Swiss citizenship by descent

Article Breakdown

Swiss citizenship by descent

Rounded Switzerland Flag IconRegardless of place of birth, Switzerland recognizes the acquisition of Swiss citizenship by paternal or maternal descent, known as jus sanguinis.

Swiss passports are ranked as some of the best passports in the world, thanks to the high mobility they provide in terms of visa-free access.

A Swiss passport can be obtained through descent, marriage, or by staying in the country for a particular period of time. However, the naturalisation process can be lengthy and complicated.

Art. 1 SCA Acquisition by descent

The Swiss Nationality Law (Swiss Citizenship Law, or SCA) states:

  1. The following persons are Swiss citizens from birth:
    a.    a child whose parents are married to each other and whose father or mother is a Swiss citizen;
    b.    a child of a female Swiss citizen who is not married to the child’s father.

  2. A minor foreign child of a Swiss father who is not married to the child’s mother acquires Swiss citizenship as if at birth by establishing the father’s paternity.

  3. If a minor child who acquires Swiss citizenship under paragraph 2 has children, the children also acquire Swiss citizenship.

Eligible candidates can apply for Swiss citizenship at the Swiss federal government or by official decision of the competent authority.

The application procedures for those residing abroad, as well as information on dual citizenship, are provided at the bottom of this article.

Unlike in many other nations, a newborn born on Swiss soil does not automatically acquire Swiss citizenship. If the child meets the following criteria, he or she will be Swiss:

  1. A foreign child under the age of 22 who was not included in a parent’s naturalization and has lived in Switzerland for five years, including one year immediately prior to the application a child of a parent who lost their Swiss citizenship but can demonstrate close ties to Switzerland Learn more about renaturalization.
  2. A child born abroad with another citizenship and at least one Swiss parent loses its Swiss citizenship when they reach the age of 25 unless they tell a Swiss authority – either at home or abroad – that they want to keep their Swiss citizenship.

The Swiss voted in 2017 to make it simpler for third-generation immigrants to get Swiss citizenship through naturalization procedures. More information can be found here.

How to Apply for Naturalization by Birth or Descent

If you match the conditions for applying for Swiss citizenship by birth or ancestry, you will be eligible for the streamlined naturalization process. The particular procedure will be determined by your canton.

The application process might take up to 12 months and can be done through the SEM or your local canton. In addition to meeting the birth/descent criteria, you must provide evidence of:

  • Having intimate ties to Switzerland (spending time in the country, speaking the local language, having a fundamental understanding of Swiss society)
  • Demonstrating respect for public security, public order, and Swiss values

To verify your eligibility, you must submit an application form along with several statements and questionnaires. The application fee for adults is currently CHF 600. Children under the age of 18 can apply for free, unless the applicant has a Swiss father who is not married to the applicant’s mother. The charge in this situation is CHF 350.

On the Swiss government website, you can find detailed information on how to apply for citizenship as a child of married parents or an unmarried mother, or as a child of an unmarried Swiss husband.

Naturalization

Switzerland Passport CoverSwiss born children do not instantly obtain Swiss citizenship, unlike in classic immigration countries such as the United States and Australia that work with jus soli.

In the case of an application for conventional naturalization in Switzerland, the cantonal authority of the place of residency; in the case of an application for simplified naturalisation or reinstatement of citizenship filed abroad, the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM).

A child of married parents, at least one of whom has the Swiss nationality; a child of an unmarried Swiss mother; and a child of an unmarried Swiss father, if he confirms fatherhood before the child reaches the legal age. If one of the two parents is Swiss, the child is granted Swiss nationality.

Those who are not qualified for simplified naturalization can apply for Swiss nationality through conventional naturalization after ten years of continuous residence in Switzerland. Anyone who meets the residency criteria and holds a C residence permit is eligible.

Years spent in Switzerland between the ages of 8 and 18 count double, which means that persons under the age of 18 can apply for Swiss citizenship after five years if they meet other requirements.

If you seek to become Swiss citizens as a couple, you must both fulfill the 10-year minimum. If one of the couple becomes a citizen before the marriage, the partner married to a Swiss spouse is eligible for citizenship after five years of Swiss residence and three years as a spouse.

You must apply for citizenship via ordinary naturalization at three levels of Swiss authorities: confederation, canton, and commune. While federal standards are the same for all candidates, they vary greatly between different cantons and communes.

Some cantons or communes, for example, may allow brief periods of time spent living outside Switzerland within the residency requirement term, while others may not.

Some may also apply separate criteria to nationals of the EU and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA). Your canton’s requirements for obtaining Swiss citizenship can be found here.

Dual citizenship for Swiss citizens

Dual nationality is unrestricted in Switzerland, so any Swiss citizen is allowed to obtain as many passports as he/she chooses.

However, nationals of certain nations may lose their original nationality if their home country’s law prohibits dual citizenship and they plan to become Swiss citizens.

Loss of Swiss citizenship

Switzerland Coat of ArmsA child born abroad with another citizenship and at least one of whose parents is Swiss, loses the Swiss passport when they reach the age of 25 unless a Swiss authority abroad or in Switzerland is notified of their birth by their 25th birthday or if they have declared in writing that they wish to retain Swiss citizenship. Children of people who have lost their Swiss citizenship as a result of Art. 7, para. 1 SCA, likewise lose their Swiss citizenship.

In summary, according to Swiss law individuals can lose their Swiss citizenship in four ways:

  1. Forfeiture: A child born from one or two Swiss parents born abroad who has another nationality automatically forfeits Swiss nationality when they reach the age of 25 unless their birth has been reported to a Swiss embassy abroad or in Switzerland, or they have declared in writing that they wish to remain a Swiss citizen.
  2. Release: Any Swiss citizen residing abroad who possesses another nationality may petition to the Swiss representation abroad to renounce Swiss citizenship.
  3. Declaration of nullity: anyone who makes false claims or conceals important facts during the naturalization procedure may have their Swiss passport revoked up to eight years later. The lost Swiss citizenship in those cases is almost impossible to obtain again.
  4. Revocation: A dual national may have their Swiss citizenship revoked if their actions are severely harmful to Switzerland’s interests or reputation. This option is only considered in extreme instances, such as when the person who acquired Swiss citizenship has been convicted of war crimes or terrorism. In these cases of lost Swiss citizenship, it cannot be regained.

Useful Swiss associations abroad

For a non Swiss citizen or Swiss national alike, the following sites might be useful when starting the Swiss nationality journey:

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