With one month to go to the start of the university term, Indian student Arasan was still unsure if he would be allowed to set foot in Switzerland.
On the day of my visa application appointment, I arrived 15 minutes early at the Swiss Embassy in New Delhi. The staff at the gate were kind to let me in unlike the adjacent U.S. embassy where people waited outside in the scorching sun. It is an easy process. The staff at the counter asks basic questions about your desired programme of study, the university, your post-study plans, source of funding, etc. However, they are not the deciding authority. They merely forward the documents to the canton (state) immigration office.
For more blog posts and information on studying in Switzerland visit our dedicated page Education Swiss Madeexternal link.
The only thing that disappointed me at the Swiss embassy was they didn’t follow the appointment timings properly. They served people holding diplomatic and official passports first, followed by those seeking to visit family in Switzerland. Student visa applicants were given the lowest priority. This is rather unusual given Swiss punctuality standards.
More than two months later and after many inquiries I was a forwarded letter from the Lucerne canton’s immigration office. The letter stated that they would not be able to issue a student visa. They listed four weird reasons:
1. Doubts as to whether I would leave the country after my studies (no job waiting for me in India).
2. Doubts about sufficient English language skills.
3. Indefinite duration of stay (I had to do a few bridge courses in Switzerland).
4. No compelling need to study in Switzerland.
The first reason was acceptable to an extent. I was unable to digest the second reason. I had submitted an IELTS 7.5 certificate while the requirement of the course was just 6.0. And the fourth reason, I don’t think I need to have a compelling reason to study in Switzerland. I guess I am entitled to make a free choice on where I want to study as long as I obey the law of the land.
Attempt part 2
I was not going to give up without a fight though. I mailed a copy of the visa rejection letter to the university. The university’s secretariat was helpful and vouched for my English skills. I drafted an appeal letter addressing all the four concerns and sent it to the Swiss embassy.
I waited patiently despite the great uncertainty looming over my academic future. I had already been accepted by universities in other countries with simpler visa procedures. My parents suggested I proceed with them. My friends who applied to study in other countries were already planning their flight tickets and accommodation while I kept waiting indefinitely for the visa. Finally, after I kept calling continuously for a week, the canton wrote a mail asking me to take an English test at the Swiss embassy.
Despite having the required proof of English language proficiency (IELTS) required by the embassy, I was forced to prove it again because cantons have the final say. Anyway, I wasted a ton of time and money travelling all the way to New Delhi to give an English test. The test was a joke. I was asked basic questions involving adjectives and verb forms.
I was made to wait for the canton’s decision even after I took the test. A month before my university course began, I still did not know my fate. I gave the canton an ultimatum to get back to me soon or face a lawsuit. A few days before the deadline, I called them again. They finally gave the green light to issue a student visa.