From 1 January 2018, becoming Swiss will get more difficult. The key change is the types of qualifying residence permits – only C-permit holders will be able to apply.
In addition, years spent in Switzerland on N (asylum) and F (provisional) permits will not count.
There is some good news. Those with C-permits will only need 10 years of Swiss residence before applying instead of 12, unless some of the time was spent on an N- or F-permit of course.
Other rule tightening excludes those who have received welfare within three years of applying, unless they pay back the money they received. An exception is made for those receiving welfare while studying for their first qualification.
Wannabe Swiss will have to stay on the right side of the law for 10 years before applying. Switzerland has two criminal registries, one open to the public where crimes are deleted once the penalty has been served, and a digital database, where records of crimes remain for ten years. Before 1 January 2017, the public criminal register was used, from this date the digital one will be used. Anyone with a criminal record cannot become Swiss.
The next big change is stiffer language requirements. Currently language competency is assessed by municipalities during interviews. From 1 January 2017, formal proof of both written and spoken competence will be required. This could be pass certificates for exams included on a list of acceptable courses or testing in an accredited centre. More information on this is expected in 2018.
There will be language testing exceptions, for example, if it is your mother tongue or you have spent five years at Swiss school.
The tougher language requirements will apply to those marrying a Swiss, who can apply on a fast-track basis, an option known as the facilitated process.