What is the change? Switzerland has implemented new requirements for naturalization applicants.

What does the change mean? The Swiss Citizenship Act, which took effect Jan. 1, changed the Swiss residence requirements and instituted new integration requirements for naturalization applicants. The naturalization procedures and conditions are the same for all foreign nationals, whether they are EU or non-EU citizens.

  • Implementation time frame: Ongoing.
  • Visas/permits affected: Swiss citizenship.
  • Who is affected: Applicants for Swiss citizenship, specifically those who have resided in Switzerland on F, N or L permits. Years of residence while the applicant held one of these permits are either partially credited or not credited as part of the 10-year residence requirement.

Key changes: The changes to Switzerland’s citizenship requirements will touch on the following areas.

  • Residence in Switzerland. Applicants must have 10 years of residence in Switzerland, three of them in the last five years, before they may submit an application. Years of residence between the ages of 8 and 18 are counted twice. (Previously, this applied to years of residence between the ages of 10 and 20.) Before Jan. 1, naturalization applicants were required to have 12 years of residence, but the years of residence were counted in full if the applicant was in Switzerland with a permit, regardless of the permit type. The new law calculates years of residence depending on the type of permit, as defined below.
    • Years of residence when the applicant held a C, Ci or B permit are credited in full.
    • Years of residence when the applicant held an F permit are half credited.
    • Years of residence when the applicant held an N or L permit are not credited.
  • Integration requirements. Applicants must demonstrate a successful integration into Switzerland. Applicants must:
    • Have communications skills in one of Switzerland’s four national languages (German, French, Italian and Romansh). This translates to verbal skills of at least B1 and written skills of at least A2. Most cantons require that the language skills be in the language primarily spoken in the canton.
    • Have no criminal record, no debt or loss certificates and must pay taxes.
    • Respect the values of the Federal Constitution.
    • Either be employed or in educational training and not on social assistance programs.
      • Be familiar with Swiss living conditions, demonstrated through (1) knowledge of the country’s geography, history, politics, society; (2) participation in the social and cultural life of Swiss society; (3) and maintaining contacts with Swiss citizens.
      • Applicants who are married and/or have children must also be able to support the integration of their spouses and minor children.

Background: The Swiss Citizenship Act, or Federal Act on the Acquisition and Loss of Swiss Citizenship, was approved in June 2014 and implemented Jan. 1, 2018. Applications submitted before Jan. 1 are processed in accordance with the law as it stood when the application was submitted.

BAL Analysis: Those applying for Swiss citizenship should confirm that they meet the new residence and integration requirements before submitting their application. The changes to the residence requirement may delay some applicants who wish to apply for Swiss citizenship but who do not benefit from the changes to how years of residence are counted. Cantons frequently apply additional requirements so exact processes may differ depending on the applicant’s location.

This alert has been provided by the BAL Global Practice group and our network provider located in Switzerland. For additional information, please contact your BAL attorney.

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