Swiss citizenship For Members

How you can boost your chances of obtaining Swiss citizenship

Helena Bachmann
Helena Bachmann - [email protected]
How you can boost your chances of obtaining Swiss citizenship
You can obtain Swiss citizenship quicker if your parent(s) is a Swiss citizen. Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

The path to a Swiss passport is often long and bumpy — more so for some people than for others. But there are ways to make this process smoother.


Trying to become a citizen in Switzerland is high on the list of the most onerous administrative procedures in the country — if such a list actually exists.

Fulfilling various conditions while trying to avoid pitfalls that could trip you along the way, requires a lot of patience and nerves of steel.

This doesn’t mean that the process is a hassle for every candidate — some people come out of it unscathed — but there is enough anecdotal evidence to suggest that waiting to become Swiss is a stressful experience for many applicants.

To be fair, a long and winding naturalisation procedure is not an exclusively Swiss ‘specialty’, as most countries set a high bar for citizenship. But in some respects, Switzerland nudges this bar even higher.

So how can you improve your chances of being successful in your quest for Swiss citizenship?

One way is through ‘reverse logic’ — understanding what could prevent you from being naturalised and avoiding these failures like a plague.

READ ALSO: The 7 common mistakes to avoid when applying for Swiss citizenship

These are the main criteria you must fulfil to boost your odds of becoming Swiss:

Length of residency

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 as 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.


Permit status

In your haste to get a Swiss passport you may be tempted to apply with the ‘wrong’ permit.

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.

Language proficiency

Being able to communicate in the language of your region will certainly bolster your citizenship chances.

To be eligible for citizenship, candidates must demonstrate A2 level writing ability (elementary) and B1 (intermediate) spoken skills. This is the level set out in the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages to which Switzerland adheres. 

There are, however, some exceptions to the language rule.

If your native language is German, French or Italian, you obviously don’t have to prove your skills. (You will be relieved to know that High German is sufficient, knowledge of Schwyzerdütsch is not obligatory).

Foreigners who have completed primary or secondary school in one of these three languages, even if the school was outside Switzerland, are exempted as well.

Another exemption is granted to people who are “unable to meet the language requirements or can only do so with difficulty. This may be because of serious personal circumstances such as a physical or mental disability, learning difficulties or a serious or chronic illness,” according to the government.

The answer, if you are applying for citizenship, should be 'ja.' Photo: Pixabay

READ ALSO : How well must I speak a Swiss language for citizenship?

Good integration

Even if you fulfill the residency and language requirements, your chances of being naturalised are nil if you are not culturally and socially integrated.

For the authorities, whether on the federal, cantonal, or municipal level, it is important that new citizens have fully adjusted to, and assimilated, “the Swiss way of life.” 

This means not only proficiency in the local language (as mentioned above), but also familiarity with the Swiss way of life and local customs. This naturally extends  to compliance with the law — if you have a criminal record, even of relatively minor infractions, your chances of being naturalised and iffy.


Applicants are also sometimes asked for specific examples of how they participate in the life of their towns or villages, and what local organisations they belong to. Being a member of local choirs or volunteer fire brigades is particularly valued, as it demonstrates the willingness to be part of, and contribute to, their local communities.

And if you want to go even further to prove your integration, and take up yodelling or alphorn playing, all the better.

So if you are actively involved in the life of your community, then that’s a big plus in your favour in terms of naturalisation.

Sometimes, however, the integration criteria set up by municipal or communal naturalisation committees are bizzare to say the least — for instance, having to know what animals live in a local zoo, or the origin of Swiss cheeses.

But although widely publicised (because of their wackiness), such cases are relatively rare.   

This is definitely a sign of good integration. Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP


A major integration condition is financial  — being able to support yourself rather than relying on the government to do so.

So not depending on social assistance is definitely in your favour, because personal responsibility, financial self-sufficiency, and participation in the country’s economy are highly valued in Switzerland.


Being debt-free

In its handbook on naturalisation, 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.

Probably not a good candidate for citizenship. Photo: Pixabay

READ ALSO: How personal debt could stop you from becoming Swiss

In conclusion, to boost your chances of obtaining citizenship you must be able to communicate in a local language, be well integrated, and pay your bills on time.

And if you know the names of bears and monkeys in your local zoo, that’s also a huge point in your favour.


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