Despite a substantial increase in 2015, the number of residents opting for a Swiss passport has seen a steady decline since a peak in 2006. More stringent requirements and increased costs associated with the process could be blamed.
According to data from the Federal Statistics Office, published by the SonntagsBlick newspaper, naturalisation of foreigners has declined by 38% since 2006. However, this only applies to those who apply through the conventional route and does not include facilitated naturalisation (for spouses of Swiss nationals) and adoption of children.
The year 2015 saw a reversal in the downward trend with 31,166 ordinary naturalisations, an increase of slightly more than 30% over 2014 figures.
There has been a tightening of requirements for obtaining a Swiss passport in recent years by Swiss cantons. For example, Zurich made a mandatory German language test a prerequisite last year and the canton of Bern demands an additional naturalisation test.
Cost is also a factor. The naturalisation process can cost up to CHF3,000 ($3,026) depending on the municipality. The introduction of new types of fees has made it more expensive in recent years. For example, those who fail the naturalisation test in Bern are obliged to take a course that costs CHF300.
Walter Leimgruber, president of the Federal Commission on Migration, which advises the cabinet on migration issues, told SonntagsBlick that the difficult process excludes a large proportion of Switzerland’s migrant workers from Swiss citizenship.
He added that it also dissuades expats and children of migrants born in Switzerland and could create social tensions.