Swiss citizenship For Members

The 7 common mistakes to avoid when applying for Swiss citizenship

Helena Bachmann
Helena Bachmann - [email protected]
The 7 common mistakes to avoid when applying for Swiss citizenship
Not knowing who the bear's neighbours are in a local zoo may cost you Swiss citizenship. Image by julian torres from Pixabay

Becoming a Swiss citizen is not a quick or easy process, and once you get that far, you certainly don’t want your application to be rejected. The best way to ensure this doesn’t happen is to dot the i’s and cross the t’s.


If you have been reading the news, you know that sometimes naturalisation requests in Switzerland are rejected for the strangest of reasons.

For instance, a family from Kosovo was denied citizenship, because they walked around their village in Basel-Country in jogging outfits and, even worse, didn't greet the passersby. 

Another unsuccessful applicant, an Italian living in Schwyz , was not naturalised because he didn’t know that bears and wolves shared an enclosure at the local zoo. 

And in a most recent example, Swiss authorities denied citizenship to a Frenchman from Geneva because he was caught driving past a 40-km/h construction site at 80 km/h.

READ ALSO: Frenchman barred from Swiss citizenship over speeding offence

These are admittedly  very bizarre examples, but your citizenship request could also be denied for less arbitrary reasons.

For instance:

You applied with the ‘wrong’ type of permit

There are two kinds of residency permits in Switzerland — one is a B and the other C.

While most B permits are sufficient to live and work in Switzerland, it does not make its holder eligible for naturalisation. The only ‘stepping-stone’, as it were, to citizenship, is the C permit.

So if you apply for naturalisation before you get your C permit — regardless of how long you have been living in the country — your request will not even be processed.

READ ALSO: Can I apply for Swiss citizenship with a B permit? 


You have not fulfilled the residency requirements

You must live at least 10 years in Switzerland, including three of the five years prior to the application.

Also, the time you spent in Switzerland between the ages of 8 and 18 counts double, but you can’t seek naturalisation until you have lived in the country for at least six years. 

There could be additional requirements as well: depending on your canton of residence, you must also have lived between two and five years in your commune or canton before applying for naturalisation.

You applied for fast-track process instead for ordinary one

There are two kinds of naturalisation procedures in Switzerland: the simplified / fast track-one, which is reserved for foreign spouses of Swiss citizens, third-generation foreigners, as well as children (biological or adopted) of Swiss parents.

READ ALSO: Five ways you can fast-track your route to Swiss citizenship 

Everyone else must go through the lengthier, ‘ordinary’ procedure (as described above), but if you have mistakenly applied for the easier option without being eligible for it, then you will be turned down.

Your language is not up to scratch

You must be proficient in the official language of your canton of residence.

This means the B1 level for spoken language and A1 for written; that is the minimum requirement on the federal level, though some cantons, like Thurgau, St.Gallen and Schwyz, require you to be even more fluent.

This is the level set out in the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages.
You are not well integrated

Social, economic, and cultural integration is a very important condition for obtaining Swiss citizenship. For the authorities, whether on the federal, cantonal, or municipal level, this means that new citizens have fully adjusted to “the Swiss way of life.”

This requires not only fluency in the national language of a particular region, but also familiarity with the Swiss way of life and local customs.
Good integration also implies that you obey the law, have no criminal record, and don’t threaten Switzerland’s security in any way.
If you don’t fulfill the integraton criteria, your application will be denied — even if you meet all the other requirements.
 READ ALSO: What does being 'successfully integrated' in Switzerland mean?


You receive social assistance

Part of the integration criteria is personal responsibility and self-sufficiency.

This means applicants should be working and earning money rather than relying on the government to support them.

Consequently, neither federal nor cantonal / communal naturalisation commissions will grant citizenship to foreigners who have been receiving public money.

However, if you have completely repaid the amount of social aid you received before the naturalisation application, then your chances of obtaining Swiss citizenship are much greater.

READ ALSO : Can I still get Swiss citizenship after claiming social benefits?

Having debts (or debt collection proceedings against you)

If you have debts, you obviously (in the eyes of Swiss authorities) don’t have what it takes to become a citizen.

In its handbook on naturalisation, the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) notes that “compliance with Swiss law is measured in particular by an exemplary financial reputation.”

SEM goes on to list non-payment of taxes, health insurance premiums, fines, rents, or accumulation of debt as valid reasons for denying citizenship.


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