Famed for its cuckoo clocks and yodeling, Switzerland is proof that the size of a country has no relation to the sights and experiences it offers. From the snow-covered Alps to turquoise-hued lakes, Switzerland offers unending vistas of panoramic beauty.
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In this country, there is something for everyone. While over 450 varieties of cheese entice gourmet lovers, the beautiful Swiss castles are sure to capture the attention of adults and children alike.
Switzerland is a landlocked nation in Western Europe that shares its borders with Italy, France, Germany, Austria and Liechtenstein. The country has been a tourist destination ever since the early 1900s and the advent of winter tourism. Zurich and Geneva are the two most prominent cities of this country and the people here speak German, French, Italian and Romansh amongst other languages.
Switzerland sees its highest tourist footfall between July to August and December to April. However, for a budget holiday, the best time to plan a Swiss getaway is between October to March when hotels and ski resorts offer heavy discounts. Direct flights connect India and Switzerland or you could choose to enter Switzerland from any of its neighboring countries by road or rail.
An excellent domestic transportation system makes moving between one part of Switzerland to another easy and affordable. The most visited place in Switzerland and a must-visit site for every Swiss tourist is the Matterhorn in Zermatt. This is also the most photographed mountain across the world.
From here nature lovers can hike across the Swiss National Park or the tantalizing Aletsch Glacier while party seekers head to Zurich to experience Europe’s biggest rave parties. Other places you shouldn’t miss out on include the historic city of Bern, Lugano or the Monte Carlo of Switzerland, The Jungfraujoch, Montreux and it’s Chateau de Chillon, the mighty Rhine Falls and the beautiful Lake Geneva.
Getting to Switzerland: The Schengen Visa
Planning any international holiday begins with applying for a visa. From 2004 onwards, Switzerland has been part of the Schengen area and hence to enter Switzerland you do not need to apply for a Switzerland visa but instead need to apply for a Schengen visa for Switzerland. This visa allows tourists to move freely between Switzerland and 25 other countries.
Apart from this, there are 17 countries that are not yet part of the Schengen area but still allow visitors to enter their country with a Schengen visa. These include:
- Antigua and Barbuda
- Bosnia and Herzegovina
- Sao Tome and Principe
- Serbia and
Depending on the nature of your travel plans, there are three different types of Schengen visas you can apply for. The Uniform Schengen Visa allows tourists to stay in one of the Schengen member countries for up to 90 days at a stretch in a six month period. This could be a single entry or multiple entry visa. The Limited territorial validity visa is valid only for the country that has issued the visa or select Schengen states mentioned in the visa application. This type of Schengen visa is known as the National Visa and is granted to individuals studying or permanently residing in one of the Schengen countries.
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If you are merely transiting through a Schengen country, you may need only a transit visa. Other Schengen visas for Switzerland can be categorised as a short stay or long stay visas. Short stay visas entitle the applicant to stay in Switzerland for up to 90 days while Long Stay visas can be applied for if you will be staying with relatives for more than 90 days, are studying in Switzerland or need a work permit for more than 120 days.
Short stay visas can be further categorised as
- Tourist visas that allow the individual to stay in the country for up to 90 days
- Business visas for a travel period of up to 90 days
- Visitor visas in case of visiting Switzerland to stay with friends or family members for up to 90 days
- Incentive Tours
- Work Permits that allow the individual to stay in Switzerland for up to 120 days in a 12 month period
- Student visas valid for up to 90 days
How to apply for Schengen visa for Switzerland?
The application form for a Switzerland tourist visa can be filled electronically and printed or printed first and filled in with ink. This application needs to be submitted in person or by an authorized travel agent or representative at the Switzerland Visa Application Centre in New Delhi. Applications for a Schengen visa must be submitted between 90 and 15 days in advance of the travelling date. For this, an appointment needs to be scheduled in advance.
Along with the application you will also need to carry 2 recent passport-sized photographs and your passport that should be valid for atleast 3 months beyond the return dates on your itinerary. It should have atleast two blank pages. Other supporting documents you should carry include:
- A copy of your flight reservation
- Your itinerary (download sample personal cover letter )
- A cover letter mentioning the nature of your visit
- Medical insurance
- Proof of accommodation arrangement
- Proof of Financial stability and
- Proof of Identity
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In cases where the traveler is a minor or under the age of 18 years, a copy of the birth certificate and signed parental consent is also required along with a copy of both parent’s passport. Proof of the parents’ income is also needed. This is required in case the individual is traveling alone or as part of a group. Whether the parents are travelling with the child or not, they will need to be present for the appointment to submit the visa application form and for the visa interview.
On the day of your Switzerland visa appointment, you will need to pay Switzerland tourist visa fees and get your Swiss visa application and supporting documents scrutinised. Your fingerprint and a digital photograph will also be taken to collect biometric data for your visa. This data is valid for a period of 5 years. The Switzerland tourist visa cost varies according to the type of visa applied for and the age of the applicant. Adults need to pay Rs 4500 as the visa fee and Rs 1350 as the VFS service charge. For children aged between 6 and 12 years, the visa fee is Rs 2700 and the VFS service fee remains the same. For children under the age of 6 years, there are no visa fees and only the VFS service fee needs to be paid. These costs are subject to change with fluctuations in the exchange rate. These fees are non-refundable and can be paid in cash or by credit card.
In addition to children under the age of 6 years, the visa fee may be waived for students accompanying teachers for an educational visit or study, researchers carrying out scientific research, non-profit organisation representatives under the age of 25 years who are traveling to the country to participate in seminars, conferences etc and holders of service and diplomatic passports.
Once your Switzerland visa application form is accepted, it will be forwarded to the Embassy of Switzerland for assessment and you will be given a receipt number for Swiss visa tracking. This process can take 7 to 10 working days. A Switzerland visa tracking facility is available online and can instantly tell you your Switzerland visa status.
Photograph Requirements for Switzerland tourist visa for Indian citizen
Improper passport photographs are one of the most common reasons for the Visa Application Centre to reject your Swiss Schengen visa application. Thus it is important to ensure that your photographs meet the specifications with regards to the quality of photograph, background and age. These photographs should be no older than 6 months from the date of being submitted, must not be physically disfigured in any way and must be printed on good quality photo paper.
Passport photographs needed to apply for Switzerland visa should be 35mm wide and 45mm tall and in colour. 70-80% of the space in the photograph should be taken up with the applicant’s face such that it is centered to the frame and showcases all the individual’s facial characteristics. This includes the applicant’s hairstyle as well. The photograph should be well focused on the applicant and have a strong contrast. While the colour of the background is not specified by Switzerland tourist visa requirements a plain white, off white or grey background is preferred. Photographs with a busy background may be rejected.
When taking this passport photograph the applicant must be looking straight into the camera with a neutral expression and mouth closed. Ensure that your hair does not cover any of your facial features and if you wear glasses, the frame should not cover your eyes or reflect light. If possible, try to wear a light frame for the photograph. Photographs with dark glasses are not acceptable. Headwear is permitted only in case of religious reasons and even then must be worn such that it does not create a shadow over any part of the face and the face is clearly visible from the forehead to the chin. The photograph must show your natural skin tone and be uniformly lit so as to have no flash or shadows fall across the face. Please note that in the case of children, no other people, toys etc should be present in the background.
Proof of Financial Sufficiency for Switzerland Schengen Visas
When you apply for a Schengen visa, you must be able to show proof of your financial ability to take care of your daily needs in the country being visited as well as any additional costs that may arise during your stay. According to the Swiss Aliens Act of December 2005, an individual wanting to travel to Switzerland must have at least 92.34 euros or 100 Swiss Francs per day at his disposition. In the case of students with a valid Student ID card, this amount is reduced to 27.70 euros or 30 Swiss Francs per day. There are many ways to prove your financial sufficiency. These include:
- Bank statements for the last three months
- Credit Card Statements
- Pay Slips for the last 3 to 6 months
- Traveler’s cheques
- Proof of Prepaid Transport
- Income Tax Return Forms
- Proof of Employment and
- Proof of Sponsorship
Insurance for Switzerland Schengen visa
When you travel abroad you must prepare for every eventuality. Falling sick or having an accident abroad can not only create chaos with your travel plans but can also throw your budget out of place. For this reason since 2010, insurance is one of the core Switzerland visa requirements. Whether you are traveling alone or as part of a group, you must have travel insurance that covers the duration of your stay in Switzerland or other Schengen countries. The minimum coverage required for a Switzerland Schengen visa is EUR 30,000.
It is important to note that your normal health insurance and travel health insurance are not the same. Travel health insurance covers medication, doctor’s consultation fees, hospital fees etc when you are traveling through countries other than your own. This is most important for elderly travellers and people with existing medical conditions.
Apart from travel health insurance, you must also get travel insurance that covers unforeseen events such as sudden changes in itineraries, flight cancellations and lost luggage. Such insurance costs are determined by the region being visited and the number of days to be spent in this area. If you are planning on skiing in Switzerland, you could also consider getting accidental insurance coverage.
Schengen Visa for Switzerland – The Cover Letter
When you submit your Switzerland visa form, you will also need to submit a cover letter. Sometimes, a cover letter may not be mentioned on the required list of documents but it is always beneficial to write one. Think of this as your way of communicating directly with the embassy officer who will be processing your application. Many times, the decision to grant or refuse a visa is dependent on this cover letter and hence it is important to write a compelling, well formatted cover letter. Your cover letter must mention:
- The purpose of our visit
- Proof of how your trip will be funded
- The name and address of your employer if any and your position in the firm
- In case a sponsor is funding your trip, you must explain our relationship with the sponsor and their reasons for funding your trip
- An overview of your itinerary
- An explanation as to why you have chosen to apply for a Schengen visa at that particular embassy.
- Your intention to return to India
In case you cannot submit any of the documents mentioned in the visa form, you must also mention the alternative documents being submitted and give valid reasons for why the documents are not available.
Do you really need to make hotel reservations in advance when applying for Switzerland visa for Indian citizens?
When you apply for a Schengen visa proof of where you will be staying is one of the prerequisites. This may be in the form of:
- Payment details to your tour operator in case of a pre-paid tour
- An invitation from our host and proof of sponsorship
- Hotel bookings and reservations
However, it may not always be possible for you to know where you are staying while on holiday. For example, if you plan on backpacking through Switzerland or driving through the country you may not know where you will be spending each night. In such cases, mentioning your choice to pitch a tent or to sleep in your van is not acceptable. In such cases, you may need a dummy hotel booking.
For such bookings you do not need to pay the entire hotel reservation fees but only need to put down a token amount as a symbolic fee. Once this has been paid and you have shared your itinerary with the booking agency you will receive an email with your hotel reservation details.
Print this out and attach it to your visa form. It is advisable to check that your confirmation number is valid before submitting this as proof of stay by contacting the hotel via telephone or email as your visa processing officer will do the same once he receives your form. Once your visa has been approved you are under no obligation to keep this reservation and can make your own arrangements.
Flight Itineraries and Switzerland Schengen visa Requirements
There are many reasons the embassy asks for your itinerary details while applying for a visa for Switzerland. Primary amongst these is the need of proof that you will not be overstaying your visit in the country and to determine the number of days your visa is required for. Thus, the time of departure from the Schengen country and the time of your arrival in your home country must be mentioned on your flight tickets. For this reason, Swiss embassies will not entertain a booked one way or open flight ticket.
Also, in the case of traveling to multiple Schengen countries, you must submit your application at the country where you will be spending maximum time. If you are spending an equal amount of time in all the countries, the visa application must be processed by the first country you will be visiting. Hence, when the embassy has a copy of your flight itinerary, they can also confirm that your application is being submitted to the right place.
However, flight tickets are usually the most expensive part of your trip and very few people want to take the risk of booking a ticket before their visa has been approved. You could book refundable tickets but these tickets are usually more expensive as compared to non-refundable tickets and you still have a chance of losing some money in the form of booking fees etc.
With this in mind, the Schengen authorities have amended their visa rules to accept round trip reservations or detailed itineraries with arrival and departure dates, flight numbers, booking IDs and airport IATA codes when applying for a visa. The itinerary should also mention the actual price of the tickets. However, once the visa is approved, you may need to show the original air tickets when collecting the visa.
To get a flight itinerary without paying the full amount, you could hold a reservation of booking with your chosen airline company. However, these bookings are typically valid for seven days and may be cancelled if the full amount is not paid by then. In such cases, the initial payment is not refunded. Since the processing time for Switzerland Schengen tourist visa takes 7 days time this can put you in some trouble and risk your visa being rejected.
Hence it is more advisable to work with a travel agent who can reserve your bookings at a minimal price and ensure that it is valid for a longer time duration. This reduces your risk of losing money and helps ensure that you have all the proper documentation needed.
So, Are You Ready to Travel to the Alps?
In 2016, over 7 lakhs Schengen visas were applied for from India and a majority of the visas were granted. Thus, a Schengen visa is not very difficult to get as long as you have all the correct documents in place. So, don’t stress yourself out and start planning your holiday in Switzerland. The best part about visiting Switzerland is that you can go from one end of the country to the other in less than half a day. The country is one of the safest destinations for tourists traveling alone or in groups. So, don’t restrict yourself to visiting only the major cities but go off the tried and tested tourist trail to see the picturesque village life of Switzerland.