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The Swiss citizenship law
The current legislation on Swiss nationality is based on the following principles:
- Citizenship rights at three levels: communal, cantonal and Swiss federal citizenship rights
- Acquisition of nationality by descent
- Equal rights for men and women
- Entitlement to Swiss nationality (naturalisation, simplified naturalisation)
Swiss law permits dual nationality; in other words the acquisition of foreign citizenship rights does not affect Swiss citizenship rights. However certain countries demand that a person who acquires the nationality of that country must renounce previous citizenship rights.
More than half of all Swiss nationals residing abroad are also nationals of another state, usually the state in which they live. These dual nationals are treated solely as nationals of the country of residence by the authorities of that country. This general rule can have certain consequences if a Swiss national needs help in matters relating to consular protection or welfare, since the law of the country of residence normally applies.
The various forms of naturalisation which persons who live abroad can apply for are described below (the Articles cited are from the Nationality Law). The procedure to file an application is explained at the end.
Foreign Spouse of a Swiss National Resident Abroad (Article 28)
Article 28 states:
"A foreign spouse of a Swiss national who lives or has lived abroad can submit an application for simplified naturalisation if he/she:
a. has been married to and living with the Swiss national for six years and
b. has close connections with Switzerland."
The requirements in general:
Since 1 January 1992, men and women have been treated equally when they marry a foreign national. Thus, on the one hand a woman with foreign nationality does not automatically acquire Swiss nationality through marriage to a Swiss national. On the other hand the foreign spouse of a Swiss national (man or woman) can submit an application for simplified naturalisation to the relevant Swiss mission under the circumstances mentioned. Besides six years of matrimony the Law requires the applicant to have close connections with Switzerland. The following conditions must largely be met, either cumulatively or individually:
a. holidays regularly spent in Switzerland
b. close contact with Swiss Clubs abroad
c. close connections with persons living in Switzerland (particularly with relatives and friends of the Swiss spouse)
d. ability to communicate in a Swiss national language or Swiss dialect.
Child of a Swiss father not married to the mother (Article 58c)
The effect of the former Article 31, replaced by Article 58c from 1 January 2006, is as follows:
If a child born before 1 January 2006 with foreign nationality has a Swiss father who is not married to the mother, the child did not automatically become Swiss. If the father acknowledges the child before he/she reaches the age of majority, the child can submit an application for simplified naturalisation before reaching the age of 22. After the age of 22, the child can submit an application for simplified naturalisation provided he/she has a close relationship with Switzerland.
Child born before 1 July 1985 whose mother is Swiss (Article 58a)
Article 58a states:
"A child with foreign nationality who was born before 1 July 1985, and whose mother was a Swiss citizen before or at the time of the birth, can submit an application for simplified naturalisation if he/she has close connections with Switzerland".
From 1 January 2006 the same applies to children of a Swiss father married to the mother who have not been registered with the Swiss authorities before the age of 22. An application for simplified naturalisation can be submitted providing the applicant has close connections with Switzerland. Article 21 applies in such cases.
Re-naturalisation of women who previously had Swiss nationality (Article 58)
A Swiss woman who, before 1 January 1992, lost her Swiss nationality by marrying a foreign national - because she did not sign the declaration of intention to retain her Swiss nationality which was necessary at that time and already had the nationality of her husband at the time of the marriage or acquired it through marriage - can submit an application for re-naturalisation if she has a close relationship with Switzerland.
Re-naturalisation of children who previously had Swiss nationality (Article 21)
A child born abroad who is a national of another country besides Switzerland loses his/her Swiss nationality if he/she does not register with a Swiss mission before reaching the age of 22 at the latest.
Article 21 states: "A person who, for reasons which may be excused, has omitted to register or to make a declaration as required by Article 10 and who has thereby forfeited his/her Swiss nationality can submit an application if he/she has close connections with Switzerland."
Naturalisation for foreign children of a parents who lost Swiss citizenship before their birth (Article 31b) or who had to give up Swiss citizenship in order to acquire or keep a foreign nationality (Article 23)
A foreign child who could not become Swiss because the parent lost Swiss citizenship (Article 31b) or had to give up Swiss citizenship in order to acquire or keep a foreign nationality (Article 23) before his/her birth, can apply for simplified naturalisation if he/she has close relationship with Switzerland.
In order to apply for simplified naturalisation or re-naturalisation the correct application form must be requested from the relevant Swiss mission. In addition to the application a questionnaire must be completed and, depending on the case, registry office certificates must be enclosed. The Swiss mission checks the application after it is submitted. Applicants over the age of 18 must visit the Swiss Embassy for a personal interview to allow their connections to Switzerland as well as their knowledge in Swiss geography, history, politics, culture etc. to be assessed.
Following this the full application is forwarded to the Federal Department of Justice and Police which, as the Department responsible for simplified naturalisations and re-naturalisations, takes the final decision.
The total costs, depending on the relevant Article, age of the applicants and submitted documents, must be paid when the application is submitted.
In all cases the procedure tends to be relatively prolonged, since every application from around the world is dealt with by the same office. You should therefore be prepared to wait for up to two years. Please do not make inquiries with the Swiss mission or directly with the authorities in Switzerland during this period.
The decision together with its date of entry into force are sent to the applicant via the relevant Swiss mission. Once the applicant has been naturalised, he/she will have to register with the Swiss mission competent for his/her place of residence.
If a Swiss passport or identity card is required after the naturalisation, a certificat of civil status has to be ordered at the newly acquired place of origin. No new Swiss documents can be obtained for a naturalised person without a certificate of civil status.