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Swiss citizenship


Swiss citizenship

Swiss citizenship is the status of being a citizen of Switzerland and it can be obtained by birth or naturalisation.

The Swiss Citizenship Law is based on the following principles:

Every Swiss national is a citizen of his municipality of origin, his canton of origin and the Confederation, in that order: a Swiss citizen is defined as someone who has the bourgeoisie of a Swiss municipality (article 37 of the Swiss Federal Constitution). He is entered in the family register of his place of origin. One's place of origin depends on how one has acquired Swiss nationality. Nationals who are naturalised take the nationality of the municipality in which they were naturalised; citizens who became Swiss by virtue of their parents or of their marriage to a Swiss national, take the municipality of their father or spouse. It is not to be confused with the place of birth, which may be different.

Requirements for citizenship


Swiss citizenship is propagated by Jus sanguinis. Persons as follows are Swiss citizens at birth:

  • born to a Swiss father or mother, if parents are married
  • born to a Swiss mother, if parents are not married
  • born to a Swiss father, if parents are not married, and the father subsequently acknowledges the child as his own

Where parents marry after birth and only the father is Swiss, the child acquires Swiss citizenship at that point. A recent change in the Swiss citizenship Act allows the child of an unmarried Swiss father to be acknowledged by paternity from the Swiss father with the child, in which the child after such acknowledgement is then a Swiss citizen, by descent, Jus sanguinis.

There are exceptions if it is only the mother who is Swiss and she acquired Swiss citizenship on the basis of a previous marriage (practice discontinued in 1992) to a Swiss citizen.

Jus soli does not exist in Switzerland so birth in Switzerland in itself does not confer Swiss citizenship on the child.


The right to regular naturalisation is granted not by the central government but by the cantons.[1]

Citizenship in Switzerland may be obtained by a permanent resident who lived in Switzerland for at least 12 years (any years spent in Switzerland between the 10th and the 20th years of age count double) and lived in the country for 3 out of the last 5 years before applying for citizenship. One should be able to speak in at least one of German (preferably Swiss German), French, Italian or Romansch (depending on the municipality) and show the following:

  • integration into the Swiss way of life;
  • familiarity with Swiss habits, customs and traditions;
  • compliance with the Swiss rule of law;
  • no danger to Switzerland's internal or external security.

Simplified naturalisation


Certain categories of non-Swiss may apply for simplified naturalisation, including:

  • women who lost Swiss citizenship through marriage to a non-Swiss citizen, or through the loss of Swiss citizenship by a husband, before 23 March 1992
  • children born to Swiss mothers who lost their citizenship due to the marriage of a non-Swiss before 23 March 1992 but became re-naturalised
  • children born to Swiss mothers who acquired Swiss citizenship themselves on the basis of a previous marriage to a Swiss husband
  • persons born before 1 July 1985 whose mother acquired Swiss citizenship by descent, adoption or naturalisation
  • children whose mother acquired Swiss citizenship by marriage to a Swiss husband (before 31 December 1991)
  • a spouse of a Swiss national who lives abroad after six years of marriage, and who has "close relations to Switzerland" i.e. travelling regularly to Switzerland, being an active member of a Swiss club abroad and having close relations to the family of the Swiss spouse
  • children of Swiss parents born abroad who were not registered at a Swiss representation abroad before their 22nd birthday can be "re-naturalised" within ten years after their 22nd birthday.
  • children who have let more than ten years pass for their "re-naturalisation" can be re-naturalised, if they can prove a "close relationship with Switzerland"

All these categories have additional requirements to be fulfilled. Normally, a successful applicant acquires the cantonal and municipal citizenship of the Swiss mother, father, or spouse.

Simplified naturalisation by virtue of marriage

A person married to a Swiss citizen may apply for Swiss citizenship by facilitated naturalisation after living in Switzerland for five years and having been married for at least three years. No language test is required, but one must show the following:

  • integration into the Swiss way of life;
  • compliance with the Swiss rule of law;
  • no danger to Switzerland's internal or external security.

Children from the person's previous relationships (but not same-sex couples) are given citizenship along with the partner.

It is also possible for the spouse of a Swiss citizen to apply for facilitated naturalisation while resident overseas after the following:

  • six years of marriage to a Swiss citizen; and
  • close ties to Switzerland.

Spouses acquiring Swiss citizenship by facilitated naturalisation will acquire the citizenship of the municipality and canton of their Swiss spouse.

Canton of Vaud

The Canton of Vaud legislated in 2004 to allow for 2nd and 3rd generation foreigners to acquire Swiss nationality more easily. The conditions are five years of obligatory schooling in Switzerland and for the candidate to be aged between 18 and 24.


The yearly rate of naturalisation has quintupled over the 1990s and 2000s, from roughly 9,000 to 45,000 naturalisations per year.

Relative to the population of resident foreigners, this amounts to an increase from 8‰ in 1990 to 27‰ in 2007, or relative to the number of Swiss citizens from 0.16‰ in 1990 to 0.73‰ in 2007.

Triple citizenship level within Swiss citizenship

Each municipality in Switzerland maintains its own registry of citizens, which is separate from the registry of people living in the municipality. Most Swiss citizens do not live in their municipality of origin; therefore, they are often required by the municipality in which they live to get a certificate of citizenship (acte d'origine/Heimatschein/atto d'origine) from their place of origin. In practice, there is no difference in rights or obligations between citizens of different municipalities, except for the extra paperwork that may be involved.

Dual nationality

According to the Federal Office for Migration, there has been no restriction on multiple citizenship in Switzerland since 1 January 1992. Thus, foreigners who acquire Swiss citizenship and Swiss citizens who voluntarily acquire another citizenship keep their previous citizenship (subject to the laws of the other country), as was the case before this date. An estimated 60% of Swiss nationals living abroad in 1998 were multiple citizens.

Since many nationality laws now allow both parents to transmit their nationality to their common child (and not only the father, as used to be often the case), many children automatically acquire multiple citizenship at birth. This is especially frequent in Switzerland, since a relatively high proportion of the population holds a foreign passport (up to 54% in Geneva and 20% nationally). However, the Federal Office for Migration specially notes that this has not resulted in any practical problems worth mentioning. Military service, the most likely problem to arise, is usually done in the country where the applicant resides at the time of conscription.

After two referendums rejected laws to facilitate naturalisation in September 2004, some opponents (notably the Swiss People's Party) tried unsuccessfully to go back to the pre-1992 situation in which multiple citizenship was forbidden.

Loss of Swiss citizenship

"A Swiss citizen shall on request be relieved of his or her Swiss citizenship if he or she is not resident in Switzerland and holds or has been assured of another nationality." Art. 42 of the Federal Act on the Acquisition and Loss of Swiss Citizenship.[2]

Political discussions and referendums about Swiss citizenship in Switzerland in recent years

Swiss citizenship laws have been widely debated over recent years. In comparison to other nationality laws, access to Swiss citizenship is relatively narrow and restricted, and several modifications to widen access to Swiss citizenship via constitutional initiatives and referendums have been proposed. The referendums on the matter – held in 1983, 1994 and 2004 – were all rejected by Swiss voters. In particular, during the referendum held in September 2004, Swiss voters rejected proposals [3] to give some long-resident Swiss-born persons aged between 14 and 24 the right to apply for facilitated naturalisation (which bypasses cantonal and municipal requirements) and grant automatic Swiss citizenship to persons born in Switzerland with a parent also born in Switzerland.

While minimal requirements for obtaining Swiss citizenship by naturalisation are set at the federal level, Swiss cantons and municipalities are free to introduce more stringent requirements. Some municipalities had previously had no procedure for allowing naturalisations, effectively rendering it impossible, such as in La Chaux in the Canton of Vaud.[4] In 1999, the municipality of Emmen and the canton of Lucerne began using referendums to decide the outcome of naturalisation requests. The practice was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in July 2003. A referendum directed at legalizing this practice was rejected on 1 June 2008.

Rights and obligations of Swiss citizens

Swiss citizens are entitled to:

  • vote in political elections upon reaching the age of 18.
  • run for political office, including the Swiss Federal Council without being a member of any political party.
  • start and sign a petition or citizen's initiative for a referendum.
  • obtain a Swiss passport, and/or a Swiss identity card, granting them the right to return to Switzerland at any time.
  • avoid deportation from Switzerland.
  • being able to live, work, study, buy property and open up a business, anywhere in the EU through the bilateral agreement between Switzerland and the EU, plus the countries of Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway.
  • be required to perform military service or civilian service if male.

See also

Switzerland portal


External links

  • Swiss nationality page of the Federal Office for Migration
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