Switzerland is famous for its delicious chocolate and cheese, stunning mountain landscapes, and its love of winter sports. From an immigration perspective Switzerland has one of the most powerful passports in the world, giving the passport holder access to 125 countries without the need to obtain a visa. Switzerland is also very attractive to immigrants because of its political and economic stability and high standard of living. But Switzerland also has some of the strictest naturalisation laws in the world, making the process often lengthy and challenging, even for those who have lived in Switzerland their entire life.
The general requirements
Those applying for Swiss citizenship must meet various requirements.
The naturalisation law foresees that foreign nationals live in the country for at least 10 years before they can apply for citizenship. Years spent between the ages of eight and 18, however, will be counted double; in these cases the applicants must have been in Switzerland for at least six years. There are additional requirements at cantonal and communal level that range between two and five years.
Years spent in Switzerland on the following permit types count towards the above-mentioned time requirements:
- stay with B or C-permit
- stay with the ‘carte de légitimation’ (CDL) issued by the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) or with a Ci permit
- stay with the type F permit, although only half the time is counted.
At the time of application applicants need to be in possession of a permanent residence permit C.
In addition to the above points and requirements, applicants need to:
- be successfully integrated, with proof of language skills at level B1 orally and A2 in writing in an official language of canton of residence;
- know Swiss customs and its way of life
- not pose any risk to the country’s security.
The ordinary naturalisation process is a complex procedure and depends on the approval of three different authorities: communal, cantonal and federal. The exact requirements and procedures vary greatly from one canton to another or even from one commune to another. Some authorities require applicants to take written or oral naturalisation exams to check their knowledge about Switzerland and the region in which they live.
Once a naturalisation request has been made, it is first assessed by the canton and the commune of residence. Thereafter, if the applicant satisfies all the requirements, the application is forwarded to the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM). Once all formal and material requirements have been met, the SEM issues the federal naturalisation licence and sends the application to the cantonal authority for a final decision.
Processing times and costs
The process involved in obtaining Swiss citizenship therefore varies between cantons and usually takes several years.
It can also be a costly process, as a fee applies at three different levels during the authorisation process.
The fees too can vary significantly, depending on the canton and the commune, but are generally in the following ranges:
- Commune: CHF 500 - 1,000
- Canton: up to CHF 2,000
- Confederation: CHF 100 - 150
Even though minimum requirements are set by the Federal Council, the cantons and the communes in Switzerland have wide discretion in the naturalisation process. It is therefore crucial to know the exact requirements of the canton and commune to avoid wasting time and limit the potential for setbacks or disappointments.
Deloitte’s Swiss Immigration team has significant experience assisting applicants with managing the end-to-end naturalisation process. If you are interested in learning more about the Swiss naturalisation process or would welcome support, please contact Jehona Islami, Aysun Inceleme or Irmak Tokay for further information and assistance.
If you would like to discuss more on the above topics, please do reach out to our key contacts below.