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Swiss citizenship For Members

Zurich, Basel, Geneva or Vaud: Where is it easier to become a Swiss citizen?

Sandra Sparrowhawk
Sandra Sparrowhawk - [email protected]
Zurich, Basel, Geneva or Vaud: Where is it easier to become a Swiss citizen?
You can appeal a failed a Swiss citizenship bid. Photo: Pixabay

Obtaining Swiss citizenship is difficult - and a lot depends on the canton you reside in. We crunch the rules and the waiting times for Zurich, Geneva, Basel and Vaud.

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Many foreigners hoping to become naturalised in Switzerland must have lived in the country for at least 10 years, three of which must be in the five years before filing their application for citizenship: this is what the federal government requires.

However, in addition to the criteria set out by the state, the cantons can, for their part, set their own minimum lengths of stay and in some cases, the length of stay and cost of the application varies considerably. Here’s a look at four cantons popular with foreigners.

Zurich

Requirements: Foreigners living in Zurich who wish to become naturalised must have lived in the city for at least two years. They must also have sufficient knowledge of German and of the political and social conditions in Switzerland, in the canton and their municipality.

Note: Interested parties living in the city of Zurich can head to www.stadt-zurich.ch and find out if they meet the criteria to become Swiss via a self-test on the website.

READ ALSO: Why Swiss passports show ancestry rather than birthplace

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Cost: Becoming a Swiss citizen comes at a price – unless you are under 25 (it's free for this age group). Those over the age of 25 who were born in Switzerland are required to pay 500 francs towards their naturalisation, while those born abroad must pay a whopping 1,200 francs.

Some applicants are required to provide written proof of their German language skills and take the cantonal German test in the naturalisation procedure (KDE), the test will cost 250 francs.

In addition, there are fees for the documents to be obtained and for the work of the canton of Zurich and the federal government.

Duration: Zurich’s application process takes around two years.

A view of the Swiss city of Zurich.

A view of the Swiss city of Zurich. Photo by Patrick Federi on Unsplash

Statistics: In 2021, a total of 9,848 foreigners became Swiss in the canton of Zurich. Of those, 9,774 lived in Switzerland at the time of applying, while 74 lived abroad.

8,498 applicants became naturalised by means of ordinary naturalisation, while 1,340 applied via simplified naturalisation, which means they were either married to a Swiss citizen or born in Switzerland and belong to the third generation of a family of foreign citizens living in Switzerland. Furthermore, 12 Zurich applicants had their citizenship reinstated.

Basel

Requirements: Foreign residents of Basel-City wishing to apply for naturalisation must have lived in the canton for at least two consecutive years. The length of stay in Switzerland for applicants between the ages of eight and 18 is counted twice, meaning they qualify sooner to get citizenship.

Basel city also specifies that applicants must have sufficient knowledge of German and be able to communicate in everyday life (oral B1, written A2 level of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages).

Cost: Applying for Swiss citizenship ranges in cost. Under 18-year-olds pay a total 1,350 francs made up of the federal (50.-), cantonal (600.-) and municipal (700.-) fee.

A view of Basel.

A view of Basel. Photo by Chris Boese on Unsplash

18 to 24-year-olds pay 1,400 francs made up of the federal (100.-), cantonal (600.-) and municipal (700.-) fee.

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Everyone over 25 will have to pay 1,900 francs, consisting of a federal (100.-), cantonal (850.-) and municipal (950.-) fee.

Children and young people born in Switzerland up to the age of 19 are exempt from cantonal and municipal fees, only the federal fee applies.

Note: People who would have to forego naturalisation due to their financial situation have the option of applying to the community for either co- or fully financing the fees.

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

Duration: Basel’s application process takes 1.5 to 2 years.

Statistics: In 2021, a total of 1,303 foreigners in the canton of Basel-City became Swiss. Of those, 1,273 lived in Switzerland at the time of applying, while 30 lived abroad.

1,044 applicants became naturalised by means of ordinary naturalisation, while 251 applied via simplified naturalisation. Moreover, eight Basel-City applicants had their citizenship reinstated.

READ MORE: IN NUMBERS: How many people become Swiss each year – and where do they come from?

Geneva

Requirements: Foreigners living in Geneva who wish to apply for naturalisation must have lived in Geneva for two years, including the last 12 months prior to applying. Applicants must also live in the canton of Geneva throughout the duration of the application process.

Those hoping to become Swiss must further have ties with Geneva and testify they have adapted to the Geneva way of life. Applicants must also speak and write French (oral B1, written A2).

Note: Applicants can access Geneva’s official website to test their knowledge of Switzerland and Geneva.

Cost: At the time of applying for naturalisation, adults under the age of 25 must pay 850 francs, while those over 25 must pay 1,250 francs.

Couples in which one of the members is under 25 pay 1,360 francs and couples where both partners are over 25 pay 2,000 francs.

Minors aged 11 to 17 pay 300 francs.

Fees at federal level: When the federal authorisation is issued, which is obtained against reimbursement via the Post Office, a fee of 50 francs is charged for minors, 100 francs for adults and 150 francs for couples.

Geneva

The city of Geneva. Photo by Angélie Page on Unsplash

Duration: Geneva does not provide an estimated timeframe for the process.

Statistics: In 2021, a total of 2,398 foreigners in the canton of Geneva became Swiss. Of those, 2,347 lived in Switzerland at the time of applying, while 51 lived abroad.

1,783 applicants became naturalised by means of ordinary naturalisation, while 591 applied via simplified naturalisation. Furthermore, 24 Geneva applicants had their citizenship reinstated.

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Vaud

Requirements: Vaud stipulates that all applicants for naturalisation must have lived in the canton for two years, including the year before applying. The length of stay in Switzerland between the ages of 8 and 18 is counted twice, however, the actual stay must have lasted at least 6 years.

Applicants must further speak and write in French (oral B1, written A2) and possess basic knowledge of the geographical, historical, political, and social particularities of Switzerland, the canton of Vaud and their local municipality.

Cost: For an individual naturalisation application, would-be-Swiss will have to pay 100 to 400 francs on a municipal level, a 450 francs cantonal fee for an ordinary naturalisation, or 200 to 400 francs for an individual confederate request, and a 100 francs federal fee.

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Families seeking to naturalise together will need to pay a 200 to 500 francs municipal fee, a 550 francs cantonal fee for an ordinary naturalisation or 300 to 500 francs for a family confederate request, and a 150 francs federal fee.

For those with a Swiss spouse, a simplified naturalisation costs 900 francs.

Duration: Vaud dictates that the total duration of the naturalisation procedure from the filing of the application until the moment of the municipal decision must not exceed 18 months.

Statistics: In 2021, a total of 6,630 foreigners in the canton of Vaud became Swiss. Of those, 6,572 lived in Switzerland at the time of applying, while 58 lived abroad.

5,935 applicants became naturalised by means of ordinary naturalisation, while 680 applied via simplified naturalisation. Furthermore, 15 Vaud applicants had their citizenship reinstated.

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