Obtaining citizenship in Switzerland: what foreigners need to know

Residence permit


Obtaining citizenship in Switzerland: what foreigners need to know

Switzerland is one of the most progressive countries in the world. Here you can find everything for a comfortable life: prestigious jobs, large incomes, a high level of medicine, prospects, many interesting places for leisure, and much more. Therefore, it is not surprising that many foreign citizens dream of permanent residence in this country. 

Obtaining citizenship in Switzerland, of course, is possible. However, this procedure is very complicated and long-term. For example, a study by the Federal Migration Commission back in 2012 found that only about 36,000 foreigners were granted Swiss citizenship, even though about 900,000 people were eligible for it. Since 2018, the requirements and conditions for permanent residence have become even more strict.  

So, how to become a Swiss citizen, read in the article. 

What you need to do to get citizenship 

Swiss citizenship can be obtained by various categories of foreigners, including residents living in the country for a certain period. The requirements depend on nationality and personal circumstances. Usually, foreign citizens have the right to obtain citizenship, provided they live in the country for 10 years and more. In general, there are three main conditions under which a person can apply for a Swiss passport:

1. A person is a child - born or adopted - to a Swiss citizen.

If the baby is only born on the territory of the state, but the parents are foreigners, then this does not give them the right to obtain citizenship. A child may become a Swiss citizen under the following conditions: 

A descendant of married parents, one of whom is Swiss;

born to an unmarried Swiss mother;

born to an unmarried Swiss if paternity is recognized before the age of 22;

a foreign child under the age of 22 who was not included in the naturalization of his father and lived in Switzerland for five years, including one year immediately before the application;

the child of Swiss parents who have lost their citizenship but can show close ties with the country.

2. Marriage to a Swiss citizen. 

You can apply for accelerated naturalization if the person is married to a Swiss citizen, but under the following conditions:  

residence in Switzerland for 5 years, including the last 12 months immediately before the application;

being married for at least 3 years;

knowledge of Swiss spoken language at B1 level and writing at A2 level;

integration into Swiss life and familiarity with Swiss customs;

compliance with Swiss laws;

absence of the period spent on social assistance over the past three years.

Simplified naturalization is entitled to persons who are officially married to Swiss citizens. If we are talking about a registered partnership, then in this case you can apply for citizenship only through ordinary naturalization.

3. Naturalization after living in the country for 10 years.

After 10 years of continuous residence in Switzerland, persons who do not have the right to simplified naturalization can apply for Swiss citizenship through ordinary naturalization. This procedure is open to anyone who meets the residency requirements and has a category C residence permit. 

First of all, it is necessary to apply through a local canton or commune. To clarify the details, contact the cantonal naturalization authority or find out the information here.

You need to present the following documents:  

application form;

confirmation of residence permit C;

proof of language proficiency received at a registered language school in Switzerland.

The list of documents may vary depending on the Swiss canton or commune.

In addition, refugees living in the country for a long time have the right to apply for citizenship. A more simplified procedure can be applied for people doing business in Switzerland, as well as gifted public figures who make a significant contribution to the development of the country.  

The State Secretariat for Migration is responsible for immigration and citizenship, although for the most part all procedures are carried out at the cantonal level.

List of visas 

You can get to Switzerland on several types of visas, including:
Schengen – allows you to stay in the country for up to 90 days. Perfect for tourists or foreigners who plan to visit relatives and friends, or take part in events. 
National – gives the right to live in the country for more than 90 days. Useful for students or people who plan to get married.
Transit – necessary even for those citizens who are not going to leave the airport during the transfer;
Working or entry – such a visa is issued only if the person has a work or stay permit in the country.
More detailed information can be found at the links:  https://www.bfm.admin.ch/bfm/de/home/themen/fza_schweiz-eu-efta.html and https://www.bfm.admin.ch/bfm/de/home/themen/arbeit.html.
What are the types of permits in the country? 

To stay in Switzerland, you must have a specific Permit. In general, there are four main types:
Permit L is a short-term residence permit for up to one year.
Permit B is a temporary residence permit for one year but can be renewed every year.
Permit C – gives the right to settle to persons living in Switzerland for 10 years in a row (5 years for US and Canadian citizens).
Permit G – work permit for residents of other EU/EAST member states working in Switzerland.
Switzerland also has a residence and work permits for scientists, researchers, and other qualified professionals who make a significant contribution to the country. 

Duration of stay 

Subject to a visa, depending on its type, foreign nationals have the right to stay in Switzerland for at least 90 days. Persons who have received Permit B or C can live in the country much longer – from one year or more. 
Summary information
Obtaining Swiss citizenship is a very responsible and long-term procedure that requires endurance, time, and compliance with all rules. However, all efforts are worth it. After all, being a Swiss citizen means having many advantages, including: 
full right to reside in the country, even if you live elsewhere for some time;
the right to vote in elections in Switzerland and to run for public office;
the right to a Swiss passport, which ranks third in the index of passport strength with visa-free access to more than 150 countries.
Below are also some useful resources: 
The State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) is an office dealing with citizenship and immigration at the federal level.
Swiss Authorities Online is a Swiss government website with information on several topics, including citizenship. 
List of cantonal naturalization bodies. 
Naturalization in Switzerland – information about exams for obtaining Swiss citizenship.

Recommended articles

6 min

Work Employment in Switzerland in 2024: how an expat can find a job, the labor market and a work visa

Employment in Switzerland in 2024: how an expat can find a job, the labor market and a work visa

Switzerland is facing a significant labor shortage, and many companies are trying to attract skilled workers in various fields. The country is known for its high salaries and quality of life, which makes it attractive to expats. Find out about the labor market in Switzerland, salary levels, how to apply for a job and other important details

29 Mar. 2024

More details