5 August 2020

How to Acquire Swiss Citizenship

Overview

Swiss citizenship is highly sought after, especially among the many foreigners residing in Switzerland. Consequently, there are stringent requirements for its acquisition and Switzerland is considered one of the countries where it is most difficult to obtain citizenship. This article focuses on ordinary naturalisation and sets out the requirements that have to be fulfilled in order to obtain Swiss citizenship.

General Requirements for Obtaining Swiss Citizenship

In order to be eligible for Swiss citizenship, applicants are required to fulfill the following criteria:

  • They must have legally resided in Switzerland for at least 10 years;
  • They must be in possession of a C residence permit at the time of filing their application for naturalisation;
  • They must have resided for between two and five years in the canton in which they submit the application for naturalisation;
  • They must have successfully integrated into Swiss society;
  • They must be familiar with the Swiss way of life; and
  • They must not constitute a threat to Switzerland's internal and external security.

In the following paragraphs, these requirements are explained in more detail.

1. Legal residence in Switzerland for at least 10 years

Applicants need to have legally resided in Switzerland with a B, C, Ci or F residence permit for a total of at least 10 years. During the 5 years prior to applying for citizenship, applicants must have lived in Switzerland for a total of at least 3 years. The years of residence spent in Switzerland under an F residence permit only count as half. The years of residence spent in Switzerland between the ages of 8 and 18 count double. Notwithstanding this, all applicants must have actually lived in Switzerland for a total of at least 6 years before being eligible for Swiss citizenship.

2. C residence permit at the time of application

Applicants must hold a C residence permit at the time of filing their application for Swiss citizenship.

3. Cantonal residency requirements

Depending on the laws of the particular canton, in which applicants file their application, different minimum periods of residence in the respective canton and/or its municipalities of between 2 and 5 years apply. E.g., if applicants apply for Swiss citizenship in the Canton of Zurich, they must have resided in the same municipality (e.g. in the City of Zurich or the City of Winterthur) for at least 2 consecutive years prior to filing their application. In the Canton of Zug the minimum period of residence is 5 years, during the last of which applicants must have lived in the same municipality without interruption.

4. Successful integration

Applicants must have successfully integrated into Swiss society. In order to demonstrate successful integration, applicants must show their respect for public order and safety as well as for the values set down in the Federal Constitution. Particularly, they must not have been convicted of a crime or a misdemeanor. They also must refrain from systematically ignoring legal provisions or orders issued by the authorities. In addition, applicants must be able to communicate in everyday life in a Swiss national language in both spoken and written forms. They have to actively take part in economic life or acquire an education. Further integration criteria might apply depending on the laws of the cantons in which the applicants file their applications.

5. Familiarity with the Swiss way of life

Applicants must be familiar with the Swiss way of life. They must have basic knowledge of the geographical, historical, political and social conditions in Switzerland. The authorities responsible for naturalisation usually verify this by conducting an exam or a personal interview. Further, applicants have to show that they participate actively in Swiss social and cultural life and maintain contact to Swiss citizens.

6. No risk for Switzerland's security

Applicants must not pose a risk to Switzerland's internal or external security, e.g., by pursuing terrorist activities or conducting espionage.

Procedure

Applicants have to file their application for citizenship with the competent cantonal authorities. The naturalisation procedure can vary depending on the canton in which applicants reside.

For example, in the Canton of Zurich, the application first has to be filed with the cantonal Gemeindeamt which examines if the application is complete, if the formal requirements (see above Para. 1–3) for citizenship are met and whether the applicant generally adheres to Swiss criminal law and other legal provisions. It then forwards the application to the responsible municipal authorities, which examine if the applicant has successfully integrated into Swiss society and whether they are familiar with the Swiss way of life (see above Para. 4 and 5). If affirmative, the municipality grants municipal citizenship and sends the application back to the Gemeindeamt. The Gemeindeamt then grants cantonal citizenship and forwards the application to the Swiss State Secretariat for Migration SEM.

The SEM approves the application after ensuring that the applicant meets all of the requirements stated above. It then informs the applicant's canton of its decision. The competent cantonal authorities have to issue the naturalisation decision within a year of receiving the SEM's approval.

The duration of the naturalisation procedure may vary from canton to canton. In the Canton of Zurich, it usually takes around 2 years in total.

Do you have questions about becoming a Swiss citizen? Our Immigration Team will be happy to advise you.

Categories: Immigration

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