Naturalisation through marriage: How your partner can obtain Swiss citizenship
Thousands of people become Swiss through marriage each year. Here’s what you need to know.
One way to become naturalised in Switzerland is through marriage.
Known as ‘simplified naturalisation’, as we’ve written before, the process of a married partner becoming Swiss is in fact not that simple.
Here’s what you need to know.
Keep in mind that this guide relates to naturalisation where both partners already live in Switzerland, not bringing your partner to Switzerland to obtain residency.
In this case, you will need to look into residency permits which are discussed at length at this link.
What is ‘simplified naturalisation’?
Broadly speaking, Switzerland has two processes for naturalisation.
Ordinary (or regular) naturalisation is the one most people go through, i.e. after having lived here on a work-based residency permit for a sufficient amount of time, they can apply to become a citizen (i.e. become naturalised).
Facilitated (or simplified) naturalisation is a shorter and less complicated process usually open to the foreign spouses (but not registered partners) and children of Swiss citizens, and, since early 2017, third generation foreigners.
This article will focus on spouses/partners, with more information on the process for third generation foreigners available here.
What are the requirements?
As with everything in Switzerland, this changes from canton to canton. There are in effect two levels of regulations for simplified naturalisation: federal regulations and cantonal rules.
As there are 26 different cantons, there will be at least 26 different sets of cantonal rules.
If that’s not confusing enough, there can occasionally be variants at a municipal level.
This also means that the cost can differ from canton to canton.
Given the wide breadth of different rules that may apply, this guide will only look at the rules in place federally.
What are the federal rules?
First things first, you need to yourself be a Swiss citizen to have your spouse naturalised.
For foreign spouses of Swiss nationals, according to official Swiss government information “they must have lived for a total of five years in Switzerland, have spent the year prior to submitting the application in Switzerland and must have been married to and living with the Swiss citizen for three years”.
In addition, the person wanting to become naturalised will need to be ‘successfully integrated’ in Switzerland.
What does ‘successfully integrated’ in Switzerland mean?
This is a relatively complex process which is largely subjective.
In many instances, this requirement is more important than the knowledge of the country’s history.
For the authorities, whether on the federal, cantonal, or municipal level, it is important that new citizens have fully adjusted to, and assimilated, “the Swiss way of life”.
More information on this requirement is available at the following link.
In addition, the person must not pose a threat to Switzerland’s security (external or internal security), which probably stands to reason.
What language standard is required?
As with other forms of naturalisation in Switzerland, you must speak a Swiss language in order to prove you are successfully integrated in Switzerland.
Candidates must demonstrate A2 level writing ability (elementary) and B1 (intermediate) spoken skills. This is the level set out in the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages.
The main exception is if you come from a country which speaks a Swiss language as one of its native languages, like Germany, Italy or France.
Switzerland has four official national languages: German, French, Italian and Romansh.
More information about language levels is available at the following link.
Do I have to be married?
Unfortunately for unmarried partners under federal law, marriage is still considered central to the process - so de facto married couples will not qualify regardless of how long they have been together.
Even registered or civil partners do not qualify. As is noted officially by the Swiss government: “Unlike for married spouses, there is no simplified naturalisation procedure for foreign nationals who are registered partners of a Swiss citizen.”
"Foreign nationals in a registered partnership may only make an application for regular naturalisation; simplified naturalisation is not possible. The applicant must have lived in Switzerland for at least five years in total, including for the 12 months prior to submitting an application. They must also have lived for at least three years in a registered partnership with a Swiss citizen and hold a residence permit (permit C).”
Unfortunately, this means naturalisation of a same-sex partner in Switzerland is currently not possible, as same-sex marriage is not legalised in Switzerland.
This may change in the future - with same-sex marriage set to be put to a nationwide vote - but that’s probably cold comfort for people wanting to have their partner naturalised now.
How many partners or spouses become naturalised each year?
Just over 10,000 people have their partners naturalised in Switzerland each year.
According to official statistics just over a quarter of the 44,141 naturalisations in 2018 were facilitated.