For members


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


‘Too soon’: Why Swiss MPs refused to ease naturalisation rules for some foreigners

The issue of simplifying the citizenship process for Swiss-born foreigners, which has been on Switzerland’s political agenda for years, has now been scrapped.

'Too soon': Why Swiss MPs refused to ease naturalisation rules for some foreigners

While some MPs have been calling for the loosening of the current requirements, thought to be too strict and difficult to fulfill, the majority of deputies voted to maintain the status quo.

The Council of States has vetoed  on Wednesday a parliamentary initiative of the National Council which sought to relax the criteria for the naturalisation procedure for Swiss-born grandchildren of immigrants.

This decision came a month after the Political Institutions Commission of the Council of States recommended that the parliament turn down any motions aimed at lowering the obstacles to naturalisation for this group of people — even though in 2017, voters approved facilitated naturalisation for Swiss-born grandchildren of immigrants.

READ MORE: Swiss lawmakers refuse to ease citizenship rules for third-generation immigrants 

After that ‘yes’ vote, more relaxed measures were introduced in 2018, though many restrictions still remain (see below).

This has prompted deputies from left-wing parties to push for further easing of the requirements.

“The procedure is still tedious, with significant administrative burden and obstacles,” according to Green MP Lisa Mazzone.

These motions have, however, been turned down on Wednesday because “facilitated naturalisation for the third generation was introduced only a few years ago and we must  wait for more information on the evolution of the situation before starting a new revision of the law,” said Marco Chiesa of the populist Swiss People’s Party (SVP), which has opposed laxer rules for these, or any other, foreigners.

READ ALSO: ‘Broken system’ – The fight to make it easier for foreigners to become Swiss

Why do people born in Switzerland have to be naturalised?

Unlike many other countries, being born in Switzerland doesn’t automatically mean the person is Swiss — even if they have lived their entire lives here.

If their parents were born abroad and still hold foreign passports, a person will not obtain Swiss citizenship at birth, but must be naturalised.

The Social Democratic party has been pushing for years for laws allowing citizenship by birth in a manner similar to the United States, France, and many other countries.

“Anyone who is born in the country, grows up, works, and spends his life here should also have the appropriate rights as a citizen. That is a democratic and human rights principle,” said socialist MP Paul Rechsteiner.

However, this plan has been encountering resistance, particularly from the SVP, who have consistently advocated for a tough naturalisation framework. 

READ MORE: How Switzerland’s Social Democrats want to introduce ‘citizenship by birth’

What are criteria for third-generation naturalisation?

Greens and Social Democrats have been trying (unsuccessfully so far) to relax the rules many in Switzerland consider too harsh.

Even after the new law was introduced in 2018, “the legal requirements are impossible to meet,” according to a report by the Federal Commission for Migration (FCM) “Thus, it is clear that facilitated naturalisation is not actually easier for the third generation, but rather more difficult.”

The burden of proof is very high and often, as FCM stated, difficult to meet.

For instance, at least one of the grandparents must have been born in Switzerland or it can be plausibly established that the grandparent had a B, C, L or A permit. 

Or, at least one of the parents had a C permit, had lived in Switzerland for at least 10 years and had completed at least five years of compulsory schooling here.

However, as the FCM pointed out, the documentation relating to grandparents could be difficult to obtain if they are deceased and no family records can be found.

And many parents who arrived in Switzerland later in life did not meet the five years of compulsory schooling  criteria, so eligibility for citizenship under this rule “is a real obstacle”, according to the study.

“For third-generation foreigners, the administrative burden inherent in the current procedure is unfairly high: while they themselves meet all the criteria, their application for naturalisation depends above all on the residence status of their parents,” the report said.

READ MORE: Third generation fast-track naturalisation in Switzerland: What you need to know 
All this doesn’t necessarily mean the efforts to introduce less stringent rules are definitely finished, but so far MPs haven’t indicated whether, or when, they will continue the battle.