Switzerland is considered to be one of the most difficult countries to get citizenship in. But, have you ever wondered WHY ex-pats strive with getting that Swiss passport and citizenship despite the long wait and complicated processes?
Well, the citizenship comes with its perks (of course ;))
These include the right to reside in Switzerland even if you spend a period of time living elsewhere, the right to vote in Swiss elections and to stand for public office, and the right to a Swiss passport, which is ranked third on the passport power index with visa-free access to over 150 countries and more…
Having lived in Switzerland for over 6 years as an Indian ex-pat now, I’ve got a fair understanding of how things work here. So, to all my fellow ex-pats who are planning to settle here and obtain Swiss citizenship in the longer run, I’ve got you covered. In this article, I’m breaking down all you need to know about getting Swiss citizenship and Swiss Passport from the POV of an ex-pat!
What’s the eligibility for a Swiss Citizenship and Passport?
Well, you can only apply for a Swiss passport once you have Swiss citizenship.
It is common (and often incomplete) knowledge that as a foreigner, you can get Swiss citizenship as soon as you complete your 10-year residential period in Switzerland. But, that doesn’t mean that you become a Swiss citizen automatically. You obviously have to submit an application to the Swiss government and the Swiss Migration Service (SEM) decides whether to grant citizenship depending on your application.
So, let me get things straight here – there are only two ways by which you can obtain Swiss citizenship (and Swiss passport) i.e by birth and naturalization). So as an expat, the former is obviously not relevant to us.
So, let’s take a look at the naturalization route. In this article, I’ll be mostly focusing on Regular naturalization in detail but if you want details on the Simplified naturalization process, click here.
Swiss Citizenship by Naturalization
Naturalization is the process by which any foreigner who wishes to obtain citizenship of a country, does so by voluntary application. We can look at it as the final step to the Swiss way of life. It gives you perks like the right to vote and to stand for election.
When it comes to getting Swiss citizenship, there are two Naturalization routes: Regular and Simplified/ Facilitated Naturalization.
If you’ve lived in Switzerland for 10 years and are not eligible for simplified naturalization, which is basically getting citizenship by marrying a Swiss citizen or having third generation Swiss connections, you can apply for Swiss citizenship via regular naturalization. This is the way ahead for those who meet the residency requirements and have a C residence permit.
As a couple, if you’re going ahead with naturalization, you will both have to meet the 10-year requirement. Although, if one of you gets the citizenship before marriage, your partner is then eligible for citizenship after 5 years of Swiss residence and three years as your spouse.
What are some things that you need to keep in mind to obtain Swiss citizenship via Regular Naturalization?
- You should have lived in Switzerland for aleast 10 years.
- You must hold a permanent residence permit (C permit)
- You must have knowledge of any one of the Swiss national language spoken to B1 level and written to A2 level
- You should actively integrate yourself into Swiss life and be familiar with Swiss customs
- You must comply with the Swiss laws
- You have to prove that you’re not a danger to Switzerland’s internal or external security
Now that we’re through with all the requirements, eligibility and info, let’s talk about how to actually get it done!
How to apply for citizenship through naturalization?
To begin with, you need to make your application via your local canton or commune. The exact process depends on the laws within your canton. You can contact your cantonal naturalization authority for information on this.
You will need to submit:
- Your application form (available through your cantonal naturalization authority)
- A proof of C residence permit
- A proof of language proficiency acquired from a registered language school in Switzerland
Any other additional documents will depend on your Swiss canton or commune.
What’s the process for Swiss naturalization?
You have to start by applying to the canton or commune where you reside. To find out where to obtain the form, I recommend visiting the website of your canton of residence. Once your application is submitted, it is then followed by a personal interview where you will be told what the next steps are.
One thing to keep in mind is that these procedures vary considerably depending on your communes. For example, some communes require applicants to take a verbal or written naturalization test while others leave the application decision up to the communal assembly.
Since it’s a process with multiple stages, it takes around 1 year and can cost over CHF 1,000.
What’s the cost of a naturalization application?
The cost can vary substantially depending on the commune and canton, but on average the fees are as follows:
Commune: from 500 to 1,000 francs per person
Canton: up to 2,000 francs per person
Confederation: Couple with or without minor children: 150 francs
Single person with or without minor children: 100 francs
Single minor: 50 francs
In addition, there is a charge for the documents required (residence certificate, extract from criminal records, extract from the debt enforcement register, etc.).
Once you’re through with the Naturalization process and are officially “Naturalized” , you’re now ready to apply for your Swiss passport!
Now you’re all set to apply for a Swiss passport
To get the Swiss passport process started, you can either go to your local cantonal passport office, if applying from inside Switzerland, or the Swiss embassy in your home country if applying from abroad.
There are three ways in which you can put your application in: Online, by telephone, or by visiting your local passport office. Once you are done with your application form, an appointment will be scheduled at your local office to submit your photos, signature, and fingerprints. Some cantons allow you to submit your photo digitally on USB as well.
Like Naturalization, this process, too, varies from canton to canton, but you may have to submit the following along with your application:
- Valid ID
- Proof of address
- Proof of Swiss citizenship
Applications generally take around 10 days to process from inside Switzerland and 30 days from abroad
What’s the cost of the Swiss passport application process?
A standard Swiss passport costs CHF 140 for adults and CHF 60 for children aged under 18, additionally you’ve to pay CHF 5 for postage. You can also get a combined offer of a Swiss passport and a national ID card for an extra 8 CHF.
Temporary passports cost CHF 100 for both adults and children, or CHF 150 if issued at an airport.
There you go! I hope this sums up pretty much everything you need to know about the process of getting a passport and of course, getting Swiss citizenship before that. As far as my Naturalization process is concerned, well, it’s been 6 years since I’ve been living here, so I still have time, but if you’re wondering, being Indian citizens, the Regular Naturalization route is what me and my family would be going ahead with…
Are you enjoying our content? We would love to hear your opinions in the comments sections. Stay tuned for more resources, our editorial panel is talking about – swiss travel, ex-pat living, mental health, nutrition, wellness, transition, and activities for children this summer. Stay well and stay with us!
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