Resident foreign population

A little under one-quarter of Switzerland's resident population are foreigners. Their presence has contributed to the country’s rich cultural diversity.

Multicultural school class
School class: Fluhmühle school in Littau, canton of Lucerne. © Andri Pol / Swiss Customs Museum

The high share of foreigners (23.3%) has helped to make Switzerland a multicultural nation. A little over one-fifth of the resident foreign population was born or raised in Switzerland.

Italians are the largest foreign community in Switzerland (292,000 people), followed by the German, Portuguese and French communities. Although over three-quarters of the foreigners who live in Switzerland are European, the share of migrants from further afield is rising year on year.

The share of foreigners in the resident population varies greatly from one region to another, depending on the level of urbanisation, economic structure and proximity to national borders. For example, foreigners make up only 8.5% of the resident population in the canton of Uri, compared to 39.6% in the canton of Geneva.

By European standards, naturalisation rates in Switzerland are low. However, the number of people taking Swiss nationality has trebled over the last 20 years. A total of 33,000 foreigners were naturalised in 2012.

A foreigner must have lived in Switzerland for at least 12 years before they can apply for Swiss citizenship. The time spent in Switzerland between the ages of 10 and 20 counts double. There is a fast-track citizenship process for foreigners who are married to, or have a child with, a Swiss national.