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


How do the Swiss celebrate Ascension Day?

Ascension Day is on Thursday May 18th this year. Here’s how the Swiss celebrate it - and where.

How do the Swiss celebrate Ascension Day?

In Switzerland, May 18th marks Ascension Day, one of the few Swiss nationwide public holidays – alongside Christmas Day and New Year’s Day – to be celebrated in every canton with a day off work.

Ascension Day, which is synonymous with the German and Austrian holiday Christi Himmelfahrt, is in fact equated with Sunday, so shops in Switzerland are closed all day.

How Ascension Day celebrated in Switzerland?

While most people living in Switzerland look forward to kicking off the extended weekend with a relaxing getaway, some traditions to celebrate Ascension day are still observed in many cantons.

Once upon a time, ceremonial processions to mark Ascension day, which would see the Swiss walk through fields and meadows, were prevalent in most Catholic regions across Switzerland.

However, today, only a few rural communities in Lucerne carry out these traditional Ascension day processions, known as Auffahrstumritt, in their original religious form.

The oldest, largest and by far most popular Ascension day procession takes place every year in Beromünster when around 1,000 people travel some 18 kilometres to meditate, pray and walk among like-minded people, listen to sermons by the clergy and/or receive blessings.

Each year, the procession – which lasts around eight-and-a-half hours – takes residents and visitors along a centuries-old path through various towns and villages. Following that, more people – sometimes up to 5,000 – join in for a large celebration to mark the end of the procession and in turn, Ascencion day.

Swiss city of Lucerne

The Swiss city of Lucerne. Photo: Geertje Caliguire on Unsplash

READ ALSO: When are the Swiss public holidays in your canton in 2023?

The municipality of Sempach and the city of Lucerne also maintain similar traditions.

In Liestal, an industrial town based in the canton of Basel-Land, residents celebrate a so-called Banntag (community boundary day) on the Monday prior to Ascension day.

On Banntag, all male Liestal residents, men whose hometown is Liestal, as well as all their male guests and school-age children of both sexes stroll along the boundaries of their municipality.

On the day, residents are divided into four groups based on their family ties and neighbourhood with a leader, fife, drum band, and fancy flag to boot.

The Banntag traditionally starts at 6 am with a shooting demonstration by the marksmen in the Rathausstrasse, following which the town gate bell is rung to gather the townspeople. At 8 am the groups then begin the 26-kilometre march along communal boundaries, followed by a few rounds of bar hopping in Liestal’s taverns.