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SWISS CITIZENSHIP

EXPLAINED: Why ‘simplified’ Swiss naturalisation is actually not that simple

In Switzerland, the simplified naturalisation process is open to foreign spouses of Swiss citizens or third-generation foreigners. Everyone else has to go through the regular citizenship procedure.

EXPLAINED: Why ‘simplified’ Swiss naturalisation is actually not that simple
Getting naturalised in Switzerland is not simple. photo by Photo by STEFAN WERMUTH / AFP

In many countries where citizenship is granted at birth, the notion of ‘third-generation foreigners’ is an odd one.

But not in Switzerland.

As explained by the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM), third-generation refers to “foreign citizen whose grandparents emigrated to Switzerland”.

SEM specifies who fits into this category:

  • At least one of your grandparents was born in Switzerland and can be proven to have acquired a right of residence here.
  • At least one parent (has) acquired a permanent residence permit, (has) lived for at least ten years in Switzerland and attended compulsory schooling in Switzerland for at least five years.
  • You were born in Switzerland and hold a permanent residence permit.
  • You have attended compulsory schooling for at least five years in Switzerland.
  • You are successfully integrated.

In addition, the third-generation person must file an application for citizenship before their 25th birthday.

“If you submit the application after your 25th birthday but otherwise meet all the requirements, you can apply for simplified naturalisation until 15 February 2023 provided you will still be under the age of 40 on that date”, SEM said.

READ MORE: I thought I was Swiss? How being mistaken as a national can put you on the road to citizenship

What is involved in ‘simplified naturalisation’ for third-generation foreigners?

Unlike the simplified procedure that applies to foreign spouses of Swiss citizens, the one for the third-generation is comparatively more onerous —though not as strict as the ‘ordinary’ process for all the other foreign nationals.

On February 12, 2017, 60.4 percent of voters approved the new law on facilitated naturalisation aimed to make it easier for some 25,000 third-generation foreigners to obtain the Swiss passport.

Three years after its entry into force, only 1,868 people have applied for citizenship.

READ MORE: Will Swiss-born foreigners be granted automatic citizenship?

Why so few?

That’s because in reality, simplified naturalisation is not that simple.

On the plus side, the procedures are faster and cheaper, and there is no need to go through all the steps required for ‘ordinary’ citizenships, including taking a difficult test.

But among the required conditions, it must be established “in a probable manner” that at least one of the applicant’s grandparents was born in Switzerland or that he or she acquired a right of residence in Switzerland.

“Imagine that you have to find this in undigitalised document of your deceased grandmother”,  Walter Leimgruber, chairman of the Federal Migration Commission told Tribune de Genève (TDG) newspaper on Tuesday.

Another difficulty is that proof must also be given that at least one of the applicant’s parents has completed at least five years of compulsory education in Switzerland.

“Many first-generation seasonal workers were only allowed to bring their children to Switzerland when they were young,” Leimgruber said.

This means some parents of the present-day third-generation foreigners did not attend schools in the country.

Because of these difficulties in obtaining the necessary proof, “many people start the process of simplified naturalisation and then give up in frustration”, he added.

Aware of this paradox, the Committee on Political Institutions of the National Council will soon look into the question, Leimgruber said.

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DISCOVER SWITZERLAND

How to keep safe and avoid problems when hiking in the Swiss Alps

Switzerland is a perfect place to go hiking with its thousands of marked trails. However, hundreds of people get into accidents while trekking every year, and some die. Here is what you need to know to be safe.

How to keep safe and avoid problems when hiking in the Swiss Alps

The Swiss mountains are one of the country’s most notable and most visited sites. There are activities to enjoy during all seasons and hiking the Swiss Alps is something that people of all ages enjoy in the winter or summer months.

However, mountain rescuers are called every year to help people in emergencies. Last year, there were 1,525 cases of hikers in distress – a number higher than in any other type of sport. In 2021, there were only 500 emergency calls from skiers and 342 made by mountain bikers.

READ ALSO: Why getting rescued in the Swiss Alps could cost you thousands

Bruno Hasler, who is responsible for mountain emergency statistics at the Swiss Alpine Club SAC, says that many people overestimate themselves and that is dangerous. “The hikers need to be better informed. The authorities must inform people as well as possible about the dangers of mountain hiking”, he told public broadcaster SRF.

What are the main recommendations when hiking?

The first recommendation is to make a realistic self-assessment. Mountain hiking is an endurance sport and people planning on doing a trek should avoid time pressure and choose their trails and times well.

In that sense, it is essential to make careful route planning and evaluate the length, altitude, difficulty and current conditions (including weather forecast) of the trek. Thunderstorms, snow, wind and cold significantly increase the risk of accidents.

Don’t forget to plan alternative routes and keep emergency rescue numbers on hand (REGA 1414 and the european emergency number 112).

READ ALSO : Should you buy supplemental health insurance in Switzerland?

Take practical equipment for your hiking conditions and the proper footwear too. In a backpack, take as little as possible but as much as necessary, aiming to keep it light but full of valuable things such as sun protection, a first aid kit, rescue blanket, water and a mobile phone.

The most common cause of accidents is falling because of slipping or tripping, so be sure to walk on marked paths (reducing the risk of getting lost) and keep a sure foot and safe pace.

Don’t forget to take regular breaks not only for eating and drinking (necessary to maintain performance and concentration) but also to enjoy the landscape.

Be responsible for the children in the group, treks that require long-lasting concentration are not suitable for children and in passages with risk of falling, and one adult can only look after one child, according to the Swiss Alpine Club. Small groups are the best for hiking because they ensure mutual assistance and flexibility at the same time.

Rega on a rescue mission in the Swiss Alps. Photo by FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

The PACE checklist

The so-called PACE checklist helps hikers keep track of the most important things. PACE means plan, assess, consider, and evaluate, Swiss Alpine Club SAC says.

READ ALSO: Five beautiful Swiss villages located near Alpine lakes

Plan your route and duration and give yourself extra time and alternatives. Inform someone else about your trip. Assess if the hike is suitable for you, and do not undertake challenging trips yourself. Consider if you have what you need for the walk, like sturdy hiking shoes, protection against harsh weather and food and water supplies.

Finally, evaluate while hiking. See if you are too tired, keep eating, drinking and resting regularly and pay attention to the time you need and any changes in the weather. Do not leave the marked trail and turn back in time if necessary.

What to do in case of an accident?

If there are accidents during your hike, you should first provide life-saving help to anyone seriously injured and then call emergency services. Do not leave the wounded alone and do not put yourself at risk.

Mark the accident area clearly and give signals. The international emergency call sign consists of giving a sign (such as a flashing light or waving a cloth) six times a minute and then repeating it after one minute.

READ ALSO: Rega: What you need to know about Switzerland’s air rescue service

For helicopters, holding both your arms up (making a V shape) signals that you need help, while keeping one arm up and another down (forming a diagonal line with your arms) means you do not need help.

If you see animals, keep your distance and do not disturb them. (Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP)

What do I do if I see animals on my hike?

It’s common to find animals while hiking in the Swiss alps, especially cows in the pastures. A cow will protect their calves, so keep your distance. Do not touch the animals, and keep dogs on a leash.

Slowly and carefully move around at a distance and continue your trek.

You may occasionally find herds that dogs protect. It’s possible to inform yourself online in advance to find out where these herds are and avoid them. Still, remember that packs and their guardian dogs should be disturbed as little as possible. So stay calm and keep your distance – avoid any brisk movements.

If you are hiking with your dog, put it on a leash and slowly and calmly detour around the livestock.

If a guard dog barks and runs in your direction, try to stay calm and give the dog time to assess the situation. Stay far from the herd, don’t run or make sudden movements. You can use a stick to keep the dog at a distance by stretching them out, but don’t raise it or wave it around.

Once the dogs have accepted your presence and stopped barking, continue at a slow pace on your way.

Don’t forget: the Swiss rescue number is 1414 or you can also reach them using the European emergency number 112.

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