Becoming a Swiss Citizen: Simplified Process
| Ana Bessa Santos

Becoming a Swiss Citizen: Simplified Process

Ana Bessa Santos discusses the process of becoming a Swiss citizen here

Read Ana Bessa Santos latest blog to learn more about the process of becoming a Swiss citizen

Since February 2020, the Swiss Federal Commission on Migration and the University of Geneva has published interactive maps and tables providing information on the practice of naturalization at local level. This allows individuals to check and compare how many ordinary naturalizations have been granted from 1992 to 2010 across all Cantons.

Foreign nationals who are naturalized share the same legal status as Swiss citizens and are formally recognised as Swiss. We had previously shared an overview on what an ordinary naturalization process looks like and what are the requirements that need to be fulfilled in order to obtain Swiss citizenship.  

If you have Swiss relatives, are a “third-generation” foreign national living in Switzerland or are married to a Swiss national, you may wonder if these factors may impact and reduce the complexity of the naturalization process. Indeed, there are some specific scenarios that would allow a person to start a naturalization process without living in Switzerland for the usual 10 years. But some values remain the same as for an ordinary request and in order to submit your application, you must always meet the following requirements:

  • Respect public safety and order

  • Respect the values of the Swiss and its constitution

  • Not compromise Switzerland's internal or external security

  • Have not claimed any social help or benefits at least in the three years prior the request

  • Have paid your taxes in full in the previous five fiscal years

Most common scenarios

The most common scenarios that may allow a person to qualify for a simplified naturalization process are outlined below.

Spouse of a Swiss national

If you are married to a Swiss national, you can make use of the simplified naturalization process, provided that your spouse was in the possession of Swiss citizenship at the time you were married. For this category, the years of marriage are the most relevant. The law distinguishes between people who live in Switzerland and those who live outside Switzerland. If you reside in Switzerland, you must provide proof of residence in Switzerland for a total of five years, including the year preceding the submission of your application, and you must have been living in a conjugal union and legal marriage with your spouse for three years.

Alternatively, you can apply for Swiss citizenship under this category if you are living abroad with your Swiss national spouse. In this case, you will need to have to be living together in marriage for at least six years and you must provide evidence that you maintain close ties to Switzerland.

Child of a naturalized person

If one of your parents obtained Swiss citizenship through naturalization when you were a minor, you can apply for naturalization via the simplified process before you turn 22 years old. A minimum stay in Switzerland of five total years must be proven, including the three years prior to applying for Swiss citizenship.

Child of Swiss national

If one of your parents is Swiss, i.e. your mother held Swiss nationality at the time of your birth or had previously held it, you can apply for simplified naturalization if you have close ties to Switzerland. If you were born before 1 January 2006 to an unmarried Swiss father and a foreign mother, you can apply for simplified naturalization. You will also have to prove that you have close ties to Switzerland.

Foreign national of third generation

In order to apply for facilitated naturalization as a child of the third generation, you must meet the following cumulative conditions:

  • At least one of your grandparents must have been born in Switzerland or it must be shown that he or she has acquired a right of residence in Switzerland

  • At least one of your parents has acquired a settlement permit (C-permit), has resided in Switzerland for at least 10 years and has completed at least 5 years of compulsory schooling in Switzerland

  • You were born in Switzerland, hold a permanent residence permit (C-permit) and have completed at least five years of compulsory schooling in Switzerland

To apply under this category, you must be younger than 25 years of age. During a transitional period of five years, i.e. until 15 February 2023, persons between 26 and 35 years of age can also apply for facilitated naturalization.

There are other scenarios included in the law which are not very common but have been predicted by the Federation, such as if you have lived in good faith, for at least five years, in the belief that you have Swiss nationality and that you have been effectively treated as such by a cantonal or communal authority. This situation is extremely rare in practice.

Overview of the process

If you live abroad, you will have to make your request at the Swiss Representation competent for your place of residence who would forward the file to the Federal State Secretariat for Migration (SEM). If you are residing in Switzerland, your request needs to go directly to the SEM in Berne.

Contrary to the ordinary naturalization process, the decision in this case is only up to the Federation; the Canton and the Commune may be consulted if needed, but no Cantonal or Communal conditions need to be fulfilled, nor do these authorities issue a decision, which would be the case in the ordinary naturalization process. It is important to note, however, that the Cantonal and Communal authorities may appeal a positive decision granted by the Federal authorities if deemed necessary. If no appeal is received within two months, a definite decision on the naturalization is then released.

Only once the definite decision is issued can the applicant complete the request with their local Commune so that the Swiss passport and ID Card can be issued. 

Requests pending with the Federal authorities can take approximately 12-18 months to be processed. The Federation could also open an inquiry with the Cantonal authority of the Swiss Representation abroad to confirm if the applicant fulfils naturalization conditions. If this happens, it may take an additional 12 months for the enquiry to be completed, and only then would the 12 months for deliberation of the Federation start.

The overall costs are also significantly lower compared to an ordinary request, and each scenario above has different costs. On average, the costs are around 900 CHF for adults and 650 CHF for minors.

As you can see, a simplified naturalization process still requires many conditions to be met and can be quite a lengthy process to be reviewed and approved. As we mentioned in previous blogs, Swiss passports are one of Europe’s most difficult passports to obtain, and having blood ties in the country or being born on Swiss territory does not necessarily make the process entirely straightforward.

Need to know more? 

For further information and advice on becoming a swiss citizen, please contact Ana Bessa Santos at [email protected] or your Fragomen immigration professional. 

This blog was published on 9 July 2021, and due to the circumstances, there are frequent changes. To keep up to date with all the latest updates on global immigration and to learn more about Fragomen, visit our COVID-19 website, subscribe to our immigration alerts and follow us on LinkedInFacebookInstagram and twitter .