Swiss citizenship is a way of guaranteeing the right to stay in Switzerland for you and your family. Becoming a Swiss citizen gives you permanent residence in Switzerland and will enable other members of your family to apply for citizenship.
The system in place to become a citizen is strictly defined by the 26 counties (cantons). Swiss citizenship is highly sought-after, as it removes travel restrictions through the granting of a Swiss passport and allows you to hold dual citizenship. The system is designed to be challenging, so if you wish to remain in Switzerland more permanently and do not fit the requirements, it is best to apply for a Swiss residence permit.
Applying for citizenship in Switzerland
The process to apply for citizenship is a lengthy process that requires multiple citizenship tests and naturalisation & integration requirements in order to be approved. There are many routes that can be taken in order to apply.
This route is designed for people who have been born in Switzerland to the third generation of expats living in Switzerland and for those who are connected to a Swiss citizen through marriage. Switzerland is unusual in that being born in Switzerland does not automatically guarantee you citizenship; instead, you must apply for it.
Reinstatement of citizenship
This route is specific to those who have lost their Swiss citizenship at some point in their lives due to citizenship rules in other countries or the loss of citizenship due to forfeiture.
Citizenship through adoption
If you are under the age of 18 at the time you are adopted, you can apply for Swiss citizenship through your adopted parents. This is only applicable if the adoption agency has given full biological guardianship to your parents.
The most common route for Swiss residents to apply for citizenship is via ordinary naturalisation. This route is open to those who have been resident in Switzerland for at least 10 years.
Swiss citizenship through naturalisation
Residents of Switzerland with no blood ties to the country can apply for Swiss citizenship through naturalisation. The success of your application is dependent on whether you fit the criteria for citizenship.
Requirements for naturalisation in Switzerland
The requirements for naturalisation in Switzerland are strictly defined and contain multiple tests, interviews and character references to the authorities.
In order to successfully apply, you need to meet the following requirements:
- You have lived in a Swiss canton for at least 10 years (this amount of time is halved if you were resident while under 18 years of age).
- You have not claimed Swiss welfare for 10 years before applying.
- You do not have a criminal record.
- You have proof that you have the financial means to remain in Switzerland.
- You hold a C-residence permit.
- You have completed any naturalisation test required by your canton.
- You are proficient in the national language of the county you are applying for up to at least a B2 oral level language certification and A2 written level (criteria on certification varies by canton).
- You can prove your integration into the “Swiss way of life”.
Language requirements for Swiss citizenship
Although the level of language proficiency is set at B1 oral and A2 written for citizenship applicants, please note that none of the processes will be conducted in English and if English is requested at an interview or while applying, your citizenship application might be rejected. It is recommended that you take one of the many language courses on offer. For students in Switzerland, a school certificate would be necessary to prove your proficiency.
Integration into the Swiss way of life for citizenship in Switzerland
Part of the Swiss citizenship process is proving that you have effectively integrated into the Swiss lifestyle and are familiar with Swiss history. The criteria vary from canton to canton. Some of the more general requirements can be:
- Proof that you are a member of a sports club or an interest group (Verein).
- Proof of friendship with a Swiss citizen as proven by a letter or interview from your friend.
- Proof that you are a season ticket holder at a Swiss football club or ice hockey club.
- Proof that you have been an active member of your council (Gemeinde) such as taking part in council activities.
- Possession of a club card for one of the major supermarkets in Switzerland.
Applying for Swiss citizenship
Initial applications for Swiss citizenship are processed by the State Secretariat for Migration, where you must submit your application. To begin your application, you will need to provide:
- Passport or ID
- Swiss C-residence permit
- Proof of health insurance
- Proof of financial sustainability such as a statement from your bank or a work contract.
- Proof of language proficiency
The state secretariat will then analyse your application and request further documentation that may include:
- Proof that you do not owe any financial debt.
- Proof that you have integrated into the “Swiss way of life” as listed above.
- A clean criminal record as provided by your Gemeinde or local emergency services.
Next steps after applying for citizenship in Switzerland
Once you have been processed by the secretariat, they will then determine whether you qualify for Swiss citizenship. In this process, they take into account your familiarity with Swiss traditions, Swiss elections and referendums, and confirm that you do not pose a threat to Swiss security either internally or externally.
Once this is completed, your application will be transferred to your cantonal authorities.
Cantonal authorities & Swiss citizenship
The state authorities are responsible for only part of your application. Once this process is complete, your application will be passed over to the canton where you are resident. They will take you through the next stages. The process varies depending on the canton, with some sending your application straight to the council where you are a resident.
Some of the things that you will have to complete or provide are:
- Naturalisation tests
- Character references from your friends who are Swiss citizens
- Language tests
- Personal interviews
Local authorities and citizenship in Switzerland
Finally, your Gemeinde will have the final say on your application. This is where your local community can have a voice in deciding whether you should be approved for Swiss citizenship. In most cantons, the final decision on your case is put to a referendum in your local community. During this time, you are encouraged to canvas support for your application and produce character references for your good conduct in the community. If your application is approved by your local community, then you are granted citizenship.
Can I appeal a decision made while applying for Swiss citizenship?
If you believe your application has been dismissed unfairly, then you are able to appeal the decision made by any level of government. However, this must be proven to be a fair appeal and must be based on the grounds that the decision was made with false information or malice. Appeals vary by canton, so do consult your local authority before making an appeal and perhaps consult a lawyer.
How much does it cost to apply for Swiss citizenship?
The cost of Swiss citizenship is one of the highest in Europe and is based on the length of your application, canton, local consultations and the consequence of any appeal. Although costs vary from canton to canton, it can be assumed that the costs of an application are between 800 and 3.600 Swiss francs for each applicant.
How long does it take to get citizenship in Switzerland?
Once again, the amount of time it takes to complete the application varies depending on where you are a resident. Some more rural counties such as Jura or Glarus may take up to twice as long to process applications than the cities of Zurich and Geneva. On average, an application for Swiss citizenship can take between 18 and 24 months.
Do I have to do national service when I become a Swiss citizen?
Swiss national service is mandatory for all Swiss citizens who are between 18 and 35 years of age. Technically, you can be conscripted up to the age of 50, but this is rare. If you gain citizenship between 18 and 35, it is certain that you will be conscripted into the armed forces or the civil service (Zivildienst).
Possession of dual citizenship for Switzerland
Swiss citizens can hold dual nationality of any other nation. This is provided that your place of residence is declared to the authorities so that they can charge the appropriate amount of Swiss taxes. However, some other nations may not accept dual citizenship, so it is best to ask your other nation for their rules on dual nationality.
What perks do I get if I am a Swiss citizen?
Once you have successfully applied for Swiss citizenship, you will be granted the rights given to all members of the European Union. These can include:
- Right to enter and exit any member of the Schengen area.
- The right to vote in all Swiss local, regional and national elections.
- The right to remain in Switzerland indefinitely.
- The right to work for the Swiss government.
Do my children become Swiss if I am a Swiss citizen?
Children are not guaranteed Swiss citizenship if their parents or legal guardians are newly Swiss. If your child is your dependent when your citizenship is granted, then they must apply for Swiss citizenship via simplified naturalisation. If your child is a newborn, you must still apply for citizenship on their behalf.
How to become a Swiss citizen
Becoming a Swiss citizen requires proficiency in a Swiss language, as well as an awareness of the culture of Switzerland, your canton and your local area. Swiss citizens have significant influence over who can gain citizenship, meaning that applicants must be integrated into their local community before they start the process. If you think you are ready to begin your citizenship application, you need to attend your local council (Gemeinde) or the local branch of the State Secretariat for Migration.