The unnamed woman and her Iraqi husband have been living in Ingenbohl in the canton of Schwyz for 20 years. Her husband received the Swiss passport after two attempts, but her application was refused, Swiss media outlet TheBlick.ch reports.
The mother of two children is well integrated into the community, joined the local Samaritan Association and has the required geographical and national political knowledge.
But at the naturalization authority in Ingenbohl in the canton of Schwyz, a recording of her interview revealed she said 'uh' over 200 times when asked questions. The authorities concluded that her German language skills were not up to scratch.
After being rejected by her local canton, the woman took her case to the Swiss Federal Court. She claimed the recordings of the interview were taken without her consent.
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The Judge's Verdict
In delivering the verdict, the federal court judge agreed that there were concerns about the recording of minutes, but that the authorities had the power to take them.
The judge stated: “The community arbitrarily agreed that the complainant required the language skills.”
The Iraqi woman presented a language diploma from the Vocational Training Centre Pfäffikon SZ. However, the judge ruled that employees at the centre were not in a position to judge her linguistic level accurately based on the evidence presented.
The woman's work with the Samaritan Association was overlooked. The judge stated it would be difficult to imagine how the woman could play such an active role in the community if she did not have the level of German required.
Unless the local canton decides to grant the woman citizenship she will have to improve her language skills before reapplying.
You must speak the local language to be in with a chance
Decent language skills have always been necessary for Swiss citizenship but requirements used to vary depending on the canton. But under the 2018 changes, there is now a required minimum level of language proficiency. Candidates must demonstrate A2 level writing ability (elementary) and B1 (intermediate) spoken skills under the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages.
Cantons are free to set a higher bar if they wish, as Thurgau has done by requiring citizenship candidates to have B1-level written German and B2 (upper intermediate) spoken German.
Note that you are exempt from having to prove your language competency if your native language is one of the Swiss national languages, or if you have done five years of compulsory schooling in Switzerland or if you have a secondary school leaving certificate or tertiary qualification completed in a Swiss national language.