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PASSPORT

What we know about dual nationals living in Switzerland

Nearly a fifth of the country’s residents have two citizenships — Swiss and another one. Here’s what we know about them.

What we know about dual nationals living in Switzerland
Nearly one-fifth of Switzerland's population holds more than one passport. Photo by AFP

On Monday, The Local published an article about a Swiss MP who is trying to ban dual nationals from running for the parliament, claiming that they “don’t represent Switzerland’s best interests”.

One deputy, Yvonne Feri, who holds both a Swiss and Italian passport, replied that the parliament “is a reflection of Switzerland, where nearly 25 percent of the population has foreign roots”.

First: What is ‘dual nationality’?

When foreigners receive a citizenship of their country of residence while still maintaining the nationality of their place of origin, they become known as ‘dual nationals’.

Both countries consider these people as their citizens and neither regards them as foreigners.

FSO said that for statistical purposes, “dual nationals are considered as Swiss”.

How many dual nationals are there in Switzerland?

The latest FSO figures are from 2018, but the situation has not changed significantly since then.

People aged 15 or over with dual citizenship represent 18 percent of Switzerland’s permanent resident population – 967,000 people in total.

Most come from neighbouring countries: 24 percent from Italy, 12 percent from France, and 9 percent from Germany.

The table below shows where the other dual nationals come from.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: What’s the difference between permanent residence and Swiss citizenship? 

How did these people get their Swiss citizenship?

According to FSO, 65 percent obtained Swiss nationality through naturalisation, while 35 percent acquired it at birth.

“This situation is particularly marked among Kosovars, Serbians and North Macedonians with dual citizenship”, FSO explained.

“More than 90 percent of people within these populations obtained Swiss nationality through naturalisation. In contrast, for French, Italian or British dual nationals, the percentages of individuals who obtained Swiss nationality at birth and of those who obtained dual citizenship through naturalisation are more similar. Swiss-French dual nationals are the only ones among whom more individuals obtained Swiss nationality at birth rather than through naturalisation — 58 percent compared with 42 percent”.

What is the advantage of dual nationality?

The most obvious benefit is the ability to live and vote in both countries, without having to give up any rights in either.

The only exception may be American citizens, a number of whom are giving up their US passports after being naturalised in Switzerland. They take this drastic step to avoid paying taxes in the United States. 

The US is the only industrialised country in the world that taxes its overseas citizens. This practice places a double financial burden on them of having to pay taxes in their country of residence as well as in the United States.

That is why many Americans who have dual nationality opt to give up their US passports.
 

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NATURALISATION

IN NUMBERS: Where do Switzerland’s dual nationals live?

The share of people in Switzerland who have two passports has grown in the past decade, a new study shows.

IN NUMBERS: Where do Switzerland's dual nationals live?
Nearly a million people in Switzerland have a Swiss passport in addition to a foreign one. Photo by AFP

In 2019 — the most recent year for which official numbers are available —19 percent of permanent residents aged 15 or over had dual nationality, according to a study released last week by the Federal Statistical Office (FSO). 

This number equates to nearly a million people out of Switzerland’s population of 8.6 million.

When foreigners gain citizenship of their country of residence while still maintaining the nationality of their place of origin, they become known as ‘dual nationals'.

Both countries consider these people as their citizens and neither regards them as foreigners.

The most obvious benefit of dual citizenship is the ability to live and vote in both countries, without having to give up any rights in either.

READ MORE: IN NUMBERS: How Switzerland’s population is becoming increasingly multilingual 

This is what we know about dual nationals in Switzerland:

Among this population, 65 percent obtained Swiss nationality though naturalisation, while 35 percent obtained it at birth.

More than half — 55 percent — of the country's dual nationals come from Europe.

The second nationality most represented among the population with two citizenships is Italian (24 percent), followed by French (11 percent) and German nationality (9 percent).

The highest number of dual nationals live in the French-speaking part of Switzerland.

Most are in Geneva (45 percent) and Vaud (30 percent); next are Ticino (28 percent), Basel-City (25 percent) and Zurich (23 percent).

READ MORE: How dual citizenship has become easier to obtain in Switzerland 

Foreigners who wanted to become naturalised in Switzerland before 1992, had no choice but to give up their old passport.

Dual citizenship was not legal, which may explain why less than 8,000 foreigners a year were naturalised between 1987 and 1992. 

But in 1992, Switzerland passed a new civil rights law. One of the changes was the recognition of dual citizenship.

Interestingly, even though Switzerland is often slow to change, the country was one of the pioneers in Europe in recognising dual citizenship.

Germany, for example, has only accepted dual citizenship since 1999 and in principle only for citizens of other EU countries or Switzerland

Austria still doesn’t allow dual nationality —apart from special cases. And anyone who wants to become a Liechtenstein citizen must also hand in their old passport.


 

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