Work permit for foreign students

EU citizens are allowed to work in Switzerland as soon as they have received their “permis B”. The job search can thus begin as soon as they arrive in Geneva.

Non-EU citizens holding a “permis B” are not allowed to work during the first 6 months of stay in Switzerland. Many employers (both paid and unpaid jobs) are reluctant to even interview foreign students who have yet to be in Switzerland for 6 months.

Tip: Just because you are not legally allowed to work, it does not mean that you should forego the job search. Many students have successfully made contacts and secured employment by the 6 month mark by networking successfully, attending career events and sending emails to potential employers.

Finding a job

Many students of the Institute manage to combine a part-time job along with their study program. Geneva is a competitive place to find work, where most jobs are attributed through contacts and networking. However, Career Services at the Institute sends between 3 and 10 offers for part-time jobs or internships by e-mail every week, which is a good way to start job-hunting:

Note that the Career Service also frequently organizes information sessions and meetings with professionals active in both international relations and development, as well as the private sector, which can be an appropriate moment to make useful contacts or enquire for job/internship opportunities. Students and recent graduates also receive offers of full-time first jobs.

A similar service is also offered by UNIGE, by means of “Uni-emploi”. For more information, check their website: (French only).

Tip 1: IHEID career services also offer career coaching. Incoming students are encouraged to make an appointment to review CVs, write cover letters, prepare for interviews or simply establish more specific career goals and plan. To receive career counselling, make an appointment by emailing the career services.

Tip 2: CVs in Switzerland require more information than CVs in other countries, specifically North America. To be properly assessed, your Swiss CV requires a small photo of yourself, your date of birth, nationality(ies), Swiss work status, as well as your address and contact information. CV length for Masters Students is recommended to be no more than 2 pages, whereas PHD students may go up to 4 pages. Career Services can help you prepare the perfect CV and an appointment is thus recommended specifically for foreign students.


An important number of international organisations, NGOs, governments and private companies recruit interns through the Institute‘s Career Services. Finding an (unpaid) internship for the summer or as a complement to your studies during the year should not be difficult, while paid internships are much harder to come by.

If you have a really precise idea of what type of internship you are looking for, it might be advisable to start looking three or four months in advance. However, if you have only a broad idea of the type of job description you would be ready to sign up for, and are open to many kinds of internships, not having found a summer internship by April or even May should not be a worry.

Tips: IHEID’s professors are extremely well-connected and it is perfectly acceptable to approach them for advice or questions relating to possible employment opportunities. Certain students have even in the past successfully secured internships by approaching professors they got along particularly well with. Networking in general is a good strategy; chat with career professionals, alumni, and even your fellow students. You never know when an opportunity will arise!