Stricter rules approved for Swiss citizenship after canton referendum

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Stricter rules approved for Swiss citizenship after canton referendum

You might think that the rules for obtaining citizenship in Switzerland are already pretty strict, but one Swiss canton has just voted to make them even stricter.


Over 64 percent of voters in the Canton of Aargau on Sunday approved the measure recommended by their cantonal parliament for stricter naturalisation procedures.

In Switzerland, naturalisations are handled by communal and cantonal authorities.

READ MORE: How to apply for Swiss citizenship: An essential guide

Under the new legislation, former recipients of social assistance must wait ten years after they receive their last financial support from the state before applying for citizenship. Exceptions will be made for special cases of hardship, such as an illness, disability, or genuine financial need.

“It is a principle of reciprocity: when we have received something from society, we must return it”, said Susanne Voser, an MP who was the driving force behind the proposal.

A period of ten years for welfare recipients is also in force in Bern. In Basel and Thurgau, it is five years, and in other cantons, three years.

To even begin the process to obtain citizenship in Switzerland, you need to have lived in the country for more than ten years and have at least a B1 level of the relevant Swiss language (spoken) and A2 (written). You'll also need to have no criminal record and a means of income. 

The new law also requires candidates for Swiss citizenship to take a multiple-choice test on their historical and geographical knowledge of the country and the questions and format of this also vary from canton to canton.

Only those who correctly answer three-quarters of the questions can start the naturalisation process.

Aside from the knowledge of one of the country’s national languages, candidates for Swiss naturalisation must also prove that they are integrated and familiar with their local culture and customs.

And the requirements for this are not taken lightly - one recently publicised case involved an Italian man in the canton Schwyz who was denied Swiss citizenship because he didn’t know that bears and wolves shared an enclosure at the local zoo. 

Luckily for the man, a court ruled against the decision and ordered the canton to grant him citizenship. 

Simply being born in Switzerland is not enough to gain you citizenship and the canton of Aargau - the location for Sunday's referendum - recently made global headlines after it turned down for citizenship a young woman born and raised in Switzerland after an interview with local councillors which included 70 'bizarre' questions about her personal life and hobbies.

There have been a number of similar cases over the years which have included odd outcomes or bizarre questions. 

Reckon you know Switzerland well enough to qualify? See if you would pass Switzerland's citizenship exam


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