The Independent Work Abroad in Switzerland program provides work authorization for U.S. citizens who are recent college graduates.
Participants find their own host companies and negotiate the terms of employment. Work authorization (Stagiaire visa) can be provided for up to 18 months. Start dates are flexible.
- Assistance during the application process
- Pre-departure information mailing
- Work authorization services
- MER insurance coverage (at an additional cost of $10 per month)
- Support throughout the program in Switzerland and the United States
- Reentry information and tips on marketing international experience to U.S. employers
- U.S. citizen
- 18–35 years of age
- Degree from an accredited college or university
- Work experience in a related field (your host company will determine what is sufficient)
The program fee for the Independent Work Abroad Program in Switzerland is $550, which includes a non-refundable $75 administration fee. Applications are reviewed only after the program fee has been received. Please also note that we only process payments from qualified applicants.
Participants are responsible for all costs incurred in-country, including costs related to securing housing, taxes, and residency permit fees. Participants are also responsible for any visa fees incurred in the United States.
Your internship can be up to 18 months long. You will negotiate the duration of your program with your host company.
It is your own responsibility to negotiate your compensation with your host company. Please note that there is a minimum wage requirement for foreign interns in Switzerland, which depends on the field and qualification of the intern. The minimum wage requirement is 6.2% higher for employment in Geneva. You should earn a salary similar to what a Swiss citizen in the same field and with the same amount of experience would earn. Participants are responsible for all taxes.
Your Swiss employer may enroll you in the Swiss health insurance system during your program, or you may purchase private insurance coverage through a Swiss provider. Participants who purchase their own insurance are responsible for ensuring that their coverage meets the criteria established by their canton’s Gesundheitsdirektion.
To ensure that all participants are covered for medical evacuation and repatriation, Cultural Vistas also requires that all participants purchase MER insurance coverage (currently $10 per month).
It is your responsibility to locate housing in Switzerland. Most companies help participants find housing, when possible.
Participants are responsible for all travel costs, including arrangements from the United States, as well as expenses within Switzerland. While we understand that you want to see as much as possible during your time in Europe, please note that this is not a work/ travel program. Participants are expected to spend the entire duration of their program completing their internship. Weekend trips to learn more about Switzerland and Swiss culture are of course encouraged.
After processing your application, we will forward your materials to the Bundesamt für Migration (Federal Office of Migration or FOM) in Switzerland for final approval. The approval process typically takes about 8 to 10 weeks. This process cannot be expedited. You will then be able to pick up your entry visa for Switzerland at the Swiss consulate of your choice. Once you have arrived in Switzerland, your Stagiaire work and residence authorization will be sent to you at your Swiss address. Please note that you must remain outside of Switzerland while waiting for your visa to be approved.
How to Apply
Applications are accepted on a rolling basis. Please apply at least 12 weeks prior to your desired start date.
We encourage you to submit all of the application materials in the first section online; however, should you encounter any difficulties in uploading your application materials, please feel free to send them in hard copy along with the documents that require original signatures to the address indicated below.
Please submit the following application materials online:
- Completed online application form
- Please click the link above to request a password to the online application. Requesting a password does not mean that you have completed the online application process. After you have requested an application you will receive a username and password to access, complete, and submit an application. You may preview and edit your application at any time until you have clicked on the “Submit” button. To preview your application, click “Print Version.” When editing your application, please be sure to click “Save” before exiting to ensure that all data is saved. We encourage you to print a copy of your completed application before submitting it. Please note that once an application has been submitted it is considered final.
- Passport-size photo (wearing business attire)
- Copy of official college/university diploma
- Copy of college transcript(s)
- If your diploma indicates your major, you do not need to submit your transcripts; however, if you have an unusual major, we recommend submitting your transcripts even if your major appears on your diploma.
- Current resume in English
- Letters of recommendation from former employers from within the last two years, preferably in the same field as your planned traineeship
- Copy of U.S. passport valid for your entire anticipated stay in Switzerland
- Completed Visa Pick-up Location Form
- Completed Statement of Insurance Coverage Form
- Completed Terms of Participation and Participant Code of Conduct Form
Additional necessary documents:
- Application for a temporary work permit for young professionals (Gesuch um Aufenthalts- und Arbeitsbewilligung für Junge Berufsleute) with original signature in order for your application to be accepted. The Swiss authorities will not accept electronic signatures, however this form may be submitted electronically.
- Employment Agreement (Arbeitsvertrag für Stagiaires) or a standard internship contract if it contains all information requested in the Employment Agreement form. This document must bear both sets of original signatures in order for your application to be accepted. The Swiss authorities will not accept electronic signatures, however this form may be submitted electronically.
- The Cultural Vistas program fee of US $550 ($75 non-refundable administration fee + $475 program fee) is due upon application to the program. An invoice will be sent for you to pay by credit or debit card once your application is submitted. We will not process applications until the fee has been received.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is involved in the application process?
Complete an online application by clicking the “Apply Now” button. After you submit background information about yourself, we will email you a password granting access to our online application system. After we have received a completed application and all supporting documents, Cultural Vistas will contact applicants directly.
Do I need to speak German/French/Italian?
We expect participants to have at least a basic knowledge of the language prevalent in the host company. Should your host company determine that your work environment is mostly English-speaking, this requirement can be waived; however, please note it is in your best interest to know your host country’s language.
How much is the program fee and what does it cover? What additional costs can I expect?
The program fee of $450 ($75 non-refundable administration fee + $375 program fee) includes work authorization and assistance with other bureaucratic matters, a pre-departure mailing, support throughout the program in Switzerland and in the United States, and a reentry toolkit upon completion of the program. The participant is responsible for airfare, housing, meals, and transportation in the host country.
Does Cultural Vistas offer scholarships?
Cultural Vistas does not offer scholarships for participants in this program as there is a minimum wage requirement and participants in the program will have sufficient funds to cover living expenses in Switzerland.
Will I receive a refund if I don’t find an internship?
Participants must secure an internship before applying to the program. Should circumstances require that a participant withdraw from the program, or if the Swiss authorities to not approve an applicant’s visa application, the $375 program fee will be refunded on a case-by-case basis. The $75 administration fee is non-refundable. Please note that no refunds will be issued once a participant’s visa has been approved.
Does Cultural Vistas find an internship for me in this program?
Participants of the Independent Work Abroad Program in Switzerland find their own internships and Cultural Vistas provides them with the necessary paperwork and general support. If you are interested in our placement programs in Germany, please visit the Summer Internship Program in Germany and Internship Program in Germany pages.
How long does it take to process my work permit and where can I pick it up?
On average, the documentation is issued within eight to ten weeks, after which you can obtain your entry visa at the visa pick-up location (a Swiss Consulate of your choice) that you indicated in your application. Your long-term visa will be mailed to you at your Swiss address once you arrive in Switzerland.
Do I need a visa?
Yes. You cannot enter Switzerland without the entry visa associated with the Stagiaire exchange. Applicants for the Stagiaire visa have to await the BFM’s (Bundesamt für Migration – Swiss Federal Office for Migration) decision outside Switzerland.
Do I need insurance coverage?
All participants must be insured while abroad. Most participants in Switzerland are insured through their host companies. If the host company will not provide insurance, participants must purchase their own insurance coverage through a Swiss insurance provider. Please note: Participants who will be using non-Swiss insurance while in Switzerland are responsible for ensuring that their coverage complies with Swiss local and federal regulations.
What is the duration of the program? Can I extend my internship?
The duration of the Independent Work Abroad Program in Switzerland depends on the conditions you negotiate with your employer. It is possible to extend the internship in accordance with your host company for up to 18 months.
Where will I live during the program?
It is your responsibility to secure your own living arrangement. Finding housing in a foreign country is certainly a challenge; however, it is an important part of the internship experience. Most companies will help if you tell them that you need assistance.
Will I have an opportunity to travel while interning abroad?
Cultural Vistas encourages you to explore as much as possible during your time abroad; however, please keep in mind that you are an employee at a company. Therefore, you are expected to maintain a consistent presence at your internship, as discussed with your employer.
Will I need to pay taxes in Switzerland or the United States?
Tax deductions from your gross income may amount to approximately 30%, depending on the amount of compensation and local tax regulations. Unfortunately, due to legal issues, Cultural Vistas cannot offer tax assistance to its participants.