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Swiss citizenship For Members

Can I obtain Swiss citizenship through ancestry?

Sandra Sparrowhawk
Sandra Sparrowhawk - [email protected]
Can I obtain Swiss citizenship through ancestry?
You can obtain Swiss citizenship quicker if your parent(s) is a Swiss citizen. Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

Some countries such as Italy and Ireland are keen to welcome citizenship applications from descendants of their nationals, but in Switzerland this route is less common.

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There are several routes to obtaining Swiss nationality. The best-known methods, other than being born in Switzerland to Swiss parents, are by living there long enough to fulfil residency requirements, or by being married to a Swiss citizen.

In Switzerland, foreigners can apply for ordinary naturalisation to their municipality or canton of residence if they have lived in the country for ten years, speak their local language (German, French, Italian, or Romansh) sufficiently, and hold a permanent residence permit (C permit).

However, there are limitations when it comes to obtaining the red passport via the ancestry route.

In fact, it is not unheard of for foreigners to be denied facilitated naturalisation through descent if their family trees don't check out.

So, which family ties are considered close enough to be granted facilitated naturalisation in Switzerland?

You may apply for citizenship via the ancestry route through paternal or maternal descent - through jus sanguinis - regardless of your place of birth.

( Jus sanguinis is a law by which citizenship is determined or acquired by the nationality of one or both parents).

According to the Swiss Citizenship Act (SCA), you are considered Swiss if your Swiss parents are married to each other and either party is a Swiss citizen.

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You may also apply for facilitated naturalisation if you are the child of a female Swiss citizen, even if your mother is not married to your father – but, you will still have to prove your close ties with Switzerland.

If you are the child of a Swiss father, however, the situation is slightly trickier.

In Switzerland, a minor foreign child of a Swiss father who is not married to the child’s mother can acquire citizenship at birth (or later) so long as the father’s paternity is established. In this case, too, you will need to prove your close ties with Switzerland.

If a minor child who acquires Swiss citizenship at birth goes on to have children of their own in their adult life, their children will also be granted Swiss citizenship.

Offspring of a person who has lost his or her Swiss citizenship also lose their right to simplified Swiss citizenship.

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

Applicants are considered to have close ties with Switzerland under Art. 11 of the Ordinance on Swiss Citizenship (SCO) if they stayed in Switzerland at least three times for a minimum of five days each time during the six years preceding the submission of the application.

You will also be able to prove your close ties with Switzerland if you can engage in everyday spoken communication in a national language, or have a basic knowledge of the geographical, historical, political, and social particularities of Switzerland, and maintain relationships with Swiss people.

In order to be granted simplified naturalisation, you must also respect Switzerland’s public security and public order, the values of the Federal Constitution, participate in economic life or complete an education or training programme, encourage your family members to integrate and not compromise Switzerland's internal or external security. 

If you happen to have minor children, then you are welcome to include them in your application for citizenship which must be forwarded to the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM).

Foreigners who meet these conditions should contact the competent Swiss representation in their country of residence which will provide them with the relevant forms and information.

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Note that if you are born abroad to a Swiss parent, you may still apply for simplified naturalisation, but you must do so before the age of 25, or you will lose your right to a Swiss citizenship via the ancestry route.

More precisely, you (or your parents) must notify a Swiss authority either abroad or in Switzerland of your birth prior to your 25th birthday, or alternatively, you can declare you wish to retain your Swiss citizenship to such an authority in writing.

READ MORE: How you can boost your chances of obtaining Swiss citizenship

To prove your right to Swiss nationality, you will need to present several documents which you must return, completed in a Swiss national language, dated and signed:

  • Form "Application for simplified naturalisation Art. 51 para. 1 Swiss Citizenship Act (SCA)"
  • Information sheet on Art. 51 para. 1 SCA
  • Declaration concerning matrimonial union
  • Declaration concerning respect for public security and order
  • Authorisation to obtain information
  • Questionnaire on close connections with Switzerland
  • List of documents required for the application in accordance with Art. 51 para. 1 SCA

You will also need to send off the following documents, which can be issued in your country of residence abroad if required:

  • Criminal record extract;
  • Debt claims register extract;
  • Tax certificate;
  • Confirmation concerning receipt or non-receipt of social welfare benefits;
  • Confirmation concerning record, or absence of record, of criminal offences in the case of minors.

The usual procedure for submitting an application to the competent Swiss representation in your country of residence is as follows:

  1. The applicant submits to the competent representation your application file consisting of duly completed, dated and signed forms and the required annexes;
  2. upon submission of the application, the applicant pays an advance application processing fee
  3. the representation invites the applicant for a personal interview to examine, among other things, whether they have close links with Switzerland and meet the other required conditions;
  4. the representation sends the SEM the application file together with a report;
  5. the SEM issues its decision on the application, subject to appeal before the Federal Administrative Court in Switzerland;
  6. the representation notifies the applicant of the SEM's decision against acknowledgement or notice of receipt.

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