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Aargau set to vote on strict new Swiss citizenship requirements

Aargau set to vote on strict new Swiss citizenship requirements
Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP
The central Swiss canton of Aargau is set to vote on new citizenship requirements which would be among the strongest in Switzerland. The changes include a longer wait without social assistance, as well as a new quiz on Swiss geography.

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The centrepiece of the reforms is a law prohibiting anyone who has taken state money for the past ten years to be granted citizenship.

The vote is set to take place on February 9th as part of the broader federal referenda. 

There will be limited exceptions, for instance if an applicant is/was ill, disabled or was a member of the “working poor”. 

As reported in Le Temps, under the laws, anyone who has received state assistance in the ten years before the application will not be naturalised as a Swiss citizen. 

READ: ‘I pay taxes but have no say in Swiss life': Your views on whether Switzerland should allow all foreigners to vote 

The new move is well above the existing mark. Current federal legislation on the matter calls for a minimum of three years before a person can be successful in a naturalisation application. 

READ: EU migration to affordable housing: All you need to know about Switzerland's crucial spring referendums 

A multiple-choice exam

Another proposed change will be a multiple-choice exam on the country’s history and geography. 

Applicants will need to answer three quarters of the questions correctly in order to start the naturalisation procedure. 

READ MORE: How an Italian man's lack of zoo animal knowledge cost him Swiss citizenship 

Broad right-wing support despite opposition 

Despite efforts from left-wing parties and the Evangelical Party to reduce the period without assistance to five years, a large right-wing majority approved the ten-year deadline. 

Lilian Studer, from the Evangelical Party, said the move would amount to treating welfare recipients as criminals. 

“We're talking about people who were on welfare, but who managed to get off,” she said. 

“What also bothers me is that we equate welfare recipients with criminals: (we are effectively saying they are) people who have committed an offence who also have to wait ten years before they can apply for naturalisation.”

Susanne Voser, from the Christian Democratic People’s Party, said the new measures were necessary in building a reciprocal arrangement between a society and an individual. 

“”In our country, granting Swiss citizenship to someone who has not repaid the aid received, or who has not proven that he or she can support himself or herself for long enough, is seen as an injustice by those responsible for the naturalisation procedures,” she said. 

“It is a principle of reciprocity: if you have received something from society, you must give it back.”

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