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Migrant group slams citizenship changes

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Photo: European Communities
12:56 CEST+02:00
Proposed changes to the law on Swiss nationality could lead to a ten percent drop in the number of residents who become “naturalized” citizens, a new study shows.

Among the modifications to be debated next month in parliament is a requirement that only holders of C residency permits would be eligible to seek citizenship.

Holders of such permits are foreigners from the European Union or European Free Trade Agreement countries who have been granted a “settlement permit” after living in Switzerland for five or ten years.

C permits are also available to foreigners from other countries who have been granted settlement permits after ten years of uninterrupted residence in Switzerland.

The proposed revision will allow for eligible foreign residents to apply for citizenship after living eight years in the country, reduced from the current 12 years.

But this will be more than offset by the C permit requirement, according to a study from the University of Geneva.

The study was presented in Bern this week by the federal commission for migration issues (FCM).

It concluded that the number of new naturalized citizens would drop by 3,500 a year if the new proposals are accepted.

Switzerland’s citizenship requirements are among the toughest in the world.

Almost a quarter of the country’s residents are foreigners.

But even for children of these foreigners who are Swiss-born, citizenship is far from automatic, requiring approval at federal, cantonal and municipal levels.

The FCM recommends that citizenship be handled by a single body and that children born in the country should be automatically eligible to carry a Swiss passport.

“Obtaining (Swiss) citizenship allowed me to integrate in the country,” Fiametta Jahreiss, vice-chairwoman of the federal commission, told a press conference, according to the ATS news agency.

This is the opposite of the idea that it is necessary to become integrated in the country before earning citizenship, said Jahreiss, who became a citizen through marriage.

The University of Geneva study showed that most cases of naturalized citizenship were granted in urban areas.

Between 2005 and 2010,  the Zurich region recorded 61,852 “naturalizations”, the most in the country.

A total of 62,077 foreigners became Swiss citizens over the same period in the Lake Geneva region, including the cantons of Geneva, Vaud and Valais.

The study showed that the number of such new citizens was markedly lower in rural areas.

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