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Switzerland - Citizenship

If not of Swiss origin, there are two routes to Swiss citizenship.

The first category consists of those married to a Swiss spouse. Simple Naturalisation will be possible if married for greater than 6 years and if 'close ties' to Switzerland can be demonstrated, where not resident in Switzerland. If resident in Switzerland with your Swiss spouse, you will need to have been married for 3 years and to have been resident in Switzerland for 5 years.

For everyone else, the Regular Naturalisation procedure applies. This is more complex and not everyone who settles in Switzerland can, or wishes to, acquire citizenship. Instead, many of Switzerland's foreign nationals will go on to obtain the Permanent Resident (C) Permit which enables non-Swiss residents to settle permanently in Switzerland without any further intervention from Migration authorities. The C Permit also gives a foreign resident the same status as a Swiss national when obtaining employment and in most other areas of life. EU nationals may apply for a C Permit after 5 years of continuous, legal residence in Switzerland. Other nationals may do so after 10 years. In 2009, 1.1 million of Switzerland's 1.8 million foreign residents were holders of the C permit.

People tend to apply for Swiss citizenship out of a genuine desire to become Swiss. The chief practical benefit of becoming a Swiss citizen over being a Permanent Resident is in being able to vote. Some cantons may only allow property to be bought by Swiss nationals. Note that, depending on your age, you may as a Swiss citizen pay greater tax than non-Swiss residents and be required to do military service.

Regular Naturalisation involves a residency criteria of 12 years and in the specific canton in which you wish to settle for anywhere between 2 and 12 years. In the cantons with short-residence requirements, you may additionally have to have been in your community for 2 or 3 years. There will be substantial fees to be paid (check with your local canon authorities for the current amount) and application forms to complete. Expect also to obtain notarised translation of official certificates issued outside of Switzerland.

Over and above this criteria, you will also need to satisfy the authorities on a number of other important points in order to be considered integrated into the Swiss way of life. These include your conduct record (e.g. references from local authorities and a lack of criminal record), ability to speak and write the language, and being able to prove a familiarity with Swiss culture. Where you submit the application to depends on the canton, so first check with your canton officials or with the Federal Office for Migration. Expect to wait up to 18 months to receive Swiss citizenship, if successful.

You may be able to hold dual-citizenship if your country of origin allows this. Swiss law does not, in any case, prevent it.

The Federal Office for Migration should be your first point of contact for Swiss naturalisation queries.

Useful Resources

Federal Office for Migration
Quellenweg 6, 3003 Berne-Wabern
Tel: +41 (0)31 325 11 11
Email: Use contact form

Federal Office for Migration: Regular Naturalisation Information

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