Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Applying for a Swiss visa, part II - the trip to the Embassy

As I mentioned yesterday, Ashley and I took the trek to the Swiss Embassy this morning to put in our application for her visa. It was quite the ordeal! It didn't help that we hit some good old-fashioned DC traffic on the way up there, so we were already a little cranky when we arrived.

We walked in a few minutes after 9am, shortly after the Embassy opened. The lady behind the desk looked none too pleased to see us. We told her why we were there and started to pull out the pile of documents we had prepared. The lady starts listing the documents we needed to present, almost as if she already knew we didn't have the right stuff. And sure enough, we didn't.

Turns out the requirements for the visa Ashley needs were NOT the ones I had originally anticipated. Because Ashley needs to apply for the "Family Reunion" visa (i.e. the non-EU spouse of an EU citizen), the list of documents is different from what I had managed to gather beforehand. Might I add, the official list is nowhere to be found in the Swiss Embassy's website for applicants from the USA. I searched and searched, and never once came across the right information. Very frustrating!

In the end, here's what we actually submitted:
  • Three signed copies of the filled out application form
  • Two certified copies of our marriage certificate
  • Four passport photos, which must meet the strict Swiss requirements
  • Two photocopies of Ashley's passport
  • Two photocopies of my passport
  • Two copies of the IMD certificate of attendance (although it wasn't in the list)

The problem wasn't so much that we didn't have the documents we needed, it was that we didn't have enough copies of everything. But unfortunately we did have to go all the way back home to grab an extra copy of our marriage certificate, because it needed to be the certified one. We weren't too happy abou that.

And then poor Ashley had to drive all the way across DC again to go back to the Embassy with the proper documentation to give it one more try. But before she did that, she had to run to Kinko's to make copies of the other documents. "Why would she need to do that," you wonder? "Don't they have photocopiers at the Embassy?" Yes. Yes they do. They simply ween't willing to make copies for us there. The particular response we encountered was "What if I do that for every person that comes here?" ¬¬

Interesting side anecdote: Ashley noticed the clocks in the Swiss embassy weren't in sync. *DOES NOT COMPUTE*

Anyway, I was surprised that we didn't need to provide our proof of financial means. We also didn't need to pay the visa fee (it seems because I am an EU citizen, Ashley's fee gets waived). We didn't even need to provide my certificate of attendance from IMD, although we chose to include it with our application anyway. I am sure we will need to present some of these documents when I send in my application for the residence permit from the Canton, so hopefully putting them together hasn't been a waste of time.

Although it was a bit of a stressful and bureaucrcatic experience, our documents have been submitted and now Ashley's visa is out of our hands. We are crossing our fingers everything will go well, and now we'll be focusing our attention to the next bureaucratic hurdles: the residence permit from the Canton, and figuring out our insurance.

If you are planning to submit an application for a Swiss visa, here are some tips I learned today:

  • Be prepared to have to go to the consulate more than once. They seem pretty finicky about the documents they require, and how the documents need to be presented. Odds are you will need to make some corrections. It might be worth calling the consulate ahead of time to explain your situation and ask what they need
  • Bring extra copies of EVERYTHING. We were asked for at least two copies of all the documents we provided.
  • Make sure you make your own photocopies (of EVERY document, including the passports), because they will NOT photocopy things for you. At least the lady here in DC didn't.
  • Make sure your pictures will conform to the required standards
  • Bring cash in case you do need to pay a visa fee
  • Be patient and polite, because bureaucracy is irritating but in the end you have no choice but to go through it!


  1. Wow, I consider myself lucky to have been treated with a free photocopying in the NY consulate! My experience is very similar - it took months to figure out if I need a visa or not, as different Swiss websites gave conflicting information.

    Fellow IMD MBA 2014

    1. Ha wow then you had it easy! We probably just had a more difficult person than usual here in DC, but yes for whatever reason it's so hard to find the right information. Good luck with your process hopefully everything will go smoothly.

  2. I'm dreading the visa process myself. My fiance and I are both US citizens and have been repeatably warned about the complications that can arise from the Swiss Visa process. I'm still gathering all the necessary documents to start but am certainly grateful to have your 'lessons learned' to guide us through the process. Thanks again for your account!

    1. Glad you found it helpful! Every IMD student is so unique that I'm sure each of us has a different situation and different requirements, but I figured it was worth sharing my experience. Good luck getting everything processed, I look forward to seeing you next year!