Did you know that, according to the World Happiness Report 2022, Switzerland is one of the happiest countries in the world? Life in this small mountainous country sure is sweet, even if it is expensive. Which begs the question: Even if you have decided to settle down in greener Swiss pastures, should you take the extra steps necessary to become a Swiss citizen? And if you’re set on doing so, what are the requirements to get a Swiss passport? In this article, we’ll review the advantages and conditions of Swiss citizenship.
- What are the advantages of Swiss citizenship?
- What are the eligibility requirements for Swiss citizenship?
- How to get Swiss citizenship
What are the advantages of Swiss citizenship?
This is an important question to ask, as there are certainly ways to live in Switzerland without obtaining citizenship. In fact, permanent residency is a popular option. According to a study from the Federal Commission of Migration in 2021, only about 2% of all foreign residents choose to become Swiss citizens. So what exactly prompted them?
First and foremost, Swiss citizenship comes with the privilege of being able to live, work and do business in Switzerland. The country is known for its high quality of life and its generous salaries, so this alone makes the prospect enticing. You’ll also benefit from favorable tax rates, as Switzerland’s double-taxation treaties mean you won’t have to declare any income you’ve received abroad.
But that’s not the only financial perk. Indeed, among stereotypes about European countries, Switzerland is famous for its banks. These financial institutions offer the utmost confidentiality and capital protection, and many consider them to be among the most secure in the world. If you wish to set up a company, you’ll also have access to a simple procedure in order to register your company.
On a more personal level, if you’re a Swiss citizen, you’ll be able to reside in Switzerland and buy any property you wish. Finally, Swiss citizenship gives you the right to vote and to stand for public office in Switzerland.
What benefits do Swiss citizens enjoy globally?
Sharing borders with five countries (France, Germany, Italy, Austria and Liechtenstein) and holding four official national languages (French, German, Italian and Romansh), Switzerland enjoys a unique position on the European map. Even if the country is not a member of the European Union (EU), it enjoys close ties with the institution.
In particular, Switzerland is part of the Schengen Area, which allows for free movement within its borders. This means that Swiss citizens can live, work, study and retire in any country within the EU or the European Economic Area (EEA) without needing a visa. The same applies to the USA, Canada, Australia and Japan, for which a Swiss passport is sufficient. In addition, Switzerland allows for dual citizenship. So, you can potentially take Swiss citizenship without having to give up your own nationality, provided your native country also allows for it.
What are the eligibility requirements for Swiss citizenship?
The conditions for becoming a Swiss citizen may vary depending on your nationality and personal circumstances, as well as on the Swiss canton you live in. In addition, since 2018, the new Swiss Citizenship Act has set tougher rules to acquire Swiss citizenship. For example, applicants must now hold a settlement C residence permit in order to be eligible.
That being said, here are the three most common ways to be granted Swiss citizenship:
- Having a Swiss parent. If you are the child of a Swiss citizen by birth or by adoption, you may be granted Swiss citizenship. Swiss citizenship is not defined by the right of soil but by the right of blood. In other words, a baby born in Switzerland isn’t automatically a Swiss citizen, but a baby who has at least one Swiss parent is.
- Marriage to a Swiss citizen
- Naturalization after ten years of residence in Switzerland
As we’ve already seen, Swiss citizenship comes with many benefits. But it also comes with one additional requirement — at least if you’re a man aged 18–35. Such men are typically required to complete military service, without any exemption for naturalized Swiss citizens.
How to get Swiss citizenship
The process to get Swiss citizenship depends on whether you can apply for citizenship through birth or descent. If so, then you’re eligible for the simplified naturalization. The process takes about twelve months but can vary depending on your local canton.
If not, you’ll need to request citizenship through regular naturalization by applying at three levels: the confederation, the canton and the commune.
At the federal level, the State Secretariat for Migration (Secrétariat d’État aux migrations or SEM) sets the basic rules for all applicants. As we’ve already mentioned, you’ll need to meet the residence requirements and hold a C residence permit. Though the minimum period of residence to be eligible is ten years for an adult, it is divided by two for those under 18, who can apply for citizenship after five years of residence. Similarly, if you’re married and your spouse became a Swiss citizen before your marriage, you’ll only need to have lived five years in Switzerland — including three as a spouse — to qualify for citizenship.
The conditions at the local level may vary greatly from canton to canton and from commune to commune. The fees may also vary depending on your canton and your commune, and whether you’re applying as an individual, a married couple or a child.
The why and how of becoming a Swiss citizen
Even if it’s a lengthy and multi-level process, you’ll find many advantages of applying for Swiss citizenship. It will allow you to enjoy all the riches the country has to offer while opening the doors to many countries within the European Union and beyond.