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Where in Switzerland do foreigners have the best chance of gaining Swiss citizenship?

The Local
The Local - [email protected] • 6 Mar, 2020 Updated Fri 6 Mar 2020 10:24 CEST
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Switzerland’s big cities grant the most citizenships, while some municipalities have not naturalised anyone in nearly 30 years, a new study found.

In Zurich, 17,000 foreigners were naturalised between 2011 and 2017 — the highest number in Switzerland.

Geneva followed with 9,760 naturalisations, Lausanne with 6,019, Basel with 4,975, and Winterthur with 3,368.

While these cities are the Swiss leaders in terms of number of naturalisations, many other municipalities didn’t do as well, according to a new report from the Federal Migration Commission and the University of Geneva. 

Researchers analysed data for years 2011 to 2017 and found that some towns have not naturalised any foreigners for years.

In all, 261 municipalities have not granted a single Swiss passport within that time period, while 125 communities have not naturalised any foreigners since 1992.

For example, the country’s capital, Bern, has naturalised only one in 100 foreigners each year.

Some smaller communities too have been reluctant to grant Swiss citizenships. Rueyres (VD), Kandergrund (BE) and Wintersingen (BL) have not naturalised anyone since 1992, the study shows.

Roman Lanz, Kandergrund’s mayor, said that “there had not been a single naturalisation request”, in his 10 year-term, even though there are quite a few foreigners in his community.

"But these people don't want to stay here - they usually move on after one or more seasons”, he added.

However, Philippe Wanner, professor at the Institute for Demography and Socio-Economics at the University of Geneva, suspects that foreigners living in small towns or villages are afraid to apply for naturalisation because they fear "failing and therefore being stigmatised".

But bigger cities can offer more anonymity in case of failure”, he added. 

Other factors may also explain the differences in naturalisation rates between rural and urban communities: foreigners who decide to become Swiss are usually young people, who are more likely to live in larger municipalities.

Still, not all small communities are keeping immigrants at bay. Each year, Villars-le-Comte in Vaud naturalises on average more than 11 percent of all foreigners living there.

In general, the numbers in Vaud are higher than in the rest of the country, the study indicated.

But Wanner explained that many small communities in French-speaking Switzerland have only a few foreigners, so these naturalisations make the statistics skyrocket.

READ MORE: The Swiss cantons with the strictest citizenship requirements 

The report does not indicate the reasons why foreigners in some municipalities are denied naturalisations, but criteria throughout Switzerland are very strict, including good knowledge of one of the country’s official languages, integration, and good standing in the community.

Some requests are turned down for what may seem as arbitrary and even trivial reasons.

For instance, authorities in canton Basel had rejected an application from a Kosovar resident in 2016, because the man walked around town in a tracksuit. 

And earlier this year, an Italian man in the canton Schwyz failed his citizenship test when he couldn’t answer a question about bears and wolves at the local zoo, even though he has lived in the community for decades.

A quarter of Switzerland's 8.5 million population is foreign, with Italians comprising the largest group at nearly 15 percent. They are followed by the Germans (14.3 percent) and the Portuguese (12.3 percent).

READ MORE: Which foreign citizens want Swiss nationality the most — and why?





The Local 2020/03/06 10:24

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