CHF/hour) must count as credits. This includes unpaid internships. An exception to this rule is if the employer provides you with a CDL for the internship. In this case, the rule mentioned here does not apply.

 








Can I get multiple internships approved for credits?

 

You can get your internship approved for credits once during your studies. However it is possible to get your credits transferred from a previous internship to a new internship.

Please keep in mind that the maximum amount amount of time that you can do an internship for credits is 1 year if you are doing a 2-year master's programme. For example, you could do one 12 month internship, or two 6-month internships, or three 4-month internships, etc. The number of hours per week that you are interning does affect the calculation.








Residence permit extension after graduation (L permit)
 

If you are a non-EU citizen, after graduation you can extend your student residence permit for a period of six months according to the Neirynck law, in order to find a job in line with your degree. This period is non-renewable and the work permit thereafter cannot be guaranteed. 

If you are an EU citizen, you do not need to request this L permit as you can remain in Switzerland for 90 days without requesting any kind of permit as long as you are not working. If you are offered employment during that time, you can request a B permit OR if beyond those 90 days, you did not yet secure a job, you can still remain in Switzerland and will also have to request a B permit. In that case, you will have to provide proof of sufficient financials means and health insurance coverage.

During this six-month period, you will receive a permit L however you can only work for a maximum of 15 hours per week. These six months should give you time to find a job in line with your degree, but do not replace a work permit. To work beyond the 15-hour limit, your potential employer will need to request a working B permit. Please keep in mind that this request may be denied by the Swiss authorities depending on a variety of factors.

To extend your student residence permit, you must provide the following documents 3-4 weeks before your student residence permit expires:

  • Form K if you already have a job when making a request

    • Select "renouvellement/prolongation"

  • Copy of your passport

  • Copy of your current permit B

  • Copy of your official transcripts (to be sent later upon receipt)

  • Your CV

  • A letter from the Career Services confirming you graduated from the Institute and requesting your student permit extension (send an email to career@graduateinstitute.ch with "student permit extension letter" in the subject line)

  • Proof of financial means (there is no minimum required, but you should have enough in your account to cover the period)

  • Proof of residence (housing contract or letter from landlord)*

There is a processing fee (CHF 65 for European citizens and CHF 102 for non-European citizens). The canton will send you the bill in the post after you submit your L permit extension. You do not pay it in advance.

Important information: if you already have an employer for a job for maximum 15 hours a week, you will need a work authorisation. You should add the following documents to your student permit extension request:

  • Ask your employer to sign Form K (you can use the same form for both permit extension and work authorisation request)

  • Work contract

  • Letter signed by yourself explaining that you are applying for a permit extension in line with the Neirynck Law and that you are requesting the "autorisation pour l'exercice d'une activité accessoire" of 15 hours per week during this period

The student permit extension request should be sent by post to the OCPM:
Office cantonal de la population et des migrations (OCPM)
Service des étrangers
Case Postale 2652
1211 Genève 2








    What address should use for my L permit application?
     

    For your L permit application, you must indicate an address in Geneva. If your housing situation in Geneva is not stable or not continuous after graduation (for example, your student housing contract is ending and you are looking for new accommodation), one common solution is to sublet or to be hosted on the address of a friend of family member in Geneva. This is allowed by the Canton of Geneva. If you choose this option, you need to include the following 2 documents in your L permit application:

    • Copy of the housing contract of your friend or family member
    • The friend or landlord should fill in this attestation AL.

    Don't forget to physically put your name on your friend's letterbox so that you can actually receive letters from the Canton.

    If you change your address within the Geneva Canton, you must submit a changement d'addresse form, by mail or online, within 14 days of moving prior to requesting your L permit.

    The OCPM has also confirmed that it is possible to rent an Airbnb for the 6-month duration of your L permit extension.








    Can I provide an address in another canton for my L permit application?

     

    No. You should provide an address within the canton of Geneva. If your address is in another canton, you should apply for the L permit via that canton’s OCPM office.








    Proof of financial means for L permit
     

    On the Form K, it states that you must have "Proof of financial means or sponsorship certificate (Form O)" for the L permit application.

    This can be either bank statements in your name, which show that you have sufficient funds for the entire six months. Or, if you can proof that, for the last 3 months, you have been receiving sufficient monthly funds to cover you for each month. For example, your salary from your job, or monthly transfers from your family.

    The OCPM does not have a specific amount of money that you should have for each month. It varies slightly case by case. But it should be reasonable and realistic for you.

    If you are being supported by a guarantor (usually a family member who is supporting you financially), there are 2 scenarios:

    1. If they are outside Switzerland, they need to wire you the money each month (for the previous 3 months as proof), or as a large lump sum to your bank account which covers the entire 6 month period of the L permit.
    2. If they are inside Switzerland, the guarantor must fill out Form O.

     








    Can I benefit from the 6-month extension (L permit) if I was on a CDL during graduation?

     

    Yes, you can.  You are entitled to a 6-month extension stay after your graduation regardless of whether you hold a resident B permit or a CDL at the time of your graduation. Your graduation date will determine the start date of the 6-month extension.

     








    After graduation, can I leave Switzerland during the period when my B permit has expired and I’m still waiting for my L permit to arrive?

     

    It depends on your nationality and the visa rules between your country and Switzerland.

    You can only leave Switzerland during this period if you are allowed to stay in Switzerland as a tourist. If this is the case for you, then you would be on a tourist visa during this bridge period, and you could enter and exit Switzerland as a tourist, usually for up to 90 days. However, each country has different restrictions about how (or if) they are allowed to enter Switzerland as a tourist. If you are unsure, you should check with your embassy or consulate in Switzerland.








    Can The Institute provide an internship agreement after I graduate?

     

    No, for legal reasons, we cannot provide an internship/tripartite agreement (convention de stage) beyond your graduation date.








    Special work permits for up to 18 months after graduation
     

    Switzerland has concluded trainee exchange agreements with 14 countries in order to enable young professionals to acquire further professional and linguistic skills in Switzerland. Work permits can be granted for a maximum of 18 months.

    For students coming from these countries, you have the possibility after graduation to get a working permit that allows for you to work full time and for 18 months in Switzerland once you receive an internship/traineeship/job offer. The 14 countries are:

    Argentina, Australia, Canada, Chile, Indonesia, Japan, Monaco, New Zealand, Philippines, Russia, South Africa, Tunisia, United States, and Ukraine.

    See below the criteria to be eligible:

    • You are a citizen of a partner country (see above);
    • You are between 18 and 35 years old (Australia: between 20 and 30 years old, New Zealand and Russia: between 18 and 30 years old);
    • You have completed a university degree
    • The internship/traineeship/early career position can only be completed in the field in line with their previous studies
    • Access is possible for any type of profession
    • The remuneration must be in accordance with the standards in use in the locality and the branch, as for a person at the beginning of their career. If there is a convention collective de travail (CCT), their remuneration will be in accordance with the provisions of the CCT; otherwise, the cantonal salary guidelines and the recommendations of the industry associations apply
    • The permit is issued for a maximum period of 18 months (multiple stays are permitted, provided that the total duration of the stays does not exceed 18 months)
    • Self-employment and part-time work are not permitted

    If you wish to learn more, please check out this website. If you wish to know what are the steps to follow to get your Young Professionals "Interns" permit, which is an L permit, you can check out this document a previous student shared with us who went through this exact process.








    Can I still be covered by my student insurance once I graduate?

     

    As you will have graduated, you will no longer be considered as a student in Switzerland, and therefore you will not be able to keep your student insurance.

    If you will remain in Switzerland after graduation, you will automatically be affiliated to LaMAL (which costs around 400CHF.-/month). Depending on your situation (if you earned less than 15'000CHF.-/year, your age, etc.), you can ask for a subsidy.








    What career services are available to IHEID alumni?

     

    Alumni have access to our Job Portal  and Career Newsletter indefinitely after graduation, access to our career workshops up to 2 years after graduation, and access to our career counselling sessions up to 6 months after graduation.

     








    What is a carte de légitimation (CDL) and which organisations in Geneva offer it?

     

    A carte de légitimation (CDL) is a special type of residence and work permit offered by certain organisations in Switzerland, mainly UN agencies, diplomatic missions, international and intergovernmental organisations. The CDL differs from the traditional Swiss residence and work permits (for example, your student B permit, or a working C permit) in a few ways.

    However, most importantly for non-EU students, if an organisation is able to offer their employees a CDL, it means that they are able to hire non-Swiss and non-EU candidates without restriction. Therefore, if you are a non-EU student, targeting these organisations can be an effective strategy if your goal is to stay and work in Switzerland. There are over 70 employers in and around Geneva that offer CDLs to their employees. See the full list of organisations here.








    If I get an internship abroad, does the Institute offer financial support?

     

    Yes! Thanks to the Swiss European Mobility Programme (SEMP), we are able to provide funding for Graduate Institute students who participate in internships outside of Switzerland. To be eligible, you must meet the following criteria:

    1. The internship must be outside of Switzerland, primarily inside Europe, although some funding is available for internships anywhere in the world.
    2. The internship must be between 2 - 12 months in duration.
    3. The student must complete the internship on location, not online.
    4. The student must obtain credits for the internship.
    5. The internship must not have started yet when you apply.

    The amount of the funding is 440 CHF per month for internships in Europe, and 500 CHF per month for internships outside of Europe.

    There are a limited number of Institute students per academic year who can benefit from SEMP funding. Applications will be assessed on a first-come first-served basis. You must complete your application for the funding before the start date of your internship.

    If you have any questions, or if you have secured an internship abroad and want to apply for SEMP funding, please write to career@graduateinstitute.ch.








    If I get a job while I am a student in Switzerland, do I need to pay taxes?

     

    All students, regardless of employment status (meaning whether you worked or not), must file a tax return according to instructions that you receive by post.

    Each year, around December or January, you should expect to receive a letter in the post about your taxes. This is standard for every resident of Geneva canton. However, the vast majority of students do not earn enough income to need to pay taxes. Therefore, nearly all students are only required to pay the 25 CHF administrative fee.

    Follow the instructions in the paperwork that you receive from the cantonal tax authorities. If you have any questions about your taxes, you can email studentreception@graduateinstitute.ch.








    Ordering Business Cards from the Graduate Institute

     

    PhD and master students, as well as exchange students and students enrolled in Executive Education programmes, can order business cards at the price of CHF 50 per 100 cards.  Please use the following procedure:

    • Complete the order form electronically. Ensure that your information is filled out correctly.

    • Pay the CHF 50 fee to the cashier at our accounting department (P1 - 421) and get the stamp on your order form.

    • Send the completed form and the proof of payment by email to: career@graduateinstitute.ch.

    Only titles pertaining to the Graduate Institute and validated by Career Services will be accepted. Academic enrollment years can be cited on the card. Please keep in mind that your order may take some time to process (several weeks, sometimes months if you order close to the summer) as orders go out once Reception receives 10 business card orders.

     








    Where can i find the password to the job portal?

     

    You can find it at the bottom of our weekly career newsletter. If you are an alumnus/a, you can reach out to us at career@graduateinstitute.ch and we will gladly share the password with you.








    I RECEIVED A LETTER FROM OCAS, WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO DO?

     

    During your studies, you might receive a letter from OCAS (Cantonal Social Insurance Office) asking you to pay their contribution towards de AVS, AI and APG insurances.

    OCAS is an autonomous institution governed by public law which coordinates the activities of the Geneva Compensation Fund and those of the Invalidity Insurance Office. Their mission is to ensure that everyone is insured against the economic consequences of age, disability, illness, unemployment, maternity, orphanhood and widowhood. This results in the collection (contributions) and payment (benefits) of 1st pillar social insurance in order to cover the vital needs of the insured.

    Contributing to the Old Age and Survivor Insurance (AVS), Disability Insurance (AI) and Loss of Income Insurance (APG) is compulsory for anyone having a civil domicile or working in Switzerland.

    Civil domicile is the place where the person lives with the intention to stay permanently. Students who come to Switzerland with the only intention of pursuing studies are not considered to have their civil domicile in Switzerland.

    Students may therefore be exempt from paying fees:

    • Should they prove with a certificate from their employer or a compensation fund that they have already made contributions of at least CHF 503 out of their income or on their Loss of Income Allowances;
    • Should they be staying in Switzerland only for study purposes;
    • Should their spouse be affiliated with the Swiss AVS/AI/APG and have paid at least twice the minimum required contribution (CHF 1’006).

    Other than the above mentioned cases, from the age of 20, Swiss and foreign students domiciled in Switzerland are required to pay an annual fee of CHF 503.00 (minimum contribution) to the AVS/AI/APG. Administrative costs are added to this amount.

    Students who are working start paying fees as of January 1st of the year following their 17th birthday.

    Students working who have paid fees of less than CHF 503 (minimum contribution) per year out of their income must only pay the balance.

    Students concerned must provide OCAS with a copy of their salary certificate so that OCAS can correct the amount of contributions and send them a new invoice.

    Information as to the amount of contributions to be paid is sent directly to students from the Compensation Fund of the Social Insurance Office (OCAS).

    If you receive the letter from OCAS with the request for payment your contribution towards the AVS/AI/APG, and you do not have your civil domicile in Switzerland and have not worked in Switzerland, it will suffice to write back to OCAS stating that you are a student in Switzerland who came only for the purpose of conducting studies at The Graduate Institute, enclose the enrolment attestation you have available on Campus and a copy of your Student B permit issued by OCPM. Students with a legitimation card (carte de légitimation) issued by the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs may be exempted from paying membership fees by sending OCAS a copy of the card.

    In order to contact OCAS, please send an email to etudiants@ocas.ch indicating (as provided on the letter you will receive) your "n° affilié" and "n° AVS(NSS)".

    More information on OCAS and its implications for students can be found (in French) here: https://www.ocas.ch/avs/cotisations/etudiants/


    Office cantonal des assurances sociales
    Rue des Gares 12
    Case postale 2696
    1211 Genève 2
    +41 22 327 27 27

    Please contact studentreception@graduateinstitute.ch if you need further assistance.

     








    Information on Visa and residence permit