Every year, the consulting company Henley & Partners compiles a ranking of the world’s most powerful passports. Two hundred countries participate in the competition. The main criterion for evaluation is the number of countries that can be visited with a passport from a particular country without a visa. However, economic factors are also taken into account.
Another consulting company, Nomad Capital, compiles its own ranking with slightly different results. When evaluating all the advantages, experts not only consider the possibility of visa-free entry but also analyze how the country is perceived globally, personal freedoms, attitude towards dual citizenship, and local tax requirements.
Is Swiss passport powerful? It consistently ranks well in various passport rankings year after year, but it doesn’t always make the top three. Let’s examine how strong a Switzerland passport really is.
Which country has the strongest passport?
It is essential to understand that a high ranking does not necessarily mean that a country is an optimal choice for obtaining a second citizenship. The difference between a strong and weak passport is evident when comparing them from the best to the worst.
A Singaporean passport, held by about four million citizens, provides visa-free access to 127 countries. Meanwhile, an Afghan passport only allows visa-free access to five countries. To visit other countries, Afghan citizens must undergo long, often difficult, and complex visa application procedures. This range illustrates the value that a passport can offer.
According to the Henley Passport Index, Japan has the most powerful passport in the world for the fifth consecutive year. South Korea and Singapore share second place.
The index ranks all passports worldwide according to the number of destination points their holders can reach without prior visa application. The passport index data is also combined with the World Bank’s GDP indicators to create the Henley Passport Power rating, which points to the growing economic inequality between countries.
According to the 2023 Henley Passport Index, all three of the world’s most influential passports are Asian. A Swiss passport made it into the top ten, scoring 186 points and sharing a place with Belgium, the Czech Republic, New Zealand, Norway, and the United States.
In the Nomad Capital index, a Switzerland passport is among the top three, behind the UAE and Luxembourg. According to experts, Swiss citizenship benefits include a high level of freedom and confidentiality. In 2023, the country rose from fifth to third place, making it one of only three non-EU countries to make the top ten. Meanwhile, the country’s famous neutrality guarantees that Swiss citizens remain some of the most respected travelers in the world.
Check out the ranking of the world’s most beautiful passports.
Benefits of a Swiss passport
Getting a Swiss passport provides numerous advantages. Swiss citizens can enjoy visa-free travel to Schengen countries, open bank accounts in Swiss banks, and benefit from high-quality health insurance.
Furthermore, a Swiss passport grants the right to live, work, and do business in Switzerland – a country renowned for its high quality of life. According to the 2022 World Happiness Report, it is also one of the happiest countries in the world.
Quick facts about Swiss citizenship:
- Naturalization period: 10 years
- Is dual citizenship allowed? Yes
- Swiss passport requirements for physical presence: 183 days per year; 365 days in the year prior to application
- Are Swiss passport holders required to pay taxes in Switzerland? Yes
- Language requirements: conversational level B1, writing level A2 in one of Switzerland’s national languages
- Is a citizenship test required? Yes
Switzerland has no restrictions on dual citizenship, so applicants seeking a strong second passport can maintain their original citizenship (provided their country also has no restrictions on dual citizenship).
Are you planning to move to Switzerland with your family? Find out how friendly this country is to expats.
The shortcomings of a Swiss passport
Swiss citizenship may have certain drawbacks. For instance, male citizens up to a certain age are obligated to serve in the military. It is important to note that no exceptions are made in this regard for naturalized citizens of Switzerland.
If a male foreigner aged 18 to 35 has recently applied for citizenship, he will be required to complete military service.
How to get Swiss passport
The process of obtaining Swiss citizenship is quite complex. Since 2018, foreigners must obtain a residence permit in Canton C before they can apply for naturalization in Switzerland.
Foreigners have the right to reside in Switzerland for an extended period of time without a passport, only with a residence permit. Many people use this option nowadays. However, it should be noted that a Swiss residence permit or permanent residence does not give the owner the same freedom of movement in the EU and EEA countries as a Swiss passport.
Switzerland divides its citizenship in the naturalization process into two main types:
- Swiss citizenship by regular naturalization
- Swiss citizenship by simplified naturalization.
The first method can be used by foreign residents who have a C settlement permit, as well as foreigners who are in registered partnerships with Swiss citizens.
This category of applicants has to meet the following criteria:
- Not less than 10 years of residency in Switzerland, including three out of the five years preceding the application.
- Successful integration into Swiss society – knowledge of one of Switzerland’s national languages (B1 conversational level, A2 written level). The choice of language will depend on the canton.
- No criminal convictions or law enforcement interventions.
In addition, at least three years prior to applying for a Swiss passport, the applicant must not receive social benefits from the country. The application needs to be submitted at three different levels:
Federal Swiss passport requirements are the same for everyone, but requirements among different municipalities and cantons can vary greatly.
Each municipality has the right to establish its own naturalization rules. However, all of them must not contradict cantonal and federal legislation.
Do you want to open a business in Switzerland? Explore the possibilities of company incorporation in this country.
How to get a Swiss passport through a simplified naturalization procedure
The following individuals are eligible to utilize this method:
- spouses of Swiss citizens
- children of Swiss citizens
- stateless minors (under 18 years old)
- individuals who were previously Swiss citizens but lost their citizenship
- individuals under the age of 25 who are members of a foreign family residing in Switzerland for three generations (the age limit was lowered from 40 to 25 years after February 15, 2023)
- applicants who qualify for Swiss citizenship by birth or descent.
Switzerland does not recognize citizenship based on jus soli (right of soil). Therefore, a child born in Switzerland does not automatically become a citizen of the country.
Instead, Swiss citizenship laws are based on the principles of jus sanguinis (right of blood). What does this mean in practice?
A child will be considered Swiss in the following cases:
- One or both parents of a child are Swiss citizens.
- Mother of a child is an unmarried Swiss citizen, or the father of a child is a Swiss citizen (in the latter case, paternity must be recognized before a child turns 22 years old).
- This is a foreigner under the age of 22 who has lived in Switzerland for at least five years with a parent who has already been naturalized as a Swiss citizen.
- One of the parents previously lost Swiss citizenship but can demonstrate close ties to Switzerland.
Applicants who are married to a Swiss citizen may obtain a Swiss passport through the simplified procedure. After living in the country for five years, such applicants can apply for citizenship. For these persons, the path to obtaining a strong Swiss passport is shortened by half.
Is it possible to obtain Swiss citizenship by investment?
In recent years, many European countries have developed programs for investment migration, providing residency or citizenship to eligible foreigners in exchange for investments in the country.
However, most of these programs offer accelerated residence permits, not citizenship by investment, with Malta being the exception.
Portugal Golden Visa is a popular example of a program for obtaining residency in Europe through investments.
As in most other countries, Switzerland has no actual program for obtaining citizenship by investment. Nevertheless, foreigners can obtain Swiss residency by investing in the country’s economy.
After maintaining resident status for ten years (which requires several renewals), foreigners can apply for Swiss citizenship through regular naturalization.
To obtain residency by investment in Switzerland, an applicant has to meet the following requirements:
- hold citizenship of a country outside of the EU/EEA
- be between 18 and 55 years old
- own or lease property in Switzerland
- have no criminal records
- have a certain level of income.
Switzerland offers two types of residency for investors, both of which are pathways to applying for citizenship after ten years.
Choose an ideal citizenship by investment option that suits you best.
Both options provide a one-year residency permit, which can be extended indefinitely. Therefore, the following are ways to obtain residency by investment in Switzerland:
- Opening a business in Switzerland. This route has no minimum investment amount, but a company must have an annual turnover of more than CHF 1 million. An applicant also has to create jobs for Swiss residents and introduce new technologies into the Swiss economy.
- Payment of a lump-sum tax. Minimum investments start at CHF 100,000. An investment can be made in any canton except Zurich.
In addition, an applicant needs to register with the tax authorities of the canton in which they are applying.
Check out our detailed guide on all Swiss taxes in 2023.
What will it cost to get a Swiss passport?
The fees for regular naturalization vary depending on the municipality and canton:
- The municipal fee ranges from CHF 500 to CHF 1000 per person.
- The cantonal fee can go up to CHF 2000 per person.
Confederation fees are:
- couple with minors or without them – CHF 150
- single person with minors or without them – CHF 100.
You will also have to pay fees for the necessary documents (proof of residency, certificate of good conduct, extract from the debt enforcement register, etc.).
The fees for the simplified naturalization process in Switzerland vary depending on age:
- CHF 250 for minors up to the age of 12
- CHF 650 for minors aged 12 and older
- CHF 900 for adults.
Switzerland is one of the most challenging countries in Europe to obtain a passport. However, this document is considered a powerful one and offers its owners a multitude of benefits, such as living in a prosperous and stable country, visa-free access to over 100 countries, and other preferences.
The ten-year journey to obtaining the desired document is worth it. Those who have sufficient funds can start the process by first obtaining a residence permit in the country. Switzerland does not offer easy paths to citizenship but ultimately provides access to one of the world’s most powerful passports.
For questions regarding obtaining a residence permit or citizenship, please contact our experts at firstname.lastname@example.org.