Swiss citizenship For Members
Is your French good enough for Swiss residency and citizenship?
Before you can get a work permit in Switzerland or get naturalised, one of the primary requirements is knowledge of the local language of the region where you reside. If you live in the Suisse Romande, is your French assez bon?
No matter which of Switzerland's linguistic regions you live in — German, French or Italian — you need to have a sufficient level of proficiency in the local language in order to qualify for a work / residency permit and, later on, apply for citizenship.
While Romansh is also a Swiss language, it is only spoken by a handful of people in the canton of Graubünden, where Swiss-German is the predominant language.
Do you live in a German-speaking part of Switzerland? Then test out whether your German is good enough for Swiss citizenship here.
A Swiss Federal Supreme Court case from 2022 held that a person is required to demonstrate language proficiency in the administrative language of the municipality in which they apply, even if they are a native speaker of a different Swiss language.
Being able to be conversant is important not only in order to communicate with the French speakers in your area, but also because language proficiency means you are successfully integrated which, according to the State Secretariat for Migration, means you “should participate in the economic, social and cultural life of society".
In some cases, integration counts more in favour of naturalisation than in-depth knowledge of history or politics.
The required proficiency level depends on the kind of work / residency permit you are applying for, and is determined by the European Framework of Reference for Languages (CERF).
So how good should your French be if you live (or are going to settle) in Geneva, Vaud, Valais, Neuchâtel, Jura, Fribourg, or the French-speaking part of Bern?
A1 oral level (required for temporary admission / permit F and residence permit B)
This very basic level means you know the foundation of the French language, including conjugations (j’ai, tu as, nous avons, etc), auxiliaries (être, avoir), numbers, etc.
You should also be able to form simple sentences and have a simple conversation.
A2 (required for permanent residence / permit C)
This more advanced spoken level (along with A1 written level) means you should master the finer points of French grammar, such as the passé composé — for instance, j’ai mangé, nous avons acheté, etc.
This level means you can understand and use common expressions, as well as ask and answer simple questions about everyday life.
B1 (permanent residence granted after five years / permit C)
At this spoken level, along with A2 spoken level, you should be able to have a fine-tuned grammar, including tenses like imparfait (j’allais, elle dormait, etc) and conditionnel (je regarderais, il mangerait).
If you master this level, you can communicate without major problems, and converse with all kinds of people — be it privately or professionally — with relative ease.
The detailed requirements are outlined in the following table.
Note that citizens of Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Liechtenstein, Netherlands, Portugal and Spain are exempt from these language requirements.
What about English?
While it is widely spoken in Switzerland, is not an official language, and though it is accepted (and sometimes even required in certain professional situations), it will not ease your way toward work / residency permits, and even less so toward citizenship.
More information is available at the following link.