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SWISS CITIZENSHIP

‘A feeling of belonging’: What it’s like to become Swiss

More than two-thirds of Local readers described their experience of getting Swiss citizenship as positive. Just as many would recommend naturalisation to other foreigners.

'A feeling of belonging': What it's like to become Swiss
Good experiences trump bad ones in our reader's poll. Photo by Fabrice Coffrini / AFP

The process of applying for citizenship in Switzerland can sometimes be long and frustrating in Switzerland. Unlike in other countries, the decisions here are made from bottom up — first, communal officials must approve the application, then cantonal ones, and federal at the end.

On May 7th, The Local asked its readers to share their own naturalisation  stories— shockingly onerous or surprisingly easy.

Participants in the survey

Of those who participated in our poll, more than half — 53.8 percent — got their Swiss passports one to three years ago; 38.5 percent have been naturalised for more than 11 years, and 7.7 percent up to a decade.

The verdict: most responses were positive

An overwhelming majority — 69.2 percent — rated their experience as positive and said they would recommend the naturalisation process to other foreigners.

READ MORE: Naturalisation through marriage: How your partner can obtain Swiss citizenship

What was the most positive part of the process, other than the citizenship itself?

For Michael Savage from the United States it was “the feeling of belonging”, while David Forster from the UK said he valued the “community spirit” in his village.

Michael from Finland enjoyed “completing the local integration class and learning about my community and canton”.

What was most surprising about the process of becoming a Swiss citizen?

The reasons cited included both positive and negative impressions.

How to apply for Swiss citizenship: An essential guide

While for some respondents the process was “traumatising” and “incompetent”,  others had a more positive assessment.

“The test was very straightforward and nothing more than a friendly chat with the mayor of the village”, explained  Zoran Lalvani from the UK.

For John Smith, also from the UK, “friendliness of the staff” made the experience more pleasant.

Michael Savage was pleasantly surprised that there was “no history/culture test in Geneva for facilitated naturalisation – it was very easy”.

Trevor Kilbey from the UK was surprised that “I did not have to speak Swiss German”.

And Lisa Crump from the United States was surprised to be asked for a “current” birth certificate.

“Strange, you are only born once and that does not change”, she said.

Dr. Robert Schinagl from the USA, however, had the ultimate surprise: “The military has been attempting to recruit me for national service”.

But some respondents were frazzled by the amount of paperwork needed for the naturalisation process and the length of time it takes.

“Months and months go by with nothing seeming to be happening”, said Michael from Finland.

Has getting the citizenship made you feel more Swiss?

Most respondents said ‘yes’, citing reasons ranging from practical to emotional.

“Of course. Now we can vote”, said Lisa Crump.

For Dr. Robert Schinagl, getting a Swiss passport “allows me greater global mobility”, while Jerry Cappellania from Italy said being Swiss “made me feel more part of a community”.

Sometimes, it is a matter of not having to answer too many troublesome questions.

“My parents are Turkish/Indian, and I was born and raised in the U.K. So when I don’t want to explain my life story, it’s an easy answer to give”, Zoran Lalvani said.

And since becoming a Swiss citizen, “I now love fondue”, said Chris from Canada.

Since getting his citizenship, Michael from Finland has a new perspective of naturalisation.

“I am less tolerant of immigrants who spend decades here and don’t make any effort to integrate, learn their local language etc.”, he said.

“For someone who has spent years of effort integrating, it’s irritating. This is why the citizenship process is special to me. It’s difficult for a reason and this is how it should remain”.

COMPARE: Which European countries have the toughest rules for gaining citizenship?

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LIVING IN SWITZERLAND

Meals, commuting and ‘home office’: What can you claim on tax in Zurich?

Working from home has been mandatory in Zurich for much of the past tax year. What can you claim on tax - and what costs do you have to bear yourself?

Meals, commuting and 'home office': What can you claim on tax in Zurich?

On Thursday, February 17th, the Swiss government rolled back the working from home recommendation, meaning that working from home was purely up to employers for the first time since the start of the pandemic. 

Technological advances and the enduring legacy of the pandemic will see working from home – known in German as ‘Home Office’ – become more common in several industries in the coming years, which has clear tax implications. 

These can be relatively complex, particularly as many of the tax rules are in place at a cantonal level. 

Here’s an overview of what you can claim in Zurich – and what you cannot – when it comes to working from home. 

For a general guide on tax rules in Switzerland when it comes to working from home, check out the following link.

Reader question: Can I deduct working-from-home costs from my Swiss taxes?

Don’t live in Zurich – or want to know what costs other than working from home you can deduct? Check out the following extensive guide. 

EXPLAINED: What can I deduct from my tax bill in Switzerland?

What tax deductions can I have working from home in Zurich? 

Along with Zug, Geneva and Basel (both City and Country), Zurich allows residents to claim professional expenses as they would in a normal year, i.e. despite the Covid pandemic.

This means that you can claim meal costs and transport to work, even if you worked from home during this time. 

You can claim up to CHF15 per day, or 3,200 francs per year in Zurich. 

If you employer offers subsidised meals, you can claim a maximum of CHF7.50 per day (or CHF1,600)

Regarding transport costs, you can deduct up to CHF3,000 per year for your commute. 

This includes public transport, bicycles and mopeds. 

If you travel by private car, you can only deduct this if it is difficult to take public transport.

This is deemed to be the case if both your home and workplace are more than a kilometre from the nearest public transport stop, or if more than one hour is saved by travelling by car (per day). 

If you are unable to travel by public transport due to an injury, then you are permitted to deduct your car expenses. 

What about rent, electricity and other working-from-home expenses? 

While several Swiss cantons allow you to claim expenses of working from home like rent, electricity etc, Zurich authorities have expressly ruled this out. 

As the above costs (transport and meal allowances) have been kept in place, this is seen as a form of compromise. 

Taxpayers in Zurich are also able to claim the flat-rate deduction for all professional costs associated with working from home that are not covered by the employer, although this is only in relatively narrow scenarios. 

“This solution is advantageous for most taxpayers” say Zurich cantonal authorities. 

As with all our tax reports, this is intended as a guide only and should not take the place of qualified tax advice. More Zurich-specific information is available at this link. 

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