I am in a bit of a situation. For grad school I have been applying to different schools outside the U.S. and I have been accepted to a school in Switzerland.

I know the application process for visas takes some time and so I would like to get started sooner than later. But I am still waiting to hear from a couple other schools (in different countries). Can I apply for a visa in Switzerland and then change my mind if I am accepted into another schools that was my first choice? If anybody has any input about this I would appreciate it since I am new to all this.

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    Welcome to travel.SE. While off topic for this forum noone requires you to use the visa you were issued. – Karlson Feb 6 '14 at 0:08
  • Meaning I could apply to this school just as a precautionary measure and then if I get accepted to another school, I could just go there after getting my student visa for that country? – Michael Feb 6 '14 at 2:02
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    It seems to me that though he will be an expat that this is still just a travel / visa question. Unless I'm missing something I don't think this one should be closed. We can address the usual case of not using a visa you've acquired and leave out anything specific to student specific stuff that might be beyond our scope ... – hippietrail Feb 6 '14 at 6:28
  • @hippietrail The way the question reads it is about implications of refusing to go to a graduate school after acceptance an full scale immigration workup and certifiations rather then a purely visa question. – Karlson Feb 6 '14 at 14:13
  • @Karlson: I agree that if it's about not going to the school or after being accepted or not immigrating to study if the school initiates a process of immigration that's definitely off-topic. But yeah I'm not sure exactly what's being asked. – hippietrail Feb 6 '14 at 14:29

Generally speaking, there is no reason it should be a problem. Countries set their rules independently of each other and don't care much about each other visas (with a few exceptions that are not really relevant in this case). Until you have the visa in your passport, nobody else beside the Swiss authorities would even know about it.

There is in any case very little Switzerland could do to force you to come or prevent you to go elsewhere, should they even want to. The most they could conceivably do is make it harder to get another Swiss visa in the future but I would consider this extremely unlikely and I have never heard of any problem like that.

However, there are some drawbacks you need to consider:

  1. You will have to pay some visa fees, possibly need to have documents notarized or translated and none of this will be reimbursed if you change your mind after applying for the visa.
  2. You might need to surrender your passport for some time/send it to the consulate to receive the visa. If you only have one passport, that's a few days (for some countries possibly weeks) during which you can't easily travel or apply for another visa (say if another acceptance letter comes just at this time).
  3. If you want to go to Switzerland later on, say on a visit, you might be asked why you didn't use your earlier visa but it shouldn't be a problem to explain what happened. You could probably also contact the consulate and have the visa invalidated as soon as you know you won't be using it (but not before you got another one, otherwise you mind end up with no visa and a lot of regrets!).
  4. If you do get the visa (as opposed to merely start the application process) and change your mind, you might get questions from the next consulate about this visa and whether you really intend to study in their country (or more generally to stick to your stated plan). Again, I assume that simply explaining your situation should be enough in most cases but if you come from a “high risk” country that makes obtaining a visa difficult, you want to avoid taking any chances and the money is no objection, you can at least apply and postpone the commitment until the moment you have to hand in your passport.
  5. How likely you are to get in trouble depends on the specifics of the situation but it's almost certainly illegal to use a visa for another purpose than that for which it was originally issued.

Aside from the cost and hassle involved in getting a visa, there is no problem in getting a visa and not using it.

Business travellers change plans all the time at short notice, so unused visas are common. I've got a whole bunch of unused visas in my passports and nobody has ever asked the slightest question about them, even when I applied for a second visa for a rather difficult country after not using my first visa.

And if you were to get asked (which, as said, is unlikely), you'll have a perfect defence: the truth. "I was accepted by a school in Switzerland, but decided to go to a school in X instead."

At the end of the day, the job of Immigration is to stop people from staying/working illegally. Thus, if you never even visit the country, that's perfect in their book.


My past experiences with student visa is that you must have a letter of acceptance from the school to process the visa. Many students from China are apply for student visa and then end up violating their visa by working. It only takes 24-hrs to get a student visa at the American embassy if they know your coming. Have you tried contacting them by email? Issuing passports and visa is now much faster even in developing countries. You can also pay extra to get a priority placed on it.

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    The question is about getting a visa for Switzerland, not the US. – Relaxed Feb 9 '14 at 20:33

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