Swiss citizenship For Members

When can I start counting my residency in Switzerland towards citizenship?

Helena Bachmann
Helena Bachmann - [email protected]
When can I start counting my residency in Switzerland towards citizenship?
In this case, the wait for Swiss citizenship is shortest. Photo: Pixabay

The path towards a Swiss passport is generally long, but some applicants face a shorter wait than others.


If you are newly arrived in Switzerland and your ultimate goal is to become a Swiss citizen, then you should arm yourself with patience.

Just how much patience will depend on various factors, but in all cases, be ready for this process to be rather lengthy.

Here’s what you should know.

Step one: from B to C

The official wait period begins the day you receive your C permit, the only stepping-stone for a foreigner towards Swiss citizenship (read more about this below).

However, the actual countdown starts even earlier, when you first obtain your B permit.

This means you are allowed to live and work in Switzerland for up to five years, though this can be extended further.

But the length of time before you are eligible to switch from B permit to  C depends on whether you come from the EU/ EFTA or from third countries.

If you are a citizen of the EU or EFTA (Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein), and live in Switzerland on a B permit continuously for five years, you can apply for the C permit, provided you meet all the requirements, such as language proficiency and integration criteria.

If, however, you come from non-EU / EFTA states (including the UK), then your wait to ‘upgrade’ from a B to C permit is twice as long — 10 continuous years, also provided you fulfil all the above-mentioned criteria.

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.

There are other exceptions as well: if you are a non-EU / EFTA spouse or the minor child of a Swiss citizen or a permit C holder, you too can apply for a C permit after five years.

So, depending on your nationality or personal circumstances, you will be able to switch from a B to C permit after either five or 10 years.

READ ALSO: When will my Swiss B permit be switched to a C? 


Step two: C permit

Once you receive this permit, nothing stops you from advancing to the next level — you have been vetted by the authorities and cleared for citizenship.

Nothing, that is, except a wait that is more or less long, depending on your circumstances.

At this point, however, it is not your nationality that determines how long the wait will be, but rather the kind of naturalisation procedure you qualify for.

Most foreigners go through the ‘ordinary’ process, which means you will have to wait 10 years after getting the C permit before you can apply. 

If, however, you are eligible for the simplified / fast-track procedure (for instance, spouses or children of Swiss citizens, as well as third-generation foreigners), then your wait is cut in half, to five years.

READ ALSO: Five ways you can fast-track your route to Swiss citizenship 

So if you do the math, your wait under the 'best-case' scenario is 10 years and in the 'worst', 20.


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