Article 4 of the Swiss federal law on foreign residents stipulates that foreigners in the country should “familiarize themselves with Swiss society and way of life and, in particular, learn a national language.”
The law applies to those from outside the EU and ETFA.
But according to some in the canton of Zug – Switzerland's richest canton – foreign multi-millionaires shouldn't be obliged to bone up on all those German tenses and case endings.
A proposal to revise the law in the canton would exempt those with assets of over 20 million francs and an annual income of one million francs from having to follow German language courses to obtain a C permit, newspaper Tages Anzeiger reported on Wednesday.
The move, which authorities feel is “in the fiscal interest of the canton” would benefit rich investors from countries such as Russia and South Africa who currently have to prove they speak German in order to obtain permanent Swiss residency.
According to the cantonal government, under the current law Zug risks losing such individuals who “have shown great interest in obtaining a permanent residence permit”.
But not everyone is in agreement.
Officials in the federal justice department fear that a loosening of requirements for residency permits could weaken the so-called Lex Koller law on the acquisition of real estate in Switzerland by non-residents, reports Tages Anzeiger.
Others doubt the legality of the proposal.
Speaking to the paper, Bern-based migration specialist Alberto Achermann said the revision clearly infringes federal law as well as the Swiss constitutional principle of equality.
The proposal has divided political parties in the canton, being supported by the liberal FDP and right-wing Swiss People's Party and opposed by the Socialists and the Green party.
The revision is currently being considered by the cantonal commission and a decision is expected in the coming weeks.
One of Switzerland's smallest cantons, Zug has a tax rate that is substantially lower than the rest of the country, helping it attract a high proportion of foreign residents.