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Swiss citizenship For Members

Which parts of Switzerland naturalise the most foreign residents?

Helena Bachmann in Geneva
Helena Bachmann in Geneva - [email protected] • 8 Nov, 2022 Updated Tue 8 Nov 2022 14:13 CEST
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Some cantons are more inclusive of foreigners than others. Photo by Etienne Girardet on Unsplash

Getting a Swiss citizenship is not a simple process anywhere in the country, but some cantons and municipalities are more willing to naturalise foreigners than others.

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For many foreigners, obtaining Swiss citizenship can be an uphill struggle; even those who are, according to all criteria, eligible to be naturalised, can encounter various difficulties along the way.

While on the federal level, naturalisation requirements — such as the length of residence, language skills, and integration — are clearly set for both ordinary and simplified procedures — various cantons and municipalities sometimes put up additional roadblocks that trip up even the most qualified candidates.

For instance, municipal and communal naturalisation committees have been known to deny citizenships to people who couldn’t answer questions about the origins of raclette cheese or about living arrangements of bears and wolves at a local zoo, among other rather arbitrary queries.

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

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Which cantons and cities have the most inclusive citizenship laws?

Researchers from University of Neuchâtel’s National Center of Competence in Research (NCCR) looked at the average naturalisation rate in Switzerland in 2020 — the latest statistics available, which still hold true today.

They found that rate to be 1.6 percent for both ordinary and facilitated naturalisations, which means that for every 100 foreigners residing permanently in Switzerland, between one and two became Swiss during that year.

They also examined the “relative inclusiveness" of naturalisation regulations in Switzerland’s 26 cantons to see which are most open to granting citizenships.

They found that Zurich, Appenzell Ausserrhoden, and Jura have the most inclusive legislation in terms of criteria such as length of residence, language, integration, good moral character, and economic resources, while Aargau, Schwyz and Graubünden have the most restrictive.

In Aargau, for example, over 64 percent of voters approved in 2020 the measure recommended by their cantonal parliament for stricter naturalisation procedures, especially in terms of economic and cultural integration.

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Where do you have highest chances of being naturalised?

Surprisingly enough, it is not necessarily in places you expect to be most foreigner-friendly — that is, cantons where most international residents live and work.

This data, which also comes from the NCCR, shows the sometimes-significant variations in naturalisation practices, with the rates both below and above the national average of 1.6 percent.

The lowest rate in 2020 (0.6 percent) was found in Glarus, and the highest — 2.3 percent — in Neuchâtel.

Other cantons with the above-average rate of naturalisation were Zurich, Vaud, and Schaffhausen; the lowest rate, besides Glarus, was found in Appenzell-Innerrhoden, Fribourg, Basel-Country, and Obwalden.

In terms of municipalities, however, Zurich, Geneva, Basel and Lausanne have recorded the highest numbers of ordinary and facilitated naturalisations over the past two decades.

This particular data is not suprpsrising, because these are also the cities with the highest proportion of foreign residents in Switzerland.

READ MORE: Where do Switzerland’s foreigners all live?

If you are thinking of getting naturalised in your canton, you can find out more information about your chances by contacting your local authority.

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Helena Bachmann in Geneva 2022/11/08 14:13

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