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I was accepted to a Masters Program at EPFL 5 days ago. I am currently collecting all the necessary documentation to apply for a visa. However there is a chance it will take longer than I have to get to Switzerland (have to be there by September 30). My only idea right now is to use my passport to get to Switzerland as a tourist. Remain there until I get the visa (the 90 days are enough to guarantee that if I get approved I get the visa on time), cross the border to France, cross the border back again with the student visa.

Has anyone done something like this? Is this even legal? I tried contacting EPFL and the Swiss consulate and they were not helpful.

Additionally, EPFL wants me to sign a web form confirming or denying my attendance to the Masters program by June 30 (this weekend). They gave me essentially a week and a half to make the entire decision. Do I have any real obligation to stick to my word? If I say I want to go but it turns out I win the lottery or get into a different program afterwards I prefer and no longer feel like going to Switzerland will something happen? I.e what happens if I go back on my word (EPFL also was very unhelpful answering this question).

  • In which country do you live right now/ or have a passport? "EPFL also was very unhelpful answering this question" does it mean that they did not reply, or said something along the line "we don't know"? – David Jun 26 at 15:39
  • Passeport is US. They essentially just said "if you are not coming you have to let us know". My question wasn't what I should do, it was what are the consequences of me telling EPFL I am backing up on my word of going for any reason (visa or otherwise) – Makogan Jun 26 at 16:18
  • This looks like it would get better answers in Expatriates. – fkraiem Jun 27 at 15:25
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I know of international students in my research lab (in Canada, not Switzerland) that crossed the US borders and came back immediately to renew student visas. In itself, this is not illegal.

However, I don't think that you would be allowed to study in your program without a student visa, because those are usually required by the university to receive insurance coverage (for instance, if you're working in a lab). You really should ask your program director for advice on this situation. I would expect them to be understanding and guide you.

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    Agree. I'm kind of surprised that they haven't reached out on the visa stuff already. Its not like EPFL hasn't seen this before. – Jon Custer Jun 26 at 15:38
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    They replied to my email, but essentially just said "we don;t answer visa questions, talk to the embassy or consulate" – Makogan Jun 26 at 16:19
  • Make sure you contacted the right people and frame the question in a way they can help you with. I suggested going to the program director or your future supervisor because they have an interest in your arrival not being delayed and they probably know students who had to do this before. – HairyBlob Jun 26 at 16:41
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It is normal for students to get their visas late. It is an annoyance, but universities will have a process for dealing with it. The start of your degree may be delayed.

Never lie to get a visa. If you claim to be a tourist when you are really are a student, you can expect to be banned from entering every country that finds out about the lie, except for countries where you are a citizen.

If you break an agreement to enrol, usually the only consequence will be the loss of any deposit you made. If your enrolment is delayed due to visa problems, most universities will do their best to help you enrol later.

Your best course of action is to apply for the visa and then be patient.

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I must highlight two important facts here:

(i) Switzerland and Swiss professionals take other people's word very seriously. (ii) EPFL is a great institution with a thriving academic & creative environment.

Minding the two points above, I'd advise that you take this offer regardless of internal doubts and external procedures. Concerning your visa procedures, I'd recommend you to follow all steps according with the law. I wouldn't worry too much because the Swiss are usually intelligent and willing to help, so they'll see your situation eventually solve it. Once you deliver all papers in due order, giving you a visa and making you legal is their responsibility and they will acknowledge that (probably contrary to what you're used to in your own country).

I do not know your nationality, but in principle it is not illegal going to Switzerland as a tourist to finish dealing with your papers and EPFL administration. Just double-check carefully whether any rules apply. Whatever proves legal (in Switzerland, regardless of your local laws and values) carries a green light there.

Good luck! Don't miss the chance of enjoying Rolex Study centre and UNIL.

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However there is a chance it will take longer than I have to get to Switzerland (have to be there by September 30).

Passeport is US.

I think you are worried too much. Today is June 28, so you have more than 3 months to get a Swiss visa. It's very unlikely that it will take more than 1 month.

My only idea right now is to use my passport to get to Switzerland as a tourist. Remain there until I get the visa (the 90 days are enough to guarantee that if I get approved I get the visa on time), cross the border to France, cross the border back again with the student visa.

As a US citizen, you don't need a Visa to come to Switzerland as a tourist. But the university will not let you enroll or do anything without a student visa. So your trip will be useless (and Lausanne is expensive)

If I say I want to go but it turns out I win the lottery or get into a different program afterwards I prefer and no longer feel like going to Switzerland will something happen? I.e what happens if I go back on my word (EPFL also was very unhelpful answering this question).

This is unethical, but there will be no direct consequence to you. You will loose your deposit (if there is any), you may be blacklisted, e.g. you might not be able to apply for a PhD at EPFL in the future should you want to. But they cannot do anything further than that.

  • I understand it is unethical, I just like understanding my responsibilities when I sign something. It's more of a compulsion than anything. – Makogan Jun 28 at 16:20

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