Swiss citizenship For Members

EXPLAINED: The different routes to obtaining a Swiss passport

Helena Bachmann
Helena Bachmann - [email protected]
EXPLAINED: The different routes to obtaining a Swiss passport
Marrying a Swiss is one of the surest ways to obtain citizenship. Image by Michael Bolli from Pixabay

Becoming a Swiss citizen is neither a quick nor a simple procedure, but there are several ways to do so.


If you have been living in Switzerland for a while (and even if you live abroad but want to get naturalised), you probably already know what is involved in this process.
But in case you are not sure which path toward citizenship is the best for you, this overview will hopefully be helpful in getting the ball (slowly) rolling.

If you are a foreign national living in Switzerland and have a C permit, you have one of two ways of applying for naturalisation, depending on your circumstances.

The first one is 'ordinary' naturalisation

According to State Secretariat for Migration (SEM), foreign nationals who have lived in Switzerland for 10 years and who hold a permanent residence C permit "can submit an application for ordinary naturalisation to their commune or canton of residence."

There are, however, some ‘shortcuts’: the  years you have spent in Switzerland between the ages of eight and 18 count double, but you must have actually have lived in Switzerland for at least six years.

The length of time you have lived in Switzerland includes the time spent living here while holding a B, C or Ci permit  permit.

Time spent in Switzerland during an asylum procedure (N permit) or on a short stay permit (L permit) is not counted towards citizenship.

Keep in mind, however, that while it allows you to apply for naturalisation, the mere fact of having the C permit doesn’t guarantee you will be granted citizenship.

That's because all applicants for citizenship must meet several requirements, such as being proficient in the national language of the canton in which you live; respecting Swiss law; not posing a threat to the country's internal or external security; and good integration – a broad term that covers your participation in Swiss economic and social life. 

READ ALSO: What does being 'successfully integrated' in Switzerland mean?


Then there is a fast-track naturalisation

Also known as facilitated or simplified (although anyone who has gone through it will tell you it is neither), it is open to two categories of people living in Switzerland.

One category are foreigners married to Swiss citizens.

Here too certain conditions apply.

For instance, foreign spouses of Swiss nationals must have lived for a total of five years in Switzerland, have spent the year prior to submitting the application in the country, and must have been married to and living with the Swiss citizen for three years, according to SEM.

In addition, the person wanting to become naturalised will need to be ‘successfully integrated’ in Switzerland, just like any other foreigner.

Beware, however, that if you wed a Swiss citizen just to get the passport, your citizenship may be revoked, as some examples have shown

READ ALSO: How your partner can obtain Swiss citizenship through marriage


Third generation

This is another group of  people eligible for facilitated naturalisation.

Here too,  the process is far from ‘simple.’

People born in Switzerland to foreign parents are not automatically Swiss — they ‘inherit’ their parents’ citizenship.

Since February 2018, Swiss-born foreigners under the age of 25, whose grandparents were already established in Switzerland, can request fast-track naturalisation — if they meet these conditions:

  • At least one grandparent was born in Switzerland and can be proven to have acquired a right of residence here.
  • At least one parent has acquired a permanent residence permit, has lived for at least 10 years in Switzerland, and attended compulsory schooling in Switzerland for at least five years.
  • The applicant was born in Switzerland and holds a C permit.
  • The applicant completed compulsory schooling for at least five years in Switzerland.
  • The applicant is successfully integrated.
  • The application is submitted before the 25th birthday.

Children of Swiss parents

This applies to offspring of foreign parents who were naturalised, but the child was not naturalised at the same time.

You can request a fast-track process if you were under the age of 18 at the time of your parent(s)' naturalisation; apply for naturalisation before the age of 22; can prove that you have been living for five years in Switzerland, including the three years immediately before you apply.

Also, "if you are a foreign citizen and the child of a Swiss mother and a foreign father .and your mother acquired Swiss citizenship before you were born or possessed it at your birth, you can apply for simplified naturalisation provided you are successfully integrated in Switzerland» according to SEM. “This applies in cases where a mother who is married to a foreign national cannot pass her Swiss citizenship on to her child, regardless of how she acquired Swiss citizenship".

The only obstacle to this simplified naturalisation would be “if your mother forfeited her Swiss citizenship before you were born".

If you have a Swiss father and were born before January 1st, 2006, you can apply for simplified naturalisation, provided you are successfully integrated in Switzerland, according to SEM.

This is valid only if your father was a Swiss citizen at the time of your birth and not married to your mother.


Citizenship by ancestry or adoption

A child born in another country to Swiss parents (or at least one Swiss parent) is a Swiss citizen from birth. 

If a woman is a foreigner and not married to the child’s Swiss father, the child will get the citizenship as well, as long as the father legally establishes his paternity (for instance, through a DNA test).

This is called 'citizenship through descent.'

A similar system is also in place for Swiss parents who adapt a baby abroad  — he or she will be Swiss as well, as long as the child was under the age of 18 when adopted.

Both these categories of people are eligible for fast-track naturalisation.

There are two other groups who also qualify for the simplified system, though they are far less common than all the above-mentioned ones:

Stateless children

A child with no claim to any nationality is eligible for simplified naturalisation "if he or she can prove at least five years’ residence in Switzerland, including one year immediately prior to submitting the application," according to SEM. 

Stateless persons over the age of 18, however, can’t benefit from the fast-track procedure. They can apply for ordinary naturalisation.


Last but not least…

If you truly believe you are Swiss, but it turns out you are not.

How is such a situation even possible?

According  SEM, “if you have believed for at least five years in good faith that you are a Swiss citizen, and during this period the cantonal or communal authorities have in fact treated you as a Swiss citizen, you can apply for simplified naturalisation.”

The key phrase here is “in good faith.” In other words, you would only qualify for simplified naturalisation if you don't set out to intentionally deceive the authorities.

"You must genuinely have been completely unaware that you are not in fact a Swiss citizen," SEM points out.

READ ALSO: How 'feeling' Swiss can get you citizenship faster  



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