History of Swiss nationality law

History of Swiss nationality law

1952 Reforms

- The national situation after the Second World War initiated new ideas and legislations regarding nationality and citizenship in Switzerland. On January 1 1953, a new citizenship law was implemented to “safeguard the rights of the individual and to strengthen the national community,” called the Federal Law on the Acquisition and Loss of Swiss Nationality. Under this law, citizenship was based on three tiers: municipal, cantonal and federal.

Obtaining Swiss Citizenship

- Legal Swiss citizenship is acquired at birth or marriage, or by naturalisation.


- Children born in Switzerland to Swiss parents automatically obtain Swiss nationality. An illegitimate child of a Swiss father and a foreign national mother could acquire nationality if he/she were recognized by the father as his child. A child born to a Swiss mother, regardless of father’s nationality, would acquire Swiss nationality at birth, regardless of the place of birth and assuming the child did not acquire any other nationality. This was implemented to benefit the children of stateless fathers. - Children born abroad to a Swiss national who was also born abroad lose their Swiss nationality at the end of their 22nd year. To avoid losing their Swiss nationality, the individual must give a notice that they have intentions to retain their nationality.


- Originally, this law mainly pertained to the plight of women; preventative measure so women could not acquire dual nationality. - A foreign woman marrying a Swiss national could acquire Swiss nationality and keep it if the marriage was void, so long as she was complying to the conditions of marriage and had renounced her original nationality.- A Swiss woman marrying a foreign national could retain her Swiss nationality provided she did not acquire the nationality of her husband. Also, she would have had to declare her intentions of retaining her Swiss nationality.


- The naturalisation process in Switzerland is one of the toughest in Europe.


Firstly, the individual must have lived for twelve years in Switzerland, and three of those years must have been within five years prior to the request for citizenship. If the individual lived in Switzerland between the ages of 10 – 20, years are counted as double, for example, if the individual lived in Switzerland while he/she was 12 until he/she was 16, those four years would legally count as eight years.

- The individual is not required by law to renounce his/her previous nationality.

- He/She must be integrated into a Swiss community, accustomed to Swiss way of life and practices, compliant with the Swiss legal system and does not compromise the internal or external security of Switzerland.

Process of application for naturalisation

- Phase One: a request must be made to the Aliens Police in the municipality of residence. Then the request is sent to the Federal Department of Justice and Police, and is authorized if the above requirements are met.

- Phase Two: authorization must be obtained from the canton and the municipality, both which may add specific conditions or increase the cost. Conditions and costs vary from region to region. Finally, a municipality may hold a communal vote to grant nationality. There have been instances where individuals have been turned away after their community voted against their being granted citizenship.

- Former Swiss nationals, women who have lost their Swiss nationality, or foreign nationals who have perceived themselves as Swiss for a minimum of five years may find the naturalisation process less rigorous, as it is possible for them to be naturalised without the consent of cantonal and municipal authorities, and for free.

Refusal/Renunciation of Naturalisaton

- Refusal must be in writing from Federal authorities. However, once citizenship is granted, it cannot be revoked.

- An individual would have their naturalisation renounced would be when the individual had dual citizenship and his/her activities were disadvantageous to Swiss interests or the reputation of the country. Also in the case of an individual over the age of 20, who has been released from his Swiss nationality by residing outside Switzerland for an extended period of time and either possesses another nationality or is promised one, he/she would be refused naturalisation."'

Current Law

The three levels of citizenship rights still exist: communal, cantonal and federal. Several amendments have been made to the 1953 Nationality Law. There is much more equality between men and women since the 1980’s, by 1990 all municipalities allowed women to right to vote in the communal decision of granting citizenship, and in 1992 men and women began to be treated equally when marrying a foreign national. Thus, a female foreign national does not automatically acquire Swiss nationality by marrying a Swiss national. Previously overlooked details were addressed. Also, the concept of Simplified Naturalisation has been introduced, making it easier for individuals with close connections to Switzerland to obtain citizenship.


- Children of married parents, one of which is a Swiss national, children of Swiss women, and children of a foreign national married to a Swiss woman who acquired her Swiss nationality through a previous marriage all acquire Swiss nationality at birth. Also, a child of a foreign national woman will acquire citizenship if his/her Swiss father subsequently marries his/her mother.


- A foreign national child adopted by Swiss nationals acquires Swiss nationality.

Simplified Naturalisation

General Requirements

- That the individual regularly spends holidays in Switzerland, is in close contact with Swiss clubs abroad, has close connections with Swiss citizens, and is able to communicate in a Swiss national language or dialect.

Foreign Spouse

- Can apply for simplified naturalisation if he/she has been married to Swiss national for six years and has close connections with Switzerland, for example, the relatives and friends of his/her Swiss spouse.

Child of a Swiss Father

- A child with a foreign nationality, but a Swiss father, cannot automatically become Swiss if his/her father is not married to the mother. The father must acknowledge the child before they reach the age of majority for the child to be able to submit an application for simplified naturalisation, provided, that by 22, the child has met one of the following conditions:

- residing in Switzerland for one year

- living in the same household as the father for one year

- prove long term close personal relations with the father

- the child is stateless

The child must have lived in Switzerland for three years, one of those at the time of application.

Child born before July 1, 1985

- If a child’s mother is Swiss, whether she acquired it by descent, adoption or naturalisation, he/she can apply for simplified naturalisation before age 32 if he/she lives in Switzerland. If he/she is older than 32, he/she must have resided in Switzerland for three years, one of those at the time of application, and if he/she lives abroad, he/she must have close connections with Switzerland to apply for simplified naturalisation. Therefore, a child in this situation can be naturalised regardless of age if they have ties to Switzerland.


Of Women who previously had Swiss Nationality

If she lost her nationality by marrying a foreign national before January 1, 1992, and failed to sign the declaration of intention to retain her Swiss nationality, and acquired the nationality of her husband through marriage, she may apply for re-naturalisation. Her application must be made within ten years of losing her Swiss nationality. There may be exceptions made in cases of hardship; she may apply after the deadline if she still has close connections with Switzerland.

Of Children who previously had Swiss Nationality

A child born abroad who becomes a national of another country loses his/her Swiss nationality. He/she mush register with Swiss administration before reaching age of 22 to be renaturalised.

Naturalisation Procedure

A correct application for is requested by the relevant administrative department. Secondly, a questionnaire, and depending on the case, registry office certificates may be required. Application is checked first, then a personal interview is held so that the applicant’s connections with Switzerland can be evaluated. Following the interview, the application is forwarded to the Federal Department of Justice and Police, who have the decision. It is a relatively prolonged process, because one office takes care of every application from around the world. There is an expected wait time of one to two years.


Cohn, E.j. "The New Swiss Nationality Act." The International and Comparative Law Quarterly 2 (1953): 427-430. JSTOR. McGill, Montreal. 29 Oct. 2007.

"The Swiss Citizenship Law." Federal Department of Foreign Affairs. 5 June 2007. Schweizerische Eidgenossenschaft. 29 Oct. 2007

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