Registered Partnerships in Switzerland

Same-sex partnerships have similar rights to heterosexual couples. Understand the Swiss position on registration, surnames, ending a partnership and naturalisation...

Same-sex partnerships can be registered either federally or, in some cantons, on a cantonal level. Federal partnerships are reserved exclusively for same-sex partnerships, while cantonal registered partnerships can be used by same-sex as well as opposite-sex couples. There are legal differences between federal and cantonal registrations.

Federal registered partnerships are recognised throughout Switzerland, while cantonal registered partnerships may only be recognised within the canton or possibly in another canton that also offers cantonal registered partnerships.

Federally Registered Partnerships

The Eingetragene Partnerschaft or Partenariat enregistré fédéral, which literally means "federally registered partnership", allows same-sex couples who register their partnership to share responsibilities and live their lives "officially" as a couple.

Federal registered partnerships are certified by a registry office as a "life partnership with mutual rights and obligations" and entail a change in marital/civil status. A canton-registered partnership does not change the registrant's civil status.

Federal registered partners benefit from the same next of kin status, and have equal rights in matters of taxation, inheritance, social security and pensions and shared possession of a home as married partners. Same-sex couples may not, however, adopt children or undergo medically assisted fertility treatment.

  • SwissLife's information on Partnership: Click here (in French)

Surnames

On registration,the partners can choose to keep their original surnames, or take one of them as a shared family name. Partners may have a combination of the two surnames, with a hyphen for use in day-to-day affairs and on identity cards. This will not be recorded in the register of birth, marriage and death.

Immigration and Naturalisation

The foreign partner of a Swiss citizen does not have automatic rights to a Swiss passport or expedited naturalisation however they are entitled to a residence permit from the Swiss immigration authorities.

Naturalisation for non-Swiss nationals partnered with a Swiss citizen

  • A registered partner of a Swiss citizen is eligible for naturalisation if he or she has been resident in Switzerland for at least five years and at least one year prior to application, and has been in the registered partnership with the Swiss citizen for at least three years
  • Further information from the Swiss Federal Office for Migration: Click here

Naturalisation for non-Swiss nationals partnered with non-Swiss nationals

  • Non-Swiss nationals registered in a partnership with another non-Swiss national may apply for naturalisation after residing in Switzerland for at least 12 years with three of the years being in the five years prior to application. After ten years living in the country, each year up to 20 years counts as double.
  • If both partners in a partnership apply for naturalisation at the same time and only one qualifies, the other partner may qualify if they have been resident in Switzerland for at least five years, with one of the years being immediately prior to application for naturalisation, and if they have lived in a registered partnership with the other applicant for at least three years. This also applies to applicants whose registered partner has already been naturalised
  • Further information from the Swiss Federal Office for Migration: Click here

Financial Aspects of Federal Registered Partnerships

Partners are responsible for their own debts and may dispose of property as they choose. If requested, partners must inform the other partner about income, debts and any assets.

  • For more information about consequences of registered partnership: Click here

Each party can have a certified inventory of their assets created prior to registration of their partners. A legal agreement may be drawn up by a notary to clearly divide property and assets if a dissolution should occur.

Like a conventional divorce, labour pension benefits will be split in the event of dissolution. Maintenance payments may also be required from one partner to another in the event of a split.

  • For more information about dissolving a registered civil partnership: Click here

To Register a Federal Partnership

Registration is made at the local Civil Registry Office.

Required documents are:

  • Civil identity document (Schweizer Personenstandsausweis or certificat individuel d'état civil), proving that each person is free to enter into a registered partnership. This can be obtained from the Civil Registrar’s office from the town of origin
  • Foreigners should provide a birth certificate
  • Certificate of permanent residence or certificate of domicile. This can be obtained from the local Cantonal Population Office
  • Passport or identity card (both partners must be over 18)
  • Confirmation of the dissolution of any previous marriage or registered partnership
  • An application form (obtain from the Civil Registry Office)

Once the documents have been presented to the Civil Registry Office, each partner must also make a declaration in person that they meet all legal requirements. The registrar will confirm all requirements are met and issue a partnership certificate. Registration must then take place within three months of the notification.

Same-Sex Partnerships in Geneva and Neuchâtel (Cantonal Partnerships)

The Civil Solidarity Pact (Pacte Civile de Solidarité or PaCS) law came into effect in the canton of Geneva in May 2001. This allowed for two people of the same sex to make a declaration of partnership at the State Ministry of Justice (Chancellerie d'Etat) or with a notary: "The certificate certifies the official character of the partnership and the right of the partners to be treated in an identical manner as a married couple in their relations with the public administration, with the exclusion of fiscal taxation and the granting of social security benefits... " (Art.1, al.3).

The PaCS law gives all cohabitating couples – both same-sex and heterosexual – the same rights as married couples in their dealings with the state, except with regard to taxation and social security benefits. Couples with a PaCS agreement may not adopt children. They do benefit from "next of kin" status.

PaCS was introduced in Neuchâtel in 2004.

Registrants must meet the following criteria:

  • Be at least 18 years of age
  • Be capable of decision-making
  • Not be married or in a registered partnership
  • Not be a sister, brother, parent, adoptive parent or grandparents of the co-applicant
  • At least one applicant must be a resident of Geneva or Neuchâtel

Same-Sex Partnerships in Zürich (Cantonal Partnerships)

A same-sex partnership law was passed in Zürich in 2002. The registered partnership gives same-sex couples who live in Zürich canton and who register with the government the same rights as a married couple. Equal rights affect taxation, inheritance and social security benefits.

A couple must commit themselves to running a household and supporting and aiding one another six months beforehand.

Registrants must meet the following criteria:

  • Be at least 18 years of age
  • Be capable of decision-making
  • Not be married or in a registered partnership
  • Not be a sister, brother, parent, adoptive parent or grandparents of the co-applicant
  • At least one applicant must be Swiss or resident in Zurich

To End a Partnership

A registered partnership is dissolved:

  • By the court at the common statement of the partners
  • By the death of one of the partners
  • By application from both partners
  • By application by of one of the partners (after living separately for at least one year)

Same-sex Partnerships Registered Outside of Switzerland

A same-sex partnership registered outside of Switzerland will be recognised if it meets Swiss legal requirements.

Same-sex marriages formed in countries other than Switzerland will be acknowledged as registered partnerships in Switzerland.

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