For members


Why Swiss naturalisation is ‘easier for highly qualified people’

Professional people have an easier path to naturalisation in Switzerland, while experience and country of origin are also important factors. Here's what you need to know.

People walk through the streets of the Swiss capital of Bern
If you want to become Swiss, a good education or set of qualifications is the key factor. Photo by Prateek Mahesh on Unsplash

In principle, foreigners who have lived in Switzerland for at least 10 years, have a permanent residence C permit, speak a national language of the region in which they live, and are socially integrated, can obtain Swiss citizenship.

But in reality, the process is often more subjective and less straight forward.

OPINION: Why it’s almost impossible for foreigners to become fully integrated Swiss citizens

‘Easier for highly qualified people’

What is clear is that your country of origin and your level of education are the major factors underpinning naturalisation in Switzerland. 

“Naturalisation procedure has become easier for highly qualified people, while the hurdles are now higher than they used to be for the less educated”, Walter Leimgruber, president of the Federal Migration Commission said in an interview with SRF public broadcaster.

Another factor that plays a role is the country of origin. Official statistics for 2020, for instance, show that roughly 30 percent of those who have been naturalised that year come from European nations, while only six percent are from Africa, Asia and the Americas. 

Image: Federal Statistical Office

Germany versus Sri Lanka

As an example, SRF cites the canton of Lucerne, where almost twice as many Germans received Swiss citizenship in 2020 than in 2019, while the number of naturalised people from Sri Lanka fell by three quarters.

“Anyone who comes from Africa, Arab countries, or Sri Lanka often has no chance”, according to Felix Kuhn, head of Lucerne’s naturalisation commission.

The effects of this selection process could be problematic in the long term, Leimgruber said.

“This leads to a two-class society. Certain immigrants have found that citizenship remains unattainable and they feel unwelcome. As a result, they become resigned and indifferent” and don’t even try to integrate into Swiss society.

Leimgruber is calling for the naturalisation criteria to become less strict, especially in regards to language exams, as “these tests disadvantage uneducated people”.

READ MORE: How to apply for Swiss citizenship: An essential guide

Facts behind the statistics

However, the SRF report doesn’t go into details about why fewer candidates from outside Europe become naturalised.

That’s because the number of immigrants from third-nations, including from Asian and African countries mentioned in the report, is considerably lower than from EU / EFTA states.

The latter enjoy easier access to Switzerland due to the Free Movement of Persons agreement the country has with the European Union.

Third-country nationals, on the other hand, don’t have these privileges.

Another factor, experience, has also been shown as crucial, particularly in management roles. 

According to an official government site, “only qualified non-EU/EFTA nationals, for example managers, specialists or university graduates with several years of professional experience, may work in Switzerland”. 

For Non-EU/EFTA nationals, however, including people from the UK and US “the number of permits issued is limited”.

And as unskilled and uneducated people from third countries have a much more difficult path to a permanent work / residency permit, their chances of obtaining Swiss citizenship are lower as well.

READ MORE: Nine things you need to know about work permits in Switzerland

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For members


The story behind the mysterious Swiss mailbox stuck on the side of a mountain

If you want to mail a letter in the village of Staubern in the Swiss canton of Appenzell Innerrhoden, you’d better have a very long ladder or climbing rope.

The story behind the mysterious Swiss mailbox stuck on the side of a mountain

That is because the mailbox hangs 80 metres high on a rocky façade of the local mountain.

How did it get there in the first place?

In 2009, the Post Office scrapped mailboxes which they said were no longer profitable.

One of them was located at Staubern’s train station, where it had been in service for 45 years.

However, local restaurant owner Daniel Lüchinger did not remain neutral about this move.

To protest the Post’s decision, he took the yellow mailbox and screwed it into the rock wall at an altitude of 80 metres.

It has been hanging there ever since, according to reports in Swiss media on Tuesday. 

Despite its inconvenient location, the mailbox is still in use and is regularly emptied by Lüchinger himself or a mountain guide.

How exactly they manage to do that (or, for that matter, how do people drop their mail into the mailbox hanging 80 metres high on a rocky slope) remains a mystery — just as the well-guarded secret of the Appenzeller cheese. 

What else is there to know about Swiss mailboxes?

If you think there is nothing even remotely interesting about them, think again.

Urs Köchli, who has the official title of ‘Mr. Mailbox’ provides, on the website of Swiss Post, a glimpse into mailbox trivia.

For instance, there are currently 14,289 mailboxes across Switzerland, which may sound like like a ‘blah’ fact, but you should remember that number in case it comes up on your naturalisation exam. (And also find out how many there are in your local community; not knowing this may cost you your citizenship).

And here are some other facts:

Not all mailboxes are yellow

While the vast majority are, there are some exceptions.

Melchior Berri, the 19th-century Basel architect, designed green, gold, and black mailboxes,

Today, there are still six mailboxes of this type in the Basel area, classified as historical monuments. Five of them belong to individuals, and one to the Post Office.

Why are some mailboxes emptied in the evening and others in the morning?

Usually, the mail is collected in the morning, during the delivery round.

However, the mailboxes known for a large volume of mail are emptied in the evening.

How does the Post Office decide on the location of a mailbox?

In principle, there is a public mailbox in each post office branch.

For all other sites, the rule is that there must be mailboxes in places with a heavy flow of people, such as train stations, shopping centres, and public squares.

Is the Staubern mailbox the highest in Switzerland?

While it is the highest visible sign of rebellion, it is not the highest in altitude.

That title goes to the one located at 3,454 metres on the Jungfraujoch mountain in the Bernese Alps.

However, this is not the usual yellow, rectangle model. Rather it is a red Japanese mailbox that has been installed there since July 1993.

The reason, according to Mr. Mailbox, is that highest post offices in Japan and Switzerland – the Jungfraujoch and the Fujikawaguchiko — signed a partnership agreement at the time, which provided for each of the two countries to install one of mailboxes on the other’s mountain.