Swiss citizenship For Members

Why it's easier to become Swiss if you're wealthy

Helena Bachmann
Helena Bachmann - [email protected]
Why it's easier to become Swiss if you're wealthy
This passport is less accessible to low-income people. Photo: Claudio Schwarz on Unsplash

Getting a Swiss passport can be a lengthy procedure even under the best circumstances. But as a new study reveals, the process is even more onerous for low-income candidates.


The survey, carried out by researchers from the Universities of Geneva, Neuchâtel and Basel on behalf of the Federal Migration Commission, shows the effects of the law enacted in 2018 on ordinary naturalisation.

Specifically, the study report indicates that nearly two-thirds of naturalisation applications are submitted by “highly qualified and wealthy people,” the Federal Council said on Thursday.

“The share of highly skilled and affluent people has increased significantly, and the number of low-skilled and lower-income people has dropped considerably,” according to the Federal Council.

Applications from people who only had a compulsory-level education dropped from 23.9 percent to 8.5 percent.

“Highly qualified foreigners, on the other hand, represent 57 percent of naturalised citizens, compared to one-third under the old law.”

Why is this?

In 2018, new, more restrictive criteria for naturalisation were introduced.

From then on, only C-permit holders living in Switzerland for at least 10 years are eligible to apply for citizenship.

Furthermore, to be naturalised, candidates must meet new integration criteria, including tougher language skills and economic independence requirements.

“For low-skilled and less well-off people, overcoming these pitfalls is a challenge, as it is more difficult for them to acquire the necessary written and oral language skills,” the Federal  Council pointed out.

“In addition, for them the risk of having to resort to social assistance is higher."


Receiving financial aid from the government precludes naturalisation; neither federal nor cantonal / communal naturalisation commissions will grant citizenship to foreigners who have been receiving public money, even if they meet all the other requirements.

That's because part of the integration definition is “personal responsibility, self-sufficiency, and participation in the country’s economy.”

This means applicants should be working and earning money rather than relying on the government to support them.

The same applies to people who have active debt collection proceedings against them.

To authorities, both these cases show that the applicant is not sufficiently integrated to merit a Swiss passport — even though such conditions often cannot be met by low-earners.

In fact, many of these people may not even qualify for a C permit, which is required for naturalisation.

“People with low qualifications or those from the asylum field are increasingly excluded from the naturalisation procedure,” said Manuele Bertoli, president of the Federal Migration Commission.

“This is due to stricter criteria and because the obstacles have been clearly raised. Access to naturalization should be designed in such a way that it serves the integration of society as a whole.”


Why are only people applying for ordinary, rather than simplified naturalisation, concerned?

That’s because conditions for the facilitated (also called ‘fast-track) procedure are less strict, as  they apply mostly to spouses of Swiss citizens, people born in Switzerland to foreign parents, and children of Swiss parents — either biological or adopted.

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



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