A valid visa is required to register for classes. A tourist visa does not allow the university to register a student for classes.
There are two layers of government that process your student visa and residence permit application. You will submit your application forms and supporting documents to the Swiss consulate nearest you. The consulate is at the federal level and will forward your application to the “office of the population” in the Canton of Geneva (a canton is like a state or province). The cantonal level of government assesses your application and informs and notifies the consulate, and the consulate notifies you.
It can take between two and six months from the time you submit your application until the consulate notifies you of the Canton of Geneva’s decision. When the consulate notifies you, they will also ask you to bring or send in your passport to the consulate (bringing or sending depends on how far you live from the consulate). The consulate will then place a visa in your passport which is valid for specified period.
Within the visa period, you must arrive in Switzerland and register at the Geneva “office of the population.” A few weeks later you will receive your Student B-Permit which shows that you have permission to reside in the Canton of Geneva as a student.
The student visa-permit process is lengthy and requires you to pay close attention to all of the details. Follow instructions carefully and provide all requested documents. Visa applications will sit untouched if incomplete and the authorities may not contact you. It is important to keep personal copies of all forms and documents submitted to the Swiss authorities.