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SWISS CITIZENSHIP

Why your Swiss citizenship application might be rejected – and how to avoid it

The strict criteria for obtaining a Swiss passport means that a number of candidates get turned down. Here’s what you should know about increasing your chances of being naturalised.

There are steps to take to ensure that path to Swiss naturalisation is clear. Photo byMatthieu Alexandre/AFP
There are steps to take to ensure that path to Swiss naturalisation is clear. Photo byMatthieu Alexandre/AFP

How quick and easy (or slow and painstaking) the process of obtaining Swiss citizenship is depends on many factors, including whether you are going through a simplified or regular naturalisation.

But in either case, the surest way for your application to be rejected is because you are not eligible for citizenship in the first place, or you don’t provide all the required paperwork.

For the ordinary naturalisation, the tougher of the two types of procedures, eligibility rules are stricter and you typically need to provide more documentation.

These are some grounds for rejecting your application for ordinary naturalisation:

You don’t have a permanent residence C permit and / or have not lived in Switzerland continually for at least 10 years.

“The years you have spent in Switzerland between the ages of 8 and 18 count double, but you must have actually lived in Switzerland for at least six years”, according to to the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM).

This includes time spent in the country with a B or Ci permit, as well as a legitimation card issued by the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs.

READ MORE: I thought I was Swiss? How being mistaken as a national can put you on the road to citizenship

Your application will not be accepted, however, if you have lived in Switzerland only as an asylum seeker (N permit) or on a short stay L permit.

Additionally, cantons require a minimum residence period of between two and five years in the commune and in the canton.

You are not sufficiently integrated

Social integration plays a very important part in the citizenship process. This includes  the ability to communicate in the national language of your region, with candidates having to demonstrate an A2 level writing ability and B1 spoken skills under the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages.

Just as essential is acceptance of the Swiss way of life and local customs, as well as good knowledge of your commune and general geographical area where you live.

Not paying your taxes on time, being the subject of debt collection proceedings, having unpaid debts and a criminal record are also sure signs that your application will be refused.

READ MORE: Reader question: What does being ‘successfully integrated’ in Switzerland mean?

Some of these requirements may be difficult to assess until the candidate is invited for a face-to-face meeting, but if it becomes obvious from your application form that you fall short in any of these categories, then your candidacy will be refused.

You receive social assistance

Depending on public money to support yourself is not well seen in Switzerland if you are a foreigner seeking to be naturalised.

In fact, your application for Swiss citizenship will be turned down if you have been on welfare in the three years prior to applying.

An exception is made if the benefits are paid back in full before your application is received.

READ MORE: How applying for social benefits could see your Swiss work permit cancelled

Simplified naturalisation

As the name suggests, this is a fast(er) track to obtaining citizenship — for instance, if you are married to a Swiss national or were born in Switzerland to foreign parents.

But don’t let the word ‘simplified’ fool you: your application will be denied if you don’t meet certain criteria.

EXPLAINED: Why ‘simplified’ Swiss naturalisation is actually not that simple

Residence requirements

If your spouse is Swiss, you must live in Switzerland for at least five years, spend the year prior to submitting the application in Switzerland, be married to and living with the Swiss citizen for at least three years.

If you don’t fulfil these requirements, your application will not be accepted.

READ MORE: Naturalisation through marriage: How your partner can obtain Swiss citizenship

Third-generation foreign national

You’d think that if you were born and grew up in Switzerland, your naturalisation would be easy and your candidacy would be approved without further ado.

But even if you consider yourself Swiss and have never lived in another country, you are still on shaky ground if you fail to meet certain conditions:

  • At least one of your grandparents was born in Switzerland and can be proven to have acquired a right of residence here.
  • At least one parent has acquired a permanent residence permit, lived for at least 10 years in Switzerland and attended compulsory schooling in this country for at least five years.
  • You were born in Switzerland and hold a permanent residence permit.
  • You have attended compulsory schooling for at least five years in Switzerland.
  • You are successfully integrated.
  • You submit your application before your 25th birthday.
  • If you submit the application after your 25th birthday but otherwise meet all the requirements, you can apply for simplified naturalisation until February 55, 2023 provided you will still be under the age of 40 on that date.

If any of these criteria is not met, your application will be — you guessed it — denied.

READ MORE: Would you pass a Swiss citizenship test?

Here’s how to avoid being a “reject”

Before you get all your required paperwork together and send it to appropriate cantonal authorities, familiarise yourself with all the requirements for your particular case and category.

How to apply for Swiss citizenship: An essential guide

Don’t just send out your applications hoping nobody will notice that you don’t qualify — they will.

If you do meet all the criteria for naturalisation, make sure you have the documents needed to prove your eligibility.

More information (in German, French, and Italian) can be found here.

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For members

SWISS CITIZENSHIP

Switzerland refuses to make it easier to become Swiss

Switzerland's Federal Council rejected a motion by some MPs to make the process of obtaining Swiss citizenship easier for certain foreigners.

Switzerland refuses to make it easier to become Swiss

In view of the low naturalisation rate in Switzerland, MP Katja Christ from the Green Liberal party has filed a motion asking to revise the minimum length of stay required to obtain Swiss citizenship from 10 to seven years.

Christ also pointed out that the naturalisation process itself, especially on the municipal level, should be revamped.

That is because such a procedure sometimes involves discriminatory decisions by the communal assembly, which are based on the candidate’s origin rather than his or her eligibility for citizenship, she said.

The government responded that any denial of naturalisation believed by the candidate to be unjustified can be appealed.

Another MP, Corina Gredig, also asked to lower the minimum length of stay required by the cantons for naturalisation from the current five to three years, arguing that many people move from one canton before the five-year term.

READ MORE: Which Swiss cantons have the strictest citizenship requirements?

However, on Thursday the Federal Council rejected the motions, saying that a revised legislation on foreigners went into effect in 2019, so fairly recently, and the issues brought up in the two recent motions were already addressed at that time.

During the debates leading up to the new legislation, the parliament refused to reduce the minimum length of stay in Switzerland to eight years and in cantons  three years, authorities said.

The law lays out criteria not only for naturalisation, but also for integration in general, as well as for conditions to receive work permits in Switzerland, which include the need to provide certificates from government-accredited institutions to prove language proficiency.

READ MORE: Work permits: Switzerland introduces new rules for language proficiency certificates

The refusal to lighten up naturalisation requirements comes amid ongoing discussions in Switzerland about how to make this process easier for third-generation foreigners who are eligible to become Swiss.

Unlike many other countries, being born in Switzerland doesn’t automatically mean the person is Swiss.

If their parents were born abroad and still hold foreign passports, a person will not obtain Swiss citizenship at birth. 

Even though they were born in Switzerland and have lived their entire lives in Switzerland, they have the same nationality as their parents and will continue to be considered as foreigners – until and unless they become naturalised.

However, this process is more complex than it seems, as it is unreasonably bureaucratic, requiring proof that is often difficult to obtain.

EXPLAINED: Why so few third-generation Swiss are actually ‘Swiss’?

As a result of these strict conditions, very few third-generation foreigners become Swiss: out of about 25,000 people in this category, only 1,847 received their Swiss passports at the end of 2020 — the last year for which official statistics are available.

“There should be political will to implement change, which is not the case”, Rosita Fibbi, migration sociologist at the Swiss Forum for the Study of Migration and Population at the University of Neuchâtel, told The Local in an interview on May 4th.

“No significant steps to make the process truly easier have been introduced to date”; she added.

The latest Federal Council decision  not to act on the recent motions means no relief is in sight on the naturalisation front.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: Why so many foreigners in Switzerland skip naturalisation?
 

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