Swiss citizenship For Members

Do you need permanent residency to become a Swiss citizen?

Helena Bachmann
Helena Bachmann - [email protected]
Do you need permanent residency to become a Swiss citizen?
Residency is a requirement for obtaining citizenship, but there are exceptions to this rule. Photo: It's all about the shot / Getty Images

There are many eligibility criteria to be met before applying for naturalisation. But is living in Switzerland one of them?


If you have gone through the naturalisation procedure — or are planning to do so — you probably know all the requirements you need to fulfil.

There is the language proficiency, successful integration, and yes, length of residency as well.

This implies that you must actually live in Switzerland a certain length of time as a permanent resident before being able to seek citizenship.

This rule also extends to foreign spouses of Swiss citizens, who must live at least five years in the country — including three years before applying for naturalisation. 

What exactly does this mean?

In Switzerland, ‘permanent residence’ for the purpose of naturalisation means that you must have a 'settlement’ C permit — the highest in Switzerland’s permit hierarchy, and the only one allowing to apply for citizenship.

Most foreigners in Switzerland, especially those coming from the EU or EFTA nations (Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein) ‘worked their way up’ from the B to C permit through residency — typically five years.

In case you come from non-EU / EFTA states (including the UK), then your wait to ‘upgrade’ from a B to a C permit is twice as long — 10 continuous years.

There are, however, some exemptions from these rules.

For instance, Americans and Canadians are on par with their EU/ EFTA counterparts: they can also apply for a C permit after five years of continuous residence on a B permit.

Another exemption to the length-of-residency rules are Switzerland-born foreigners who have lived in the country since birth and are automatically holders of a C permit.

READ ALSO: Why does Switzerland have two kinds of C-permit holders? 

So in that sense, applicants for citizenship must be permanent residents of Switzerland who have a C permit.


But there are some non-residents who can become Swiss citizens as well

This is where the so-called ‘citizenship by ancestry’ kicks in.

You may apply for citizenship via the ancestry route through paternal or maternal descent, regardless of your place of birth and whether you actually live in Switzerland or not.

According to the Swiss Citizenship Act, you are considered Swiss if your parents are married to each other and either of them is a Swiss citizen

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.

This process is not automatic, however; you will still have to prove that you have close ties with Switzerland — for instance, through family interactions or regular visits to the country.

If, however, you are the child of a Swiss father not married to your mother, the situation is slightly trickier.

In such as case, you 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.

In all these cases, you don’t have to live in Switzerland at all (or only occasionally) and still apply for a Swiss citizenship.

READ ALSO: The bizarre reasons applicants have been denied Swiss citizenship


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