There comes a time in every expat’s journey when one must decide if their adoptive country will become their permanent home for the foreseeable future. Many of us don’t realize how deeply rooted we are in Switzerland until we are faced with our residence permit renewal process.
Perhaps the appeal to become Swiss came to you as well? Maybe it was Brexit and all its downstream consequences. Maybe being “stuck” for a year due to COVID made you value everything Switzerland has to offer. Your driver’s license is Swiss, you have a steady diet of fondue, and winter sports have become your new way of life. Could it be that you are turning Swiss? Oui, et pourquoi pas! (Yes, and why not?)
Alors (So), let’s look at what you have to know before you apply for Swiss citizenship.
If you don't already have one, apply for a Permis C
A Permis C is required in order to apply for Swiss citizenship. It means that you have a stable situation, most likely involving a long-term contract or CDI (Contrat à durée indéterminée), and you’ve lived here for a minimum of 5 years. In other words, you are planning on staying indefinitely and hopefully be a productive member of the Swiss society, two elements the evaluation committee will be looking at when you finally apply for citizenship.
Becoming Swiss has been such a popular topic over the years that a Swiss film was made about it in 1978 : The Swissmakers (or Les Faiseurs de Suisses in French). It’s worth watching if you’re considering becoming Swiss.
No matter your personal situation (Permis B, L, married to a Swiss citizen, etc.), more information about the application process for the Canton de Vaud can be found right here. But it’s in French, évidemment (obviously).
Oh, the places you'll go, the people you'll meet…
Leaving the comfort of your expat bubble is not an easy thing to do, but if you haven’t yet, now is the time to start socializing more in French. Start a simple conversation with your neighbors, some parents at your local crèche or the shopkeepers of your local businesses within your commune. Go out – when safety allows it, bien sûr (of course) – and make new friends, join an association or a club! A few years ago, one of our clients became a pompier volontaire (volunteer firefighter). He told us it had been the best way for him to finally meet local Swiss people, to build long-lasting friendships, and to improve his French in the process!
Whenever you can, dare to say more than bonjour, merci, au revoir to your local French-speakers. Ask simple questions like Qu’est-ce qu’il y a dans ce gâteau? Or Quel âge a votre fils? Having strong ties within your community is vital to integrate yourself, improve your French comprehension, and show your cantonal authorities that you’re not just passing by, but here to stay.
Make a list and check it twice
Yes, your commune will eventually want to know if you’re naughty or nice by checking your police records and attestation de non-poursuite (certificate of good standing), but you’ll also need to make sure that you know all the specific requirements your Canton asks you to comply with. These are mostly related to your country of origin and the bilateral treaties that will either make it easy or difficult for you to come, work and eventually become a Swiss national.
Are you feeling overwhelmed by the number of French documents to deal with or simply looking for an efficient “hack” to make your life much easier when it comes to the application process? Prêt à Parler has done all the digging for you here!
Speak the local languages
Despite French being the official language of Suisse romande, it is still relatively easy to live here using almost exclusively English and keep your French knowledge to the bare minimum. Cela dit (that being said), if you intend to apply for a Permis C soon, you will be asked to prove that you have a minimum of French A2 (oral) and A1 (written).
If it is the case, I highly recommend that you get ready to take the FIDE exam. This Swiss-developed language proficiency exam evaluates your skills at speaking, reading, and writing French. Selon moi (in my opinion), this format is easier to pass than the French DELF exams as it is based on everyday situations which you must deal with all the time, i.e. rescheduling an appointment at the doctor’s office, explaining a technical problem with your washing machine to the repairman or giving instructions to the crèche’s educators. Preparing for this exam, especially the oral part, isn’t so easy to do on your own as there is a specific answer format expected by the FIDE examiners and a myriad of scenarios which could be asked on the day of the exam.
The good news is that my team of Super Profs, all FIDE specialists, can help you to prepare for a successful experience with private French lessons. If you prefer to learn independently, at your own pace, have a look at our new e-course called Prêt à FIDE. That’s precisely how you’ll be when you complete it, i.e. Ready for FIDE!
Be a Swiss Trivial Pursuit wiz
Growing up, most of us happily (or painfully!) learned how our native country came to be and the significant events in its long (or short) history. We experienced our native culture in our everyday life so it became ours naturally. If you wish to become Swiss, you will need to “cram & digest” some of the Swiss historical, political, and cultural facts as you will be tested on them during your application process. Of course, being Swiss means so much more than enjoying chocolate, cheese, clocks and mountains! Once you can talk en français about most things Swiss and mix in your genuine love for Switzerland’s natural splendor, you should be more than ready to become a Swiss citizen. You might even start to believe that on n’est vraiment bien que chez soi (There’s no place like home)!
This content is sponsored by Prêt-à-Parler – an online French school serving expats in Switzerland. For more on our experience with Prêt-à-Parler, check out this article. A huge thank you to all the businesses that support The Lausanne Guide.
When Isabelle arrived in Suisse romande with her husband six years ago, she didn’t know how long they’d stay. Between them, they’d already lived in three countries and assumed that Switzerland would be just another stop on their journey. But as they developed friendships, careers, and skiing skills, they discovered that it had captured their hearts. Now with C Permits under their belts and two small children, they’re waiting for the day when they can make the love affair with Switzerland official by applying for citizenship.
As the founder of Prêt-à-Parler, a language school specialized in teaching French online to busy expats in the Suisse romande area, Isabelle joins us on The Lausanne Guide every now and then to share advice for settling in the local area, improving French language skills, and making the most of life along the
Lake of Geneva *ahem* Lac Léman.