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Geneva: Switzerland’s most cosmopolitan canton

Locals enjoy a concert at the La Grange Park in Geneva on August 1, 2018 - Swiss National Day Martial Trezzini/Keystone

New statistics underline Geneva’s status as the Alpine nation’s most international canton: almost two-thirds of residents hold a foreign passport. 

This content was published on February 11, 2019 - 10:32

According to cantonal statistics published at the beginning of February, the percentage of dual nationals (Swiss people with at least one other nationality) out of the total Geneva population almost doubled from 16% in 2000 to 27% for the 2014-2016 period. 

The number of permanent foreign residents without a Swiss passport also rose two percentage points to 37% of the total population of 372,471. 

Meanwhile, the percentage of people with Swiss citizenship only fell from 49% to 36% over the past 15 years, the office said. Of these, 86% are Swiss from birth. The figures relate to residents aged 15 and over and do not include international civil servants and asylum-seekers.

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The growth in the number of dual nationals can partly be explained by the recent rush to secure a Swiss passport before naturalisation changes came into force at the beginning of 2018. 

The Geneva office noted: “These increased significantly before the entry into force of the new law at the beginning of 2018, which limits access to Swiss nationality to holders of a C permit only [(Settled foreign nationals) residence permit].” 

Since the beginning of 2018, foreigners applying for a Swiss passport must hold a C residence permit  and have lived in Switzerland for five or ten years (depending on their country of origin), and must attest to successful integration. They must still pass rigorous entry requirements, including a written language test. 

Dual nationality has been authorised without any restrictions in Switzerland since 1992. 

3/4 Europeans

According to the Geneva statistics office, over three-quarters of dual nationals in Geneva are Europeans (77%), followed by people originally from the Americas (8%) and Africa (7%). 

The average age of a dual national in Geneva is 44, compared to 51 for a Swiss. Two-thirds of dual nationals in 2014-2016 received their status by applying for citizenship.

(Move your mouse/finger over the chart to see the complete figures)

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In terms of dual nationals, Geneva ranks ahead of other Swiss regions. It is followed by the cantons of Zurich, Basel City, Ticino, Vaud and Neuchâtel, according to 2017 figures released by the Federal Statistical Office (FSO) last month

The cantons with the lowest proportion of Swiss citizens with a second passport are Uri, Obwalden, Nidwalden and Appenzell Inner Rhodes. FSO said 18% of permanent residents over the age of 15 held two passports in 2017

That year was a peak for naturalisations in Switzerland – a total of 44,900 people received Swiss citizenship, up from 40,700 two years earlier. More than three-quarters of them came from a European country. One-fifth of the total benefited from a facilitated naturalisation process offered to spouses and children of Swiss citizens. Naturalisation figures for 2018 look set to return to the lower level observed in 2015.

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