My ancestors were Swiss - what rights do I have?
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Switzerland was a source country before recently becoming a country of immigration it is today. In fact, the 19th century saw a significant number of Swiss flee poverty to settle in the Americas, namely Brazil, Mexico, Argentina and the USA. We are regularly contacted by people whose grandfather was Swiss and who wish to determine the rights that this relation could entail, particularly in terms of citizenship. We do not provide any services relating to this topic, however we hope this page will answer key questions.

Basic principles
Abroad, Swiss citizenship is not automatically transferred from one generation to the next. As a result, the fact that you have a Swiss great-grandfather does not mean that you will able to obtain the red passport with a white cross.

Loss of citizenship
In fact, Swiss who are born abroad lose their citizenship once they are over the age of 22 if they have another nationality and if they have not indicated that they wish to maintain their Swiss citizenship.
If no notification has been given before this age, Swiss citizenship is lost and descendants will not be able claim it. If you wish to maintain your Swiss citizenship, you must submit a specific request to Swiss authorities before the age of 22. If you are presently abroad, apply to the Swiss representative in your country of residence. If you are in Switzerland temporarily, contact the Cantonal Citizenship Office of your home canton.

Reinstatement is, however, a possibility for people who have lost their Swiss citizenship, although it is subject to certain conditions. Under no circumstance is it considered a right. If the Swiss born abroad has not submitted an application for reinstatement, his/her children will never be able to apply for reinstatement.

Notification period
If, for excusable reasons, the Swiss born abroad has forgotten to communicate that he/she wished to maintain Swiss citizenship, he/she can do so before the age of 32. One example of an excusable reason is ignorance the law. On the other hand, not having sufficient financial resources to complete the application at the age of 22 is not viewed as a valid reason.
However, if the individual returns to live in Switzerland, he/she has the right to submit another request for Swiss citizenship no matter how much time has passed.

Conditions for reinstatement
To reacquire Swiss citizenship once it is lost, you must:

  • Prove that you had Swiss citizenship
  • Have maintained links to Switzerland prior to the application, in other words:
    • You regularly spend your vacations in Switzerland
    • You maintain close contact with people living in Switzerland
    • You are involved in Swiss associations abroad
    • You can make yourself understood in one of the four national languages or in a Swiss dialect

    You are not necessarily required to meet all four of these conditions. For example, the fact that an individual does not speak even one of the languages spoken in Switzerland may be compensated by active participation in Swiss associations abroad.

  • Be worthy of reinstatement
  • In no way compromise internal or external security of Switzerland.

If you are presently abroad, consult the Swiss representative in your country of residence. If you are passing through Switzerland, contact the Cantonal Citizenship Office of your home canton.

The final decision is made by the Federal Department of Justice and Police, although there is the possibility of appealing to the Federal Court.

Additional Information
To obtain further information on this subject, please contact the Swiss aliens service:
Service des Suisses de l’étranger
Département Fédéral des Affaires Étrangères
Eigerplat 1
CH – 3003 Bern
+41 (0) 31 322 21 11

You may also consult the section of the Web site for the Swiss embassy in Washington relating to this topic, as well as Swiss law relating to citizenship.

The information contained in this website is not meant to substitute qualified legal advice given by a specialist knowing your particular situation. We can accept no responsibility for the consequences of decisions made following information found on this website. Micheloud & Cie is not a bank and neither sollicits nor accepts deposits. Currency conversion and interest rates provided on this website are listed for informational purpose only and may not be up-to-date. More >>

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