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SWISS CITIZENSHIP

How much does it cost to become a Swiss citizen?

Becoming a Swiss citizen is difficult and at times expensive. But the exact amount differs from canton to canton.

How much does it cost to become a Swiss citizen?

Swiss citizenship is among the most sought after in the world. 

Along with Switzerland being one of the world’s most expensive countries, means that citizenship in the Alpine nation is likely to set you back. 

It’s official! Switzerland is the most expensive country in the world

Here are some of the more common costs you’ll need to pay when applying for Swiss citizenship. 

Also, it is imperative that you have your documents in order when you apply. 

According to Swiss immigration agent Fragomen, application fees are non-refundable in all Swiss cantons

26 cantons – and 26 different price structures? 

As is typical in Switzerland, the amount you are going to pay will differ from canton to canton. 

How to apply for Swiss citizenship: An essential guide

No matter where you live in Switzerland, there are effectively three different levels of citizenship: federal, municipal and cantonal. 

Switzerland’s fierce defence of its local customs can mean significant differences from canton to canton. 

In addition to the varying costs you have to pay, there’s also a wide variety in the questions you’ll face as part of the citizenship process. 

This can lead to absurd consequences, like when an Italian man who lived in Switzerland for 30 years was denied citizenship because he didn’t know enough about the animals in the local zoo.

But that’s a matter for a whole other article. 

READ MORE: Would you pass a Swiss citizenship test?

Regarding the various costs from place to place, there was an attempt to bring these varying administrative costs in line across the country back in 2006.

However, this fell flat and the amount you pay is likely to differ depending on where you live. 

Filing an application with federal authorities

When looked at in isolation, many of the costs associated with becoming a Swiss citizen are relatively reasonable. It’s only when you start to add them up that things get a bit out of hand. 

The cost of filing an application with federal authorities is relatively low (100 Swiss francs for an adult, or 150 francs for a couple).

However, cantonal and communal/municipal authorities also charge non-refundable administrative fees which can seriously mount up.

Filing an application with cantonal authorities

According to a study by Le Matin Dimanche, the amount you’re set to pay to cantonal and municipal authorities can vary from a low of 500 francs to more than 3,000. 

The study reveals that administrative costs can range from 500–1,600 francs in the canton of Jura to 1,800–3,000 francs in Fribourg, depending on which commune you live in.

Costs in other cantons include 550 to 800 francs in canton Vaud, 1,000 francs in Valais.

In Geneva, while fees used to be based on income, they are now charged at a flat rate depending on age and whether you are applying as an individual or a couple. 

According to official sources, naturalisation in Geneva costs CHF300.- for minors from 11 to 17 years old; CHF850.- for adults under 25; CHF1250.- for people over 25; CHF1360.- for couples with one member under 25; CHF2000.- for couples over 25; CHF 300.- per child included in the different procedures.

For the canton of Zurich, the cost is listed on the cantonal homepage as 1,200 francs for foreign-born adults aged over 25. 

For people under 25, the municipal authority has recently waived application fees – although you will still need to pay money at cantonal level

Contacted by Le Matin Dimanche, authorities in Fribourg said there was no political motivation behind the high administrative costs associated with citizenship in that canton. A spokesperson said costs of individual applications were calculated based on actual costs incurred.

NOTE: This article is only a guide to some of the most common costs and procedures associated with becoming a Swiss citizen. It is not intended to serve as legal advice. Have we gotten something wrong? Get in touch at [email protected]

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For members

LIVING IN SWITZERLAND

Reader question: How can I find a good lawyer in Switzerland?

Although you hope to never need one, sometimes you might have to seek legal advice in Switzerland. This is how to find it.

Reader question: How can I find a good lawyer in Switzerland?

When you move to a new country, including Switzerland, you have to look for a whole new network of professionals.

You may or may not have immediate need for the proverbial butcher, baker, and the candlestick maker, but sooner or later you will have to find other professionals, with the most essential one being a doctor.

READ MORE: What you should know about finding a doctor in Switzerland

Chances are you will also need, at one time or another, a legal counsel. That should in principle not be a problem as Switzerland has an abundance of lawyers — 7,317 currently practicing in the country, according to European data.

The question of how to find one that best suits your needs depends on many factors — for instance, what kind of legal advice you are seeking (estate planning, inheritance, divorce, etc), whether you speak the language of your region or need an English-speaking attorney,  and whether you can pay (the often exorbitant) fees, or need free counselling instead.

Speaking of fees, the hourly rates vary widely from one lawyer or legal practice to another, with some charging as little as 100 francs or as much as 1,000.

Much depends on the lawyer’s location — with the ones practicing in large cities like Zurich and Geneva being more expensive than their counterparts in small towns or rural regions  — the area of specialisation and general reputation — the more prominent the attorney is with a roster of famous or well-heeled clients, the higher fees they will typically charge.

An important thing to know is that, depending on the advice you are seeking, you may not need a lawyer at all, but rather a public notary; in Switzerland, these professionals perform many tasks that only attorneys can do in other countries, such as drawing contracts and establishing other legal documents.

Here are some tips on how to find a lawyer or a notary that best fits your needs:

Word of mouth

As with any other services, personal recommendations from people you know and trust are best.

This will spare you the effort of “investigating” the person, such as researching their credentials and feedback from previous clients — the due diligence process that everyone should undertake before hiring any professional.

Professional associations

If you don’t know anyone who can recommend an attorney, do your own research.

Professional organisations such as the Swiss Bar Association (SBA) and the Swiss Federation of Notaries are good resources, as they both allow you to look for professionals in or near your place of residence.

English-speaking attorneys

Many Swiss lawyers and notaries, especially those practicing in large urban centres where many foreign residents live, speak English.

But if you want to make sure yours does, the UK government put together a list of English speaking attorneys in Switzerland, which should help you with your search.

‘Free’ legal advice

In principle, all legal assistance comes at a cost, except for exceptional cases, which are defined by each canton.

SBA has a canton-by-canton list, where the designation “GRATIS JUDICATURE” stands for “free legal advice”.

However, there is also such a thing in Switzerland as “legal protection insurance” (Rechtsschutzversicherungen in German, protection juridique in French, and protezione giuridica in Italian).

It covers attorney and other associated fees if you undertake court action against someone, are sued, or simply need legal advice.

There are two different types of legal protection insurance — one specifically for traffic accidents and the other for all other matters. Sometimes they are combined.

Typically, this insurance covers costs of legal representation associated with contract disputes, employment, loans and debts, healthcare, housing, retail purchases, and travel.

The annual cost of this insurance, which you can purchase from practically every carrier in Switzerland, is minimal, especially if you consider how much you’d have to spend if you hired an attorney yourself.

Another benefit of these policies is that a lawyer will be assigned to you by the insurance company so you won’t have the headache of looking for one on your own.

This article provides more information about this insurance:

EXPLAINED: Why you need ‘legal protection insurance’ in Switzerland

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