Can I Get Swiss Citizenship Through Marriage?
Those with Swiss citizenship may consider that they have won the lottery of life. Having the right to remain, live, and work for the remainder of your life in one of the most beautiful, prosperous, and culturally rich and diverse places in the world, right at the centre of Europe is a dream which many would aspire to. Citizenship is administered separately in each of the 26 Swiss cantons (regions), and the eligibility requirements vary based on nationality and the circumstances of the applicant.
It also has to be said that Switzerland has made it harder to acquire citizenship in recent years. The 2018 Swiss Citizenship Act added tougher requirements that must be met by foreign nationals. One changes the 2018 Act brought in was the need for citizenship applicants to have a settlement permit (permit C). In addition, the Act introduced new written language testing requirements. Candidates have to demonstrate writing ability to an A2 level, and spoken skills to a B1 level under the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR). It is also possible for individual cantons to raise the bar further, and indeed, some cantons have increased the language requirement to a B2 level for speaking.
In this article, we will discuss the specific topic of whether foreign nationals can acquire citizenship through their marriage to a Swiss citizen.
What Are the Benefits of Swiss Citizenship?
Swiss citizens enjoy several benefits that those with residence do not receive. First, they have the permanent right to reside in Switzerland. This means that if a Swiss citizen lives in another country for several years, their right to live in Switzerland is not lost. Secondly, citizens have the right to vote in Swiss elections and stand for public office. And finally, one of the biggest bonuses of Swiss citizenship is the right to a Swiss passport. The Swiss passport is ranked joint second on the Passport Index, with visa-free access to over 83 countries (and 35 countries in which a visa is issued on arrival).
One of the real considerations is the mandatory military service for able-bodied Swiss males. For some, this may be a factor which dissuades them from applying for citizenship.
Can A Foreign National Acquire Citizenship Through Marriage to A Swiss National?
Foreigners married to a Swiss citizen are able to apply for fast-track citizenship, under what is referred to as simplified or facilitated naturalisation. In order to do so, you will need to meet the following eligibility criteria:
- You must have resided in Switzerland for five years (this includes the year immediately prior to making your application for citizenship)
- You must have been married to your Swiss partner for a minimum of three years
- You must have sufficient proficiency in the applicable Swiss national language in your canton. This should be to B1 level for spoken language and A2 level for written language (it is important to check with your local immigration office if they have a different requirement)
- You must have integrated into Swiss life and be familiar with Swiss customs
- You must have remained compliant with Swiss law during your time in Switzerland
- You must not be assessed as a danger to Switzerland’s internal or external security
- You must not have spent any time on social welfare benefits in the past three years (there may be an exception if you have repaid the monies received)
It should be noted that you cannot apply for simplified naturalisation as a spouse if your Swiss partner has passed away.
One of the main points which you should be aware of if you are considering this route to citizenship is that it is only available to those who are married, not to those in a registered (civil) partnership.
If you are in a registered partnership with a Swiss citizen, you may be eligible for Swiss citizenship through the regular naturalisation process. Under the regular route, you will be able to apply for naturalisation if you have been living in Switzerland for ten or more years. The Swiss immigration website states, “Foreign nationals in a registered partnership may only make an application for regular naturalisation; simplified naturalisation is not possible. The applicant must have lived in Switzerland for at least five years in total, including for the 12 months prior to submitting an application. They must also have lived for at least three years in a registered partnership with a Swiss citizen and hold a residence permit (permit C)”.
How Do I Apply for Fast-Track Citizenship Through Marriage to A Swiss Citizen?
Fast-track citizenship applications are made through a federal State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) office. They will provide you with the correct application form. Once completed, you will need to also provide evidence that you satisfy the relevant national Swiss language requirement, and of your marriage.
Unfortunately, the fast-track citizenship process is anything but fast. It can take anywhere between 12 and 18 months to receive a decision. This will not restrict your ability to move between different cantons in Switzerland, or to another country, however.
The application fee for simplified citizenship must also be paid upfront, and this is non-refundable. However, applicants who are refused do have the right to appeal decisions made.
Given that the application fee is non-refundable, it is important to ensure that your application form is completed fully and correctly and that any documents and evidence you need to provide are included.
Applying for Swiss citizenship as a foreign national married to a Swiss citizen can be fast-tracked after just three years of marriage and five years of overall residence in the country. Given the fact that the fee is non-refundable, and the outcome of your application may take up to 18 months, you do need to ensure that the information you provide is correct. A simple error when completing the process may render your application invalid, and hence cause a significant delay in acquiring citizenship. For this reason, it is recommended to secure the services of experienced immigration Solicitors who can assist you with your application and ensure it has the best chance of a successful outcome.