While you’re in Switzerland, are you thinking you might go back to school or try to get a job? Below is what I’ve learned about both possibilities.
Education Employment Volunteer Opportunities
Interested in going back to school? That’s a great idea in Geneva! Unlike in the U.S., schools are almost entirely funded by the government, so tuition is rather low, though non-Americans tend to think it’s expensive here.
- University of Geneva doesn’t have a ton of English programs, but they do have a handful. The cost of most programs is CHF 500 per semester.
- There are other miscellaneous programs, like a Master of Science in Global Health, but you just have to look really hard to find them.
- The Graduate Institute is almost entirely English, and the cost is CHF 10,000 per year. Though it’s a bit more, that money goes to funding scholarships for students with proven financial need.
- The International University in Geneva is also an option, though it is more expensive.
Before you move: if you’re interested in going back to school, be sure to come to Geneva with physical or digital copies of all of your transcripts AND diplomas. You will need to submit both during the application process.
This section is speaking to the spouses of people who have found employment in Switzerland. If you have a Permit B or C, that’s great for you! If, on the other hand, you’re in Switzerland on a carte de legitimation (CDL), do know that it’s going to be very difficult to find work.
The easiest way for CDL holders to find a job is through the United Nations. However, unless you have significant experience and education and/or know someone, even getting an interview is a huge task. But the good thing about it is that you don’t have to worry about the Swiss employment system for foreigners, and you won’t be dependent on your spouse’s CDL.
As far as employment in Swiss businesses and organizations, to say that the Swiss immigration system is super complicated would be an understatement. If you have a CDL, which is issued to employees, spouses, and dependents of foreigners working for international organizations in Switzerland, it technically allows you to be exempt from hiring restrictions and quotas for non-EU/Swiss citizens. Some things to know:
- Swiss employers are unfamiliar with how this works. If they are familiar with it, they likely won’t consider you anyway because of the paperwork hassle (see below) or other factors.
- Most job postings require that you currently have an employment permit, which means either a B or a C. If you have a CDL, you don’t have that, even if it’s a CDL type B or C. There’s a lot of confusion about this, so let me restate it: if you have a CDL of any type, you do not have a Permit B or Permit C; they’re completely separate things.
- If your spouse is here under a temporary (one year or less) contract, it’s going to present some issues. At best, you can assure an employer that you can work for them until the end of your spouse’s contract. And then every two years, when you have to leave the country for the contract break, you’re having to take significant time off from work.
- As a CDL spouse, your entitlement to work only goes as far as your spouse has a contract. As soon as their contract is up, you are no longer allowed to work in Switzerland.
The process requires that you apply for a Permit Ci, which you can learn more about here, here, and even more here, though in French. Once you have a job offer, you turn in your CDL and request a Permit Ci. My understanding is that the process generally takes a few weeks. As part of that process, you must submit the attestation that you have a right to work here, so you might as well request it as soon as you begin a job search. You’ll get the attestation back by mail in just a few days.
If you’re interested in short- to long-term volunteer opportunities, in the Geneva area, check out CAGI’s NGO Job, Internship, and Volunteer listing. You can also sign up to receive a weekly e-mail alert with new postings.
Note: if you have a CDL, you are not entitled to do volunteer work in Switzerland. I’ve even seen the example that if you start taking care of a sick neighbor, you are required to get a Permit Ci. I could be wrong, but I think this really only kicks in when you’re volunteering for more than 10 hours per week.
Here’s the thing I wish I had known a year ago: to be completely honest, it’s going to be much easier to find a job or volunteer opportunity through an organization in your home country. Idealist is a great option for finding work you can do from abroad (posters even check a box to say whether they’d consider hiring someone overseas).