What should you know when you apply for the Swiss citizenship

If you want to live and work in Switzerland for an extensive period of time you should consider applying for the Swiss citizenship, not only for tax purposes, but also because you have easier access to the facilities offered by the Swiss government through various special programs. However, before you decide to apply for the Swiss citizenship, there are some important things that you should consider.

Swiss citizenship is obtained through two distinctive processes

The ordinary or regular naturalization process is the one most people who want to apply for the Swiss citizenship must go through. The simplified naturalization is a shorter process, less complicated, but it’s usually open for foreign spouses and children of Swiss citizens. The fact that third generation foreigners should be allowed to go through facilitated naturalization is up for voting on February 12 2017. By comparison, in 2015, less than 25% of the citizenships obtained by naturalization were simplified.

Different sets of requirements to apply for the Swiss citizenship

The persons who want to obtain regular naturalization as foreigners, must meet several requirements laid out on three levels: by the Confederation, by each Swiss canton and by each commune. On federal level, the basic rules require that the applicant must have lived in Switzerland for at least 12 years (less time for those who spend their adolescence in Switzerland), they must abide to the Swiss laws, and they should pose no threat to the country, be familiar by Swiss customs and be well integrated. Usually, the cantons and the communes must decide how well the applicant for Swiss citizenship has integrated into local communities.

Living in the same canton makes a difference

Even though a person has lived for 12 years in Switzerland, the period of time spent in one place is also important. It’s more difficult to move from one canton to another and then apply for citizenship. Each canton has its own regulations and it’s expected to have lived for a considerable period of time in the respective canton before you apply for citizenship. For example, some cantons such as Bern and Geneva require only a two year residency, while others, such as Uri requiring eight uninterrupted years of residency in the canton. Therefore, it’s important to the legal requirement of each Swiss canton.

Cantonal and communal rules are very distinct

Just like each Swiss canton has its own requirements, the same applies for the communes, in order to establish how well a person has been integrated in the local communities. These factors include language skills, having friends and colleagues in the community, knowing local history and geography, knowing Swiss traditions, customs and politics and being financially solvent.

Local residents play an important part

Most Swiss cantons and communes require the applicants for Swiss citizenships to sustain interviews, in order to prove their integration and knowledge of Switzerland. In some cases, it is possible that a local committee of residents is gathered, in order to vote on the application, therefore it’s important to create and maintain good relationships with the locals.

Obtaining the Swiss citizenship takes some time

The length of this process varies, depending on the canton where the applicant lives, but it usually takes several years. It’s also important to note that if the applicant decides to move to another canton, it’s possible to have to start the process all over again, according to the regulations of the new canton.

Expect a costly process

Since obtaining the Swiss citizenship depends on three levels of authority, there are also three different fees to pay. The Swiss Confederation requires a fee varying between 50 – 150 CHF, but the costs set out by cantons and communes can come up significantly higher. For example, the canton of Zurich requires 500 CHF, while the basic rate for a citizenship application in Geneva is more than 900 CHF. The rate goes up the more a person earns. Adding to all of this the costs set out by the communes, the process of obtaining a Swiss citizenship is not only lengthy, but also quite costly.

The success rate depends on where you live

Usually, cantons in Western Switzerland are more generous when it comes to the number of naturalizations. The canton of Zurich naturalized the highest number of people in 2015, but it also has the largest population. Other cantons, such as Bern, while having a larger population than Geneva, for example, naturalized significantly less people.

However, if you are interested in obtaining the Swiss citizenship, the first step is to obtain a Swiss work and residence permit, which allows you to live and work in Switzerland for a certain period of time (depending on the type of permit).

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