Swiss nationality law

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Swiss Citizenship Act
Coat of Arms of Switzerland (Pantone).svg
Parliament of Switzerland
Federal Act on the Acquisition and Loss of Swiss Citizenship
Territorial extent Switzerland
Enacted by Federal Assembly of Switzerland
Date enacted 29 September 1952
Date commenced 01 January 1953
Date of expiry 01 January 2018
Status: Current legislation

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:

Swiss nationals are citizens of their municipality of origin, their 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). They are entered in the family register of their 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.

Acquisition of Swiss Citizenship[edit]

Jus sanguinis[edit]

A child is Swiss at birth if:

  • They are the child of a married couple of whom at least one parent is Swiss.[1]
  • They are the child of a Swiss mother not married to the child's father.[2]

A child of a Swiss father not married to the mother is considered Swiss by birth when a link of paternity is declared.[3][4]


A foundling acquires Swiss citizenship and the citizenship of the canton in which s/he was found. The canton decides which bourgeoisie the child receives. Once paternity is determined, the child loses Swiss citizenship, unless this would leave him or her stateless.[5]


A child adopted by a Swiss parent acquires the cantonal citizenship and bourgeoisie of the Swiss parent, thus equally acquiring Swiss nationality.[6]


2014 Federal Nationality Law[edit]

On 20 June 2014, the two Chambers of the Swiss Parliament passed the Total Revision of the Federal Law Concerning the Acquisition and Loss of Swiss Nationality (Révision totale de la loi sur l'acquisition et la perte de la nationalité suisse). The Law, first introduced in 2011 by the Swiss federal government, aimed to lower, among other requirements, the residency requirement from 12 years to 8 years.[7] During the parliamentary debates and the ensuing disagreements between the more conservative National Council (lower house) and the more liberal Council of States (upper house), the residency requirements were increased to 10 years. The time spent in Switzerland between the ages of 8 and 18 is doubled for purposes of applying for naturalisation, however, an applicant must spend at least 6 years in Switzerland.[8] The new law also requires cantons to set a minimum residency requirement of between 2 and 5 years, as well as requiring applicants to have a permanent residency permit (Autorisation d'établissement), which is known as a C permit.[9][10] Additionally, time spent in Switzerland with temporary admission (Permis d'admission provisoire) halved for purposes of applying for naturalisation.[11] The 2014 Total Revision of the Federal Law Concerning the Acquisition and Loss of Swiss Nationality is scheduled to enter into force on 1 January 2018.[12]

1952 Federal Nationality Law[edit]

The 1952 nationality law is scheduled to be replaced by the 2014 total revision of the nationality law on 1 January 2018. Applications for naturalisation submitted prior to the entry into force of the new nationality law will continue to be processed under the 1952 law. [13] Ordinary naturalisation is a cantonal competency, however no cantonal naturalisation is legally valid without federal authorisation.[14]

Citizenship in Switzerland may be obtained by a resident who has 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, French, Italian or Romansch (depending on the canton or 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.

Cantons impose further requirements which can complement the federal requirements.

Simplified naturalisation[edit]


Foreigners in the following categories may apply for simplified naturalisation:

  • Women who lost Swiss citizenship through marriage to a non-Swiss citizen, or through the loss of Swiss citizenship by their husband, before 23 March 1992.
  • Children born to Swiss mothers who lost their citizenship due to marriage to a foreigner before 23 March 1992 but who later were reintegrated into their former Swiss nationality.
  • Children born to Swiss mothers who had acquired Swiss citizenship themselves on the basis of a previous marriage to a Swiss husband.
  • Persons born before 1 July 1985 whose mothers had acquired Swiss citizenship by descent, adoption or naturalisation.
  • Children whose mothers had acquired Swiss citizenship by virtue of marriage to a Swiss husband (before 31 December 1991).
  • Children of Swiss parents born abroad who were not registered at a Swiss representation abroad before their 22nd birthday can be "reintegrated" within a period of ten years immediately following their 22nd birthday.
  • Children for whom the ten year limit has expired for their "reintegration" can nevertheless be reintegrated, 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.

  • Third generation immigrants (CF Art. 38)
Simplified naturalisation by virtue of marriage[edit]

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.
  • Close ties to Switzerland, i.e. travelling regularly to Switzerland, being an active member of a Swiss club abroad, and/or having close relations to the family of their Swiss spouse.

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

Simplified naturalisation for third generation immigrants[edit]

The federal constitution declares that the Confederation will facilitate the naturalisation of third generation immigrants (Art. 38 §3 part a). Legislation has yet to be introduced describing the precise requirements for an application for facilitated naturalisation under article 38 §3 part a.

Canton of Vaud[edit]

The Canton of Vaud legislated in 2004 to allow for 2nd generation foreigners to acquire Swiss nationality more easily under the following conditions:[15]

  • The applicant must meet the requirements set by federal law.
  • Aged between 14 and 25 years.
  • Has completed at least 5 years of obligatory education in Switzerland.
  • At least 2 years' residence in Vaud.
  • Has not lived abroad since the end of his or her obligatory education, with the exception of temporary stays abroad for purposes of education.
  • One of the applicant's parents must currently be lawfully resident in Switzerland or have been so in the past.
  • Integration and command of the French Language.
  • Lawful behaviour.
  • The applicant must not represent a danger for Swiss national security.

The 2004 Law also facilitates the naturalisation of foreigners of the 3rd generation under the following conditions:[16]

  • The applicant must meet the requirements set by federal law.
  • At least 2 years' residence in Vaud.
  • The applicant must have not resided outside Switzerland since his birth, with the exception of temporary stays abroad for purposes of education.
  • Integration and command of the French Language.
  • The applicant must not represent a danger for Swiss national security.

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.

Loss of Swiss citizenship[edit]

Loss due to cessation of paternity[edit]

A child whose Swiss citizenship depends on paternal links loses citizenship when those are cut.[17]

Loss due to adoption[edit]

A Swiss child adopted by foreign parents is considered to have lost Swiss citizenship.[18]

Annulled adoptions[edit]

Where a former Swiss citizen lost citizenship due to adoption by foreign parents and that adoption is later annulled, the Swiss citizenship is considered to never have been lost.[19]

Loss due to birth abroad[edit]

A Swiss citizen born abroad to at least one Swiss parent and holding at least one other nationality loses Swiss citizenship at age 22 if:

  • They have never been announced to the Swiss authorities, or [20]
  • They have never written to the Swiss authorities expressing their desire to retain Swiss citizenship, or [21]
  • They (or their guardians) have never sought to procure Swiss identity documents for them, i.e. a passport or an identity card.[22]

Equally, the child of a person who thus loses Swiss nationality equally loses Swiss nationality.[23] Exceptionally, a person who has been prevented, against their will, from taking the necessary actions to retain Swiss citizenship may undertake the required actions within a delay of 1 year following the cessation of such delays.[24]

Triple citizenship level within Swiss citizenship[edit]

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[edit]

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.

Even though Swiss nationality law permits multiple citizenship, a Swiss national who also holds another country's citizenship may be required to renounce the foreign citizenship, under the foreign country's nationality law.

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

Political discussions and referendums about Swiss citizenship in Switzerland in recent years[edit]

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 [25] 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.[26] 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[edit]

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 or a Swiss identity card granting them the right to return to Switzerland at any time;
  • avoid deportation from Switzerland;
  • be 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), Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway;
  • be required to perform military service or civilian service if male.

Travel freedom of Swiss citizens[edit]

Visa requirements for Swiss citizens are administrative entry restrictions by the authorities of other states placed on citizens of Switzerland. In 2017, Swiss citizens had visa-free or visa-on-arrival access to 171 countries and territories, ranking the Swiss passport 6th in the world according to the Visa Restrictions Index.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ LN 2014 Art. 1 §1a
  2. ^ LN 2014 Art. 1 §1b
  3. ^ LN 2014 Art. 1 §2
  4. ^ LN 2014 Art. 1 §3
  5. ^ LN 2014 Art. 3
  6. ^ LN 2014 Art. 4
  7. ^
  8. ^ LN 2014 Art. 9
  9. ^ LN 2014 Art. 18
  10. ^ LN 2014 Art. 9 §1 a
  11. ^ LN 2014 Art. 33 §1b
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^ "Swiss citizenship / Naturalisation". 2011-11-14. Retrieved 2012-07-07. 
  15. ^ Loi sur le droit de cité vaudois Art. 22
  16. ^ Loi sur le droit de cité vaudois Art. 25
  17. ^ LN 2014 Art. 5
  18. ^ LN 2014 Art. 6 §1
  19. ^ LN 2014 Art. 6 §3
  20. ^ LN 2014 Art. 7 §1
  21. ^ LN 2014 Art. 7 §1
  22. ^ LN 2014 Art. 7 §3
  23. ^ LN 2014 Art. 7 §2
  24. ^ LN 2014 Art. 7 §4
  25. ^ "Long road to Swiss citizenship". BBC News. 20 September 2004. Retrieved 24 May 2010. 
  26. ^ "Naturalisation: on ne devient pas Suisse partout de la même façon | 24 heures". 2011-03-22. Retrieved 2013-09-06. 

External links[edit]