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Swiss citizenship For Members

How long do I need to stay in my Swiss canton to qualify for citizenship?

Sandra Sparrowhawk
Sandra Sparrowhawk - [email protected]
How long do I need to stay in my Swiss canton to qualify for citizenship?
A view of Switzerland. Photo: Christel/Pixabay

The road to Swiss citizenship is rocky and whether (and how fast) someone can become Swiss depends on the municipality or canton they reside in.

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Foreigners living in Switzerland who wish to become Swiss citizens by way of ordinary naturalisation must have lived at least 10 years in Switzerland, including three of the five years prior to applying for the passport.

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

For foreigners taking the ordinary naturalisation route, however, there are a number of additional conditions to look out for, such as the residence requirements: depending on your canton of residence, you must have lived between two and five years in your canton or municipality before applying for naturalisation.

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That means that applicants may actually have to wait more than the 10 year period to qualify for Swiss citizenship by naturalisation if they have moved in recent years and not built up the required time in their new municipality.

Also applicants should be aware that if they move away from one canton after having applied for citizenship, their application may become null and void and they may simply have to adhere to the residency rules in their new canton. This again depends on the canton's rules.

READ ALSO: How to apply for Swiss citizenship - an essential guide

Aargau

The canton of Aargau is one of the Swiss cantons with the strictest criteria when it comes to becoming a Swiss citizen.

Those residents in Aargau who hope to qualify for the red passport will have to have to commit to a five-year stay in the canton. Additionally, they must live in the same municipality for three consecutive years prior to submitting their application.

More recently, the cantonal parliament expressed a desire to further tighten the requirements for Swiss citizenship, Blick reported. Specifically, only those applicants who speak German at level B2 – nearly fluently – or higher would stand a chance at getting their hands on the red passport, under the proposals. Currently, applicants must only be conversational.

The motion’s results are expected in the early summer months.

Appenzell Ausserrhoden

Appenzell Ausserrhoden is comparatively lax when it comes to its residence criteria, requiring applicants to have lived in the same municipality for an uninterrupted three years but setting no cantonal minimum period of residence.

A Swiss biometric passport is photographed in Lausanne on September 15, 2018.

A Swiss biometric passport is photographed in Lausanne on September 15, 2018. (Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP)

Appenzell Innerrhoden

Though formerly one and the same canton, Appenzell Innerrhoden has slightly different citizenship requirements in place. Foreign residents living in the canton must remain living there for five years of which at least two years must be immediately – and with no interruption - before applying for naturalisation.

Basel-City

The canton of Basel-City requires its foreign residents to have lived in the canton for at least five years before submitting their application for Swiss citizenship. It further requires applicants to have lived in the respective municipality for two years immediately prior to the time of applying.

While the city of Basel will host a small celebration for you once you’ve been approved for a Swiss passport, it will not let you – at any point in the procedure – move to a different municipality. Your application will become null and void should you move towns before the municipality has made its decision.

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Basel-Land

If you’re looking to apply for Swiss citizenship as a resident of Basel-Land, note that the canton requires you to have lived there for five years.

It further requires you to have lived in the same municipality for five years – well, as a rule of thumb anyway. The canton advises applicants to get in touch with their local municipality in order to obtain more information on the length of residence required on a municipal level as this may differ from town to town.

Bern

In the canton of Bern you  must also have lived in the canton and municipality for at least two consecutive years at the time you submit your application.

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

Freiburg

In the canton of Freiburg, you will have to have spent at least three years – two of which were in the last five years - as a resident before applying for a Swiss passport.

The canton also states that second-generation foreigners do not have to have lived in the canton of Freiburg specifically for two years. Instead, time lived in the cantons of Bern, Vaud, Neuchâtel, Geneva, Jura, and Zurich will also counts towards the residence requirement.

Geneva

If you are a resident in the canton of Geneva, then you will need to have lived there for two years – including the last 12 months preceding your application – prior to sending off your citizenship forms.

Glarus

If you’re applying for Swiss citizenship while resident in the canton of Glarus, you will need to have been a resident in the canton for five years while at least three uninterrupted years will have to have been spent living in the same municipality from which you are applying from.

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Graubünden

Swiss citizenship hopefuls living in the canton of Graubünden will need to have lived in the canton for an overall five years, two of which will need to be immediately before applying for the passport.

The canton notes that if the period of residence does not exceed 12 years, the civil community or the political municipality can demand uninterrupted residence for up to five years before the application is submitted.

Jura

If you live in the canton of Jura you will need to provide proof of having lived in Switzerland for a total of 10 years, including the last two years in the same municipality.

READ ALSO: 'Broken system': The fight to make it easier to get Swiss citizenship

Lucerne

The canton of Lucerne requires foreign citizens to have resided in the municipality they will be applying from for a total of three years in the last five years before submitting their application for Swiss citizenship.

Applicants must also have lived in that same municipality for at least one year immediately prior to naturalisation.

If you have applied for Swiss citizenship in one of Lucerne’s municipalities, note that moving to another municipality or canton is only possible to a limit extent. The municipality or canton you have applied from will still be responsible for your application, even if your application has already been approved.

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Neuchâtel

If you are applying for Swiss citizenship in the canton of Neuchâtel, you will have to have been domiciled in the canton for two years prior to applying.

Nidwalden

If you’re hoping to be granted Swiss citizenship as a Nidwalden applicant, note that you must have been resident in your canton and in your municipality without interruption for the five years immediately prior to submitting the application.

Obwalden

The citizenship residence requirements in the canton of Obwalden dictate a five-year uninterrupted residency in the canton and in the same municipality immediately before submitting the application.

Schaffhausen

Foreign residents of the canton Schaffhausen can apply for Swiss citizenship if they have lived in their municipality for two years prior to applying.

Schwyz

In the canton of Schwyz foreigners will have to prove a five-year uninterrupted residency in their municipality.

Solothurn

The canton of Solothurn’s residence criteria dictates that applicants have lived four years in the canton of Solothurn and two years in their municipality.

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St. Gallen

Those living in the canton of St. Gallen must have lived in the canton and in their municipality for the past five years without interruption when sending in their application forms.

The Swiss flag

Image by Ruth Vivian Aschilier-Foser from Pixabay

Ticino

The canton of Ticino requires foreign residents to have lived in the canton for at least five years before applying. They must also have lived in the municipality they are applying from for at least three years, two of which should be immediately before applying for the red passport.

Thurgau

If you live in the canton of Thurgau and wish to obtain Swiss citizenship, note that you must have lived in the canton for five years and spent the last three years (uninterrupted) before application in the same municipality.

Uri

In order to qualify for Swiss citizenship in the canton of Uri, you will need to have lived in the canton and the same municipality for five years respectively.               

Vaud

Foreign applicants in the canton of Vaud must have lived in the canton for two years, including the year preceding the submission of the application, and reside and be present (except on holidays) in Switzerland and the canton of Vaud for the entire duration of the application procedure.

Valais

You can apply for the Swiss passport in the canton of Valais if you have lived there for five years and have also resided in the municipality where you will submit your application for three years.

Should you have lived in two different municipalities, this will also be counted towards the three-year municipality residence requirement as per the cantonal website.

Zug

Like many other Swiss cantons, Zug has set a five-year cantonal residence requirement coupled with at least three years lived (uninterruptedly) in the municipality you will be applying from.

Zurich

Applicants living in the canton of Zurich will be happy to learn that the canton only asks foreigners to have been resided in their municipality for two years before applying for Swiss citizenship.

Please note that while moving within the city of Zurich is possible at any time, moving to another municipality is only possible once Zurich has completed all clarifications on your application for naturalisation and does not require any further documents or information, according to its website.

If you still decide to move during the early stages of your application, your application will no longer be processed.

But there is an exception.

Those under the ages of 16 and 25 may move without restrictions throughout the canton of Zurich during the naturalisation process. However, everyone over the age of 25 who wishes to move cantons cannot submit an application for Swiss citizenship in the canton of Zurich prior to the imminent move.

Anyone applying for Swiss citizenship in the canton of Zurich may not move to another country during the naturalisation process.

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