Swiss citizenship For Members

EXPLAINED: All you need to know about dual nationals in Switzerland

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EXPLAINED: All you need to know about dual nationals in Switzerland

Switzerland allows its citizens to hold more than one nationality since 1992. Now almost one in five people aged 15 or over has both a Swiss and a foreign passport.


Which regions have the highest number of dual nationals?

According to figures from the Federal Statistical Office, Geneva has the highest proportion — 46 percent — of residents who have another passport in addition to the Swiss one.

The rate exceeds 20 percent in Zurich, Basel, Ticino, Vaud and Neuchâtel.

The cantons with the lowest number of dual nationals (less than 10 percent) are Uri, Obwalden, Nidwalden and Appenzell Innerrhoden.

Nearly a quarter of Italians have a Swiss citizenship, followed by the French (12 percent), and Germans (9 percent).

Additionally, there were 1,029 UK citizens and 711 from North America who obtained a Swiss passport in 2018.

How did these people acquire Swiss nationality?

Among the population with a second passport, 65 percent acquired Swiss nationality by naturalisation, while 35 percent obtained it at birth.

Obtaining Swiss citizenship as a second nationality involves the same process as any regular naturalisation: foreigners must live in the country for at least 10 years, be integrated, obey the laws, respect national values, and be fluent in at least one national language.

People who have Swiss spouses, have lived in Switzerland at least five years, or are third-generation foreigners can usually benefit from a facilitated naturalisation, which is simpler and quicker than the regular process. 

What are the benefits of being a dual citizen?

Foreigners who are not naturalised do not have the same rights as Swiss citizens — for example, they can’t vote.

But when they become citizens, they can have their say in how the country’s politics is shaped.

Also, according to a government study, dual nationality favours economic and cultural integration, which means better access to well paying jobs.

And even though these people may have some responsibilities toward their native countries — for example, military service — the study says that their allegiance and loyalty toward Switzerland are very strong.

Can dual citizens be stripped of their Swiss nationality?

Only in extreme cases. Earlier this year, a Swiss-French woman had her citizenship revoked because she took her two young daughters to live in the Islamic State (ISIS) enclave in Syria without the knowledge of their respective fathers.

According to the State Secretariat for Migration, Swiss citizenship rights could be lost due to “actions regarded as seriously detrimental to the interests or the reputation of Switzerland”, such as an act of treason or terrorism. 

Are there instances of dual nationals giving up their foreign passports voluntarily?

In the past decade, thousands of Americans living in Switzerland have renounced their US citizenships to avoid paying taxes in the United States. 

The US is the only industralised country that taxes its citizens on their worldwide income, and this financial burden has prompted some Americans to give up their US passports.

Another case involves cabinet member Ignazio Cassis who gave up his Italian passport before his election to the Federal Council in 2017. The Ticino politician explained this move by saying he did not want to be accused of having allegiance to two countries.

Although his intention was noble, many criticised Cassis’s decision, saying he “disowned” his roots for political opportunism.

READ MORE: How to apply for Swiss citizenship: An essential guide




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