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SWISS CITIZENSHIP

Why your Swiss citizenship application might be rejected – and how to avoid it

The strict criteria for obtaining a Swiss passport means that a number of candidates get turned down. Here’s what you should know about increasing your chances of being naturalised.

There are steps to take to ensure that path to Swiss naturalisation is clear. Photo byMatthieu Alexandre/AFP
There are steps to take to ensure that path to Swiss naturalisation is clear. Photo byMatthieu Alexandre/AFP

How quick and easy (or slow and painstaking) the process of obtaining Swiss citizenship is depends on many factors, including whether you are going through a simplified or regular naturalisation.

But in either case, the surest way for your application to be rejected is because you are not eligible for citizenship in the first place, or you don’t provide all the required paperwork.

For the ordinary naturalisation, the tougher of the two types of procedures, eligibility rules are stricter and you typically need to provide more documentation.

These are some grounds for rejecting your application for ordinary naturalisation:

You don’t have a permanent residence C permit and / or have not lived in Switzerland continually for at least 10 years.

“The years you have spent in Switzerland between the ages of 8 and 18 count double, but you must have actually lived in Switzerland for at least six years”, according to to the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM).

This includes time spent in the country with a B or Ci permit, as well as a legitimation card issued by the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs.

READ MORE: I thought I was Swiss? How being mistaken as a national can put you on the road to citizenship

Your application will not be accepted, however, if you have lived in Switzerland only as an asylum seeker (N permit) or on a short stay L permit.

Additionally, cantons require a minimum residence period of between two and five years in the commune and in the canton.

You are not sufficiently integrated

Social integration plays a very important part in the citizenship process. This includes  the ability to communicate in the national language of your region, with candidates having to demonstrate an A2 level writing ability and B1 spoken skills under the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages.

Just as essential is acceptance of the Swiss way of life and local customs, as well as good knowledge of your commune and general geographical area where you live.

Not paying your taxes on time, being the subject of debt collection proceedings, having unpaid debts and a criminal record are also sure signs that your application will be refused.

READ MORE: Reader question: What does being ‘successfully integrated’ in Switzerland mean?

Some of these requirements may be difficult to assess until the candidate is invited for a face-to-face meeting, but if it becomes obvious from your application form that you fall short in any of these categories, then your candidacy will be refused.

You receive social assistance

Depending on public money to support yourself is not well seen in Switzerland if you are a foreigner seeking to be naturalised.

In fact, your application for Swiss citizenship will be turned down if you have been on welfare in the three years prior to applying.

An exception is made if the benefits are paid back in full before your application is received.

READ MORE: How applying for social benefits could see your Swiss work permit cancelled

Simplified naturalisation

As the name suggests, this is a fast(er) track to obtaining citizenship — for instance, if you are married to a Swiss national or were born in Switzerland to foreign parents.

But don’t let the word ‘simplified’ fool you: your application will be denied if you don’t meet certain criteria.

EXPLAINED: Why ‘simplified’ Swiss naturalisation is actually not that simple

Residence requirements

If your spouse is Swiss, you must live in Switzerland for at least five years, spend the year prior to submitting the application in Switzerland, be married to and living with the Swiss citizen for at least three years.

If you don’t fulfil these requirements, your application will not be accepted.

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

Third-generation foreign national

You’d think that if you were born and grew up in Switzerland, your naturalisation would be easy and your candidacy would be approved without further ado.

But even if you consider yourself Swiss and have never lived in another country, you are still on shaky ground if you fail to meet certain conditions:

  • At least one of your grandparents was born in Switzerland and can be proven to have acquired a right of residence here.
  • At least one parent has acquired a permanent residence permit, lived for at least 10 years in Switzerland and attended compulsory schooling in this country for at least five years.
  • You were born in Switzerland and hold a permanent residence permit.
  • You have attended compulsory schooling for at least five years in Switzerland.
  • You are successfully integrated.
  • You submit your application before your 25th birthday.
  • If you submit the application after your 25th birthday but otherwise meet all the requirements, you can apply for simplified naturalisation until February 55, 2023 provided you will still be under the age of 40 on that date.

If any of these criteria is not met, your application will be — you guessed it — denied.

READ MORE: Would you pass a Swiss citizenship test?

Here’s how to avoid being a “reject”

Before you get all your required paperwork together and send it to appropriate cantonal authorities, familiarise yourself with all the requirements for your particular case and category.

How to apply for Swiss citizenship: An essential guide

Don’t just send out your applications hoping nobody will notice that you don’t qualify — they will.

If you do meet all the criteria for naturalisation, make sure you have the documents needed to prove your eligibility.

More information (in German, French, and Italian) can be found here.

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LIVING IN SWITZERLAND

‘The right decision’: Why foreign residents are moving from Swiss cities to the country

For some international residents surveyed by The Local, moving away from Switzerland’s urban centres is the right move — literally and figuratively. Here’s why.

‘The right decision’: Why foreign residents are moving from Swiss cities to the country

The transition from town to country  is not a new phenomenon but it has grown significantly since the start of the Covid pandemic, when many people — Swiss and foreigners alike —  moved from cramped cities to smaller towns and villages.

To many people, this kind of relocation made even more sense given the work-from-home requirement that had been in place off and on during the pandemic.

“There was a Covid effect on a desire for the countryside. We can say that the coronavirus worked as a kind of trigger”, Joëlle Salomon-Cavin, lecturer at the Institute of Geography and Sustainability at the University of Lausanne (UNIL), said in an interview with RTS public broadcaster.

The pandemic, however, has not been the only catalyst at play. A study carried out jointly by UNIL and the Federal Polytechnic Institute of Lausanne found three major reasons for the move: the search for a better balance in life, the desire for a less urban and more ecological way of life, and the quest for personal well-being.

Foreign residents are no exception when it comes to a desire for a simpler, greener, and less stressful life — at least this is what emerges from the answers to The Local survey.

On January 25th, we asked our readers to share their experiences of moving from cities to countryside, including their reasons for doing so, and whether they are happy with the choice they made.

READ MORE: Have your say: What to expect when you move to the Swiss countryside

This is what they told us

Most respondents had mostly positive things to say about the move.

Stephen Farmer moved from Basel to Büsserbach in canton Solothurn because he wanted to buy a house with a garden “and get more peace and quiet”.

In hindsight, “it was absolutely the right decision and I’ve never been happier”.

Before he moved, “several people told me that rural Swiss don’t like foreigners and it would be difficult for me to be accepted. But the people in my village are friendly and I found it easier to make Swiss friends here than in Basel”.

Many foreigners prefer living in Swiss countryside. Photo by Tim Trad on Unsplash

Steve Fors relocated from Zurich to Remigen in Aargau “for more space and slower pace”.

“It was the best decision”, he said. “We love our flat and village. We’ve found great friends in our neighbours and I work remotely three days a week”.

No regrets either for another reader who moved from Zurich to Walensee in St. Gallen “in order to be closer to nature and enjoy three to four times more space for the same rent”.

Since making the move, he “found more time to read and focus on things I was passionate about”.

His conclusion: “I would never move back to a large city, especially after the past two years”.

Yet another reader relocated from Basel to Lenzerheide in Graubünden but rented out the Basel apartment “in case we want to move back one day”.

So far, however, there are no regrets or desire to go back. “Quality of life is much better here and taxes are lower. I can also ski for an hour at lunchtime or go for a hike”.

Das moved from Bern to Frauenkappellen. While he was surprised by the lack of non-Europeans in the village, “it was a good decision otherwise, both in terms of people and space”.

Sometimes, the readers are brave enough to move from one linguistic region to another, as was the case for John Aran, who relocated from Swiss-German Schaffhausen to Valais in the French-speaking part.

He found the people in his new home “much more friendly”.

“I hope I won’t regret it”

While most of the responses to our poll were positive, some readers were less enthused about their move away from larger cities.

Filip, who moved from Zurich to Wädenswil to be closer to his son’s school, said their new small town “feels lonely somehow. There is hardly anyone around during the day”.

Another transplant, Sandra Shibata, who left Geneva for Valais, found it harder to make friends in her new town. “I hope I won’t regret this decision”, she said.

One reader who also made the move from Geneva to Valais offered a more scathing review of her new home:  “Valais is super backward, sexist, and xenophobic, and job hunting is a nightmare here”.

READ MORE: Where do Switzerland’s foreigners all live?

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