Study visits and cooperation projects with the United Kingdom (UK) are still possible after Brexit, however, new entry and residence regulations have been in force since 1 January 2021. This FAQ provides a summary of the current regulations and information on how educational cooperation between the UK and Switzerland is possible. 

What has changed as a result of Brexit?

The agreed transition period expired on 31 December 2020, eleven months after the UK's withdrawal from the EU. Since 1 January 2021, the UK has left the EU single market and the EU customs union, meaning that international agreements with the EU no longer apply to the UK. Since then, Switzerland has regulated its relations with the UK through bilateral agreements.

In the area of exchanges and mobility, the free movement of persons is particularly affected: new entry and residence provisions apply, and visas are required for certain activities.

To enter the country, a passport is required (ID cards are no longer accepted) and confirmation of enrolment from the university or school or confirmation of employment from the employer may also have to be provided.

Exchanges and mobility to and from the UK are still possible.

Does Movetia/Switzerland continue to fund mobilities to and from the UK? And what about cooperation projects between Swiss and UK institutions?

The UK remains an eligible programme country under the Swiss Erasmus+ programme. That means that nothing will change for the time being for ongoing projects and the latest 2022 call for projects for the Swiss Erasmus+ programme. Outgoing and incoming mobility to and from the UK will continue to be supported. For mobilities at tertiary level, it should be noted that no tuition fees (home fees, international fees) may be charged for funded students. The language assistance programme will also continue between Switzerland and the UK, which means that language assistance is possible in the UK.

Ongoing cooperation projects funded by Movetia under the International Pilot Programme IPP can be continued with partners from the UK for the entire duration of the project. The UK is a possible partner country under the new international programme (from 2022 call), as are all countries worldwide.

For subsequent years, the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation and Movetia will explore the possibilities of cooperation with the UK. The required legal framework is in place for this (the Federal Act on International Cooperation and Mobility in Education (BIZMB)).

What are the rules for studying and learning in the UK?

Anyone studying at a British higher education institution or school for less than six months will not need a visa in the future either. However, the purpose of the stay is clearly limited to studying or teaching. It is not permitted to engage in paid or voluntary work during the stay (see below for information on work).

From 1 January 2021 onwards, students who wants to stay in the UK for longer than six months will have to apply for a student visa. In order to obtain a residence permit of this kind, applicants must submit confirmation of acceptance for a study or school place at a school or higher education institution named on this list. They must also prove that they have sufficient financial resources for the stay and a good command of English. The visa application can be completed online and costs GBP 348. Holders of visas must also pay an immigration health surcharge IHS for access to the National Health Service (NHS). The fees can be calculated here. As of 1 January 2022, full-time students in higher education who have obtained a visa and paid an HIS may be entitled to a reimbursement. One condition is that no work is done during the stay. For detailed requirements and the procedure to be followed, see this page. Note: after a reimbursement, students will not be able to get as much free healthcare. Therefore, eligible applicants should carefully consider a request.

For students aged between 4 and 17, it is necessary to apply for a child student visa. In addition to the forms of evidence listed above, the parents’ consent is also required.

Access to the UK labour market: Language assistants

A Temporary Work – Government Authorised Exchange visa is also required for language assistance in the UK. The visa must be supported by the British Council. It can be applied for no earlier than three months before the stay and costs GBP 244. Holders of visas must also pay an immigration health surcharge for access to the National Health Service (NHS). The fees can be calculated here. For visa holders, this fee is GBP 624 per year (only if the stay lasts longer than six months). The maximum duration of the visa is 24 months.

Access to the UK labour market: Work placements, vocational and university internships

A Temporary Work – Government Authorised Exchange visa is required for student and vocational internships in the UK since 2021. The visa can be applied for online and is subject to a fee.

A requirement for the visa is a British sponsor for the internship and a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS). The CoS is a digital reference number providing information on the position and personal data. It is valid for three months from the date of issue. The visa must be applied for during this time. British sponsors are licensed in this capacity. Note: The British Council cannot take on the role of the sponsor for people from Switzerland. Discussions regarding a simplified bilateral solution for obtaining visas are currently underway between Switzerland and the UK. Movetia will provide information on the processes to follow in order to access the labour market as soon as more information is available.

Paid university internships, work for a university (e.g. as a PhD) or self-employment count as work (no reimbursement of the immigration health surcharge possible). Unpaid work placements as well as student volunteering does not count as work (reimbursement possible).

How are short stays for teachers and staff of educational institutions regulated in the UK?

Stays as part of staff mobility schemes are possible without a visa for a maximum of one month. Please consult the following website for detailed information: Check if you need a UK visa.

What regulations apply to incoming mobility (also as part of a cooperation project) from the UK to Switzerland?

The end of the agreement on the free movement of persons between Switzerland and the UK will also have an effect on incoming mobility. UK mobility to Switzerland now falls into the third-country category, and residence and work permits may have to be applied for.

The specific requirements for students from the UK are as follows:

  • For stays shorter than three months: British citizens can enter the country without a visa and no residence permit is required.
  • For stays longer than three months: British citizens can enter the country without a visa. Once they have received confirmation of admission from the school or educational institution they will be attending, students must apply for a residence permit from the relevant cantonal authority before or after entering Switzerland. The following conditions must be met and necessary information provided: Confirmation from the school or educational institution, sufficient financial resources, appropriate accommodation, a personal study plan and CV, and proof of health insurance. 

For trainees, interns and language assistants:

  • A residence and work permit are required irrespective of the duration of the stay.
  • The employer must apply for a work permit from the responsible cantonal authorities. The costs vary by canton. Having arrived in Switzerland, they must register with their local municipality within 14 days (the place of residence should be in the canton in which they are working). An employment contract, passport and confirmation of health insurance are required for this.

All student and vocational internships, voluntary and other forms of unpaid work fall into this category.

No entry and residence permit are required for participation in conferences, continuing education and training courses and similar events that last less than three months.

With its withdrawal from the EU, the UK also left the Erasmus+ programme. What does that mean?

The UK is no longer an associated programme country since the start of the new Erasmus+ programme generation 2021-2027, and – like Switzerland – is considered a third country not associated to the programme. This means that the UK can no longer participate in certain Erasmus+ programmes (e.g. mobility), and in others only under certain conditions and restrictions.

The UK is implementing its own programme to promote stays abroad around the world, including in Switzerland. The Turing Scheme offers opportunities in higher education, further education, vocational training and schooling. The Turing Scheme does not include support for incoming mobility, i.e. for participants who wish to spend time in the UK. The British government has allocated 100 million pounds for the first programme year 2021. The continuation of the programme has now been confirmed for a further three years. This Universities UK webinar held on 25 March 2021 is aimed at higher education institutions and organisations based outside the UK and provides detailed information about the programme.