American national denied Swiss citizenship after 39 years
A 75-year-old expat American who taught as a professor at Switzerland’s top university was denied Swiss citizenship after local officials ruled he did not know enough about the region where he has lived for 39 years.
The former longtime chemical engineering professor at ETH Zurich, the Swiss Federal Institute for Technology, learned on Monday that his application to become a naturalized Swiss was turned down, newspaper 20 Minuten reported.
The municipal district assembly of Einsiedeln, a monastery town in the canton of Schwyz where the American lives, upheld a decision of the district council following a half-hour discussion.
The assembly concluded that the retired academic was not sufficiently integrated to merit citizenship.
The Californian has lived since 1975 in Einsiedeln, where he and his wife have raised three children, and where he is a member of local tennis and sailing clubs, 20 Minuten said.
Despite his good knowledge of Switzerland and his ability to speak German, a local naturalization commission ruled that he did not know enough about the geography and politics of the region where he lived, the newspaper said.
The commission said the American could not name six neighbouring villages and was unaware of the current political issues in Einsiedeln.
It believed he wanted to become a Swiss citizen mainly for the “personal benefits and guarantees” this would bring.
It is not clear whether the American wants to give up his US citizenship for tax purposes (Americans are required to file income tax returns even if they live abroad and are liable for double taxation).
Although the decision was negative, the unsuccessful applicant must still pay a 3,600-franc administrative fee.
He has the right to contest the decision within 10 days at the Schwyz cantonal administrative court.
Foreigners with no family ties to Switzerland must live in the country for at least 12 years before they can apply for Swiss citizenship.
An applicant must show that he or she is well integrated, is familiar with local customs and traditions, and poses no security threat.
But the detailed requirements differ depending on what canton an applicant is living in and in what municipality.
And according to the federal administration, “there is no legally protected right to being naturalized by a community and a canton”.
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