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SWISS CITIZENSHIP

Which parts of Switzerland naturalise the most foreign residents?

Getting a Swiss citizenship is not a simple process anywhere in the country, but some cantons and municipalities are more willing to naturalise foreigners than others.

Which parts of Switzerland naturalise the most foreign residents?
Some cantons are more inclusive of foreigners than others. Photo by Etienne Girardet on Unsplash

For many foreigners, obtaining Swiss citizenship can be an uphill struggle; even those who are, according to all criteria, eligible to be naturalised, can encounter various difficulties along the way.

While on the federal level, naturalisation requirements — such as the length of residence, language skills, and integration — are clearly set for both ordinary and simplified procedures — various cantons and municipalities sometimes put up additional roadblocks that trip up even the most qualified candidates.

For instance, municipal and communal naturalisation committees have been known to deny citizenships to people who couldn’t answer questions about the origins of raclette cheese or about living arrangements of bears and wolves at a local zoo, among other rather arbitrary queries.

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

Which cantons and cities have the most inclusive citizenship laws?

Researchers from University of Neuchâtel’s National Center of Competence in Research (NCCR) looked at the average naturalisation rate in Switzerland in 2020 — the latest statistics available, which still hold true today.

They found that rate to be 1.6 percent for both ordinary and facilitated naturalisations, which means that for every 100 foreigners residing permanently in Switzerland, between one and two became Swiss during that year.

They also examined the “relative inclusiveness” of naturalisation regulations in Switzerland’s 26 cantons to see which are most open to granting citizenships.

They found that Zurich, Appenzell Ausserrhoden, and Jura have the most inclusive legislation in terms of criteria such as length of residence, language, integration, good moral character, and economic resources, while Aargau, Schwyz and Graubünden have the most restrictive.

In Aargau, for example, over 64 percent of voters approved in 2020 the measure recommended by their cantonal parliament for stricter naturalisation procedures, especially in terms of economic and cultural integration.

Where do you have highest chances of being naturalised?

Surprisingly enough, it is not necessarily in places you expect to be most foreigner-friendly — that is, cantons where most international residents live and work.

This data, which also comes from the NCCR, shows the sometimes-significant variations in naturalisation practices, with the rates both below and above the national average of 1.6 percent.

The lowest rate in 2020 (0.6 percent) was found in Glarus, and the highest — 2.3 percent — in Neuchâtel.

Other cantons with the above-average rate of naturalisation were Zurich, Vaud, and Schaffhausen; the lowest rate, besides Glarus, was found in Appenzell-Innerrhoden, Fribourg, Basel-Country, and Obwalden.

In terms of municipalities, however, Zurich, Geneva, Basel and Lausanne have recorded the highest numbers of ordinary and facilitated naturalisations over the past two decades.

This particular data is not suprpsrising, because these are also the cities with the highest proportion of foreign residents in Switzerland.

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

If you are thinking of getting naturalised in your canton, you can find out more information about your chances by contacting your local authority.

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For members

SWISS CITIZENSHIP

Is it easier for EU citizens to get Swiss citizenship?

Under Switzerland’s law, all foreigners whether EU or third county nationals are not considered "equal" in terms of residency and work permits. But what is the situation for citizenship?

Is it easier for EU citizens to get Swiss citizenship?

Nationals of the European Union and EFTA countries (Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein) have an almost limitless access to Switzerland’s labour market.

They can live and work in the country for up to three months without a permit, after which time they need to apply for a residence permit from the Swiss commune in which they live.

To do so, they must simply submit a valid identity card or passport, as well as official confirmation of employment or an employment contract.

This is a straight-forward, no-hassle process, and, in a vast majority of cases, a B permit is granted without a further ado.

READ ALSO: Just how freely can EU citizens move to (and within) Switzerland?

What about those from non-EU ‘third countries’?

But the procedure is not as simple for people coming from non-EU/EFTA (third countries), whose residence and employment in Switzerland is subject to very strict conditions.

They will be considered for a job (and a permit) only if they are a highly qualified and skilled professional.

This means they should have a degree from a university or an institution of higher education, as well as a number of years of professional work experience.

But that’s not all: they will be considered for a job only if no Swiss or EU / EFTA candidates can be found to fill the vacancy.

That is why out of about 2.3 million foreign residents in Switzerland, most come from EU nations.

Are the criteria for naturalisation different for the EU/EFTA and third-country citizens?

You might think that, but actually no.

The reason for this is that only foreigners who have obtained a C permit can apply for naturalisation — regardless of their nationality.

The difference lies in the ‘length of stay’ requirements for this permit.

Here too, EU/EFTA nationals have the edge, as they can ‘upgrade’ their B permit to a C after five years of continuous residence in Switzerland (and meeting other requirements like language proficiency and integration as well).

For citizens of third countries (including the UK), on the other hand, the obligatory wait time is 10 years, except for citizens of the United States and Canada, for whom the wait is five years.

Once all those condition are met, all foreigners are eligible to apply for naturalisation.

In this sense, permit C is a great equaliser — everyone who has it, has the same access to naturalisation procedures, with the only difference being the residency time required before applying.

But in this regard too there are some variables

The above rules apply to those seeking an ordinary naturalisation; foreigners who are eligible for a fast-track process (such as people married to Swiss citizens or foreigners born and raised in Switzerland) benefit from a simpler procedure, regardless of what country they came from.

Are EU/EFTA nationals more likely to be granted citizenship than people from third countries?

Officially at least, everyone who is eligible for naturalisation must be treated the same way; judging candidates by their nationality would be an act of discrimination, and therefore illegal.

However, based on anecdotal evidence, people of all nationalities (both those from the EU/EFTA and not) have been known to have their bid for citizenship rejected, often for arbitrary reasons — such as now knowing animals in a local zoo (an Italian citizen) or not being sufficiently familiar with the region’s geography (American).

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

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