There are three ways in which you can acquire Swiss citizenship:
- Citizenship through paternal or maternal descent, the ‘ius sanguinis’, is the most common way.
- Acquiring Swiss citizenship by means of naturalisation (i.e. by official decision) is steadily becoming more common; all the various procedures will be explained on these pages.
- Swiss citizenship can also be acquired through adoption by a Swiss parent.
Citizenship by descent
Many countries, including Switzerland, recognise the ‘ius sanguinis’, i.e. the rule that citizenship is determined or acquired by the nationality of a person’s mother or father. In addition to Switzerland, Germany and Austria, for example, also recognise this rule. There are also countries that recognise the ‘ius soli’, i.e. the rule that citizenship is acquired by being born in the country concerned. These countries include those that have historically seen high levels of immigration, such as the USA, South American countries, Canada and Australia, but not Switzerland.
Citizenship by means of naturalisation or reinstatement of citizenship
Switzerland recognises three ways of acquiring Swiss citizenship through an official decision. These take account of the various circumstances that may apply to foreign citizens:
- Ordinary naturalisation is the option for foreign citizens who have lived for at least 10 years in Switzerland, three of which must be in the five years before they file their application for citizenship, and who hold a permanent residence permit (C permit);
- Simplified naturalisation is the option primarily for persons who:
- are married to a Swiss citizen;
- were born in Switzerland and belong to the third generation of a family of foreign citizens living in Switzerland.
In addition, Switzerland has other simplified naturalisation procedures, such as the procedure for people who are stateless.
- Reinstatement of citizenship is the option for people who have lost their Swiss citizenship at some point in the past following forfeiture, relief or loss of citizenship.
Citizenship through adoption by a swiss parent
Swiss citizenship can only be acquired through adoption if the person who is adopted was under the age of majority (i.e. 18) at the time of adoption and the adoption has given the child concerned the full legal status of a biological child of the adoptive parent(s). If these requirements are not met, the child does not acquire Swiss citizenship, and is not eligible for simplified naturalisation either.
Rights and obligations
A person who acquires Swiss citizenship also acquires certain rights and obligations, such as the right to vote and to stand for election, and the obligation to do military service.
Federal Act on Swiss Citizenship (Swiss Citizenship Act)
(SCA, CC 141.0, in force from 1.1.2018)
Verordnung über das Schweizer Bürgerrecht (Bürgerrechtsverordnung)
(BüV, SR 141.01, in Kraft ab 1.1.2018)
(Ordinance on the Swiss Citizenship. Available in German, French and Italian)
Botschaft des Bundesrats vom 4. März 2011 zur Totalrevision des Bundesgesetzes über das Schweizer Bürgerrecht
(Federal Council Dispatch of 4 March 2011 on the complete revision of the Federal Act on Swiss citizenship; this document is not available in English)
Erläuternder Bericht zur Totalrevision des Bundesgesetzes über das Schweizer Bürgerrecht
(Explanatory report on the complete revision of the Federal Act on Swiss Citizenship. This document is not available in English)
Erläuternder Bericht Entwurf zur Verordnung zum Bürgerrechtsgesetz (PDF, 303 kB, 13.07.2020)
(Commentary regarding the amendment of the Ordinance on the Swiss Citizenship. This document is not available in English)
Erläuterung zur Änderung der Bürgerrechtsverordnung (Personen der dritten Ausländergeneration (PDF, 132 kB, 13.07.2020)
(Commentary regarding the amendment of the Ordinance on the Swiss Citizenship (third generation foreigners). This document is not available in English)
Last modification 31.01.2024