Swiss citizenship For Members

Could dual nationals lose their Swiss citizenship if they move abroad?

Helena Bachmann
Helena Bachmann - [email protected]
Could dual nationals lose their Swiss citizenship if they move abroad?
You can hold on to your Swiss passport in most situations. Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP)

Many dual citizens obtained their Swiss passport through naturalisation, while maintaining their original citizenship as well. What happens if they leave Switzerland?


This is a very pertinent question because 19 percent of Switzerland’s permanent residents aged 15 or over have dual nationality. 

When foreigners gain citizenship of their country of residence while still maintaining the nationality of their place of origin, they become known as ‘dual nationals'.

But let’s say they retire and want to move permanently back to their country of origin, or just want to leave Switzerland for any other reason?

What happens to their Swiss passports then?

Once you are a citizen, either from birth or through naturalisation, you are considered a Swiss national, even though you may hold another nationality as well — or more than one, for that matter.

READ ALSO: Can I have three nationalities in Switzerland? 

In principle, a Swiss citizen can settle anywhere in the world, with only few exceptions (see below).

As a matter of fact, about 788,000 Swiss nationals live abroad — whether from birth or through emigration — most of whom (75 percent) are dual nationals.

They retain their citizenship rights nevertheless, such as the right to vote in national referendums and elections, and return to live in Switzerland whenever they wish.

Swiss government can’t strip them of their citizenship without a legally valid reason, and living abroad is not considered a ‘valid’ ground.


There are, however, some exceptions.

The government can revoke passports for three reasons.

One is when a dual citizen's actions are “seriously detrimental to the interests or the reputation of Switzerland”, according to the State Secretariat for Migration. 

An example would be an act of treason or terrorism.

This had actually happened on several occasions between the 1940s and 2019.

First expatriations took place between 1940 and 1947, when 80 Swiss nationals were deprived of their citizenships because they collaborated with the Nazis.

In1952, the possibility of expatriation was incorporated into the new civil rights law.

Then, in 2016, a Swiss woman from Geneva, who was also a French citizen, took her two young daughters to live in the Islamic State (ISIS) enclave in Syria. Authorities canceled her passport while she was away but allowed the children to return.

The next revocation happened in 2019, when a Turkish-Swiss dual national lost his Swiss citizenship after being convicted by the Federal Criminal Court for being an ISIS member.


The second reason for revoking the citizenship is if it was obtained through deceptive means.

For example, in 2022, a Moroccan woman lost her passport when authorities discovered she married a Swiss man with the sole purpose of obtaining Swiss citizenship, but divorced him soon after and went to live abroad with a new husband.

The third way to lose your citizenship is if you were born to Swiss parent(s) abroad, and continue to reside there, but you had not been registered with Swiss authorities for the first 25 years of your life, declaring in writing that you wish to retain Swiss citizenship.

In all these cases, losing Swiss citizenship is only possible if the person has a second nationality.

Otherwise, Switzerland would create stateless people, an act prohibited by international law. 


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