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Swiss citizenship For Members

Can children under the age of 18 be naturalised in Switzerland?

Helena Bachmann
Helena Bachmann - [email protected]
Can children under the age of 18 be naturalised in Switzerland?
Photo: Pixabay

Rules for getting a Swiss passport are strict for adults, but what does the law say about minors becoming citizens?

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Usually, when entire families apply for citizenship, minor children (that is, those under the age of 18) are naturalised along with their parents.

The mere fact of being born in Switzerland, however, doesn’t automatically impart the citizenship on a newborn.

Only if one or both parents are Swiss (regardless of how they acquired the citizenship), will the child be Swiss as well. But if both are foreigners, the child will ‘inherit’ their citizenship, until and unless the parents become naturalised in Switzerland.

READ ALSO: Will my children get a Swiss passport if born in Switzerland?

Can a child be naturalised independently of the parents?

Minors can only apply for citizenship through a legal representative — which most commonly means his or her parents,

However, if the parents are unwilling or unable to do so, an appointed guardian can step in and assume this task. 

There are, however, two provisions in Swiss law under which children can obtain citizenship without their parents.

One concerns the so-called ‘foundlings’ — that is, an abandoned child "of unknown parentage who is found in Switzerland".

In such rare instances, the child "acquires citizenship of the canton in which he or she was abandoned…the canton decides where the child holds communal citizenship".

In this case, cantonal and communal ‘citizenship’ refers to the uniquely Swiss system under which passports and identity cards don't indicate where a person was born — as passports of other countries do — but rather list the commune their ancestors came from.

This is called Heimatort in German, lieu d’origine in French, and luogo di attinenza in Italian.

As the foundling’s origin can’t be established, cantonal and communal citizenship is assigned upon naturalisation.

READ ALSO: Why Swiss passports show ancestry rather than birthplace

Citizenship acquired in this way lapses if the child’s parents are found, provided the child is still a minor and will not become stateless.

The second scenario under which a minor can get naturalised is a stateless child — someone whose nationality can’t be established.

In such cases, a child of their legal representative can seek Swiss citizenship, provided they can prove at least five years' residence in Switzerland, including one year immediately prior to making the application.

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Other scenarios

Children born in Switzerland of naturalised parents are automatically Swiss at birth.
 
But what happens if parents became Swiss after the child’s birth and have not included the child in the naturalisation procedure?

The child will be eligible for simplified naturalisation if they were under 18 at the time the parents applied for naturalisation.

However, the application must be filed before the child reaches the age of 22; they must also prove living in Switzerland for at least five years, including the three years immediately before applying.

Conditions for naturalisation of a child in less common situations are listed on the website of the State Secretariat of Migration (SEM) 

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