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Why young foreigners are opting out of Swiss citizenship

Young people eligible for Swiss citizenship, including some born in Switzerland, are deciding not to pursue the famous red passport. Here’s what you need to know.

A red Swiss passport up close
A Swiss biometric passport. (Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP)

Switzerland’s naturalisation process is one of the toughest in Europe due to a variety of federal, cantonal and communal rules. 

While these rules place significant restrictions on who can actually become naturalised, even those who are eligible can in some cases be reluctant to do so. 

READ MORE: The nine most surprising questions on Switzerland’s citizenship exam

A recent assessment by the Federal Migration Commission (FKM) shows that only a fraction of those who are eligible use this option.

One of the reasons, according to FKM director Walter Leimgruber, is that many migrants are EU nationals who feel no need to become Swiss as they face almost no restrictions in Switzerland, apart from the inability to vote.

A consequence of Switzerland’s stringent nationalisation rules is that roughly 25 percent of the population cannot vote in federal or cantonal elections, while a handful of municipalities grant the right to vote on a communal level. 

OPINION: Switzerland’s denial of voting rights to foreigners motivated by fear

Also, naturalisation procedures, both regular and fast-track, are complex, deterring many eligible foreigners from applying.

“The bureaucratic hurdles are still too high”, Leimgruber told Swiss news outlet 20 Minutes. 

As a result, even those born in Switzerland and who have never lived anywhere else have not pursued Swiss citizenship. 

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

Have your say: Are you eligible to become Swiss but choose not to?

Whether by descent or any other reason, we want to hear from those who are eligible for naturalisation but who haven’t done so. 

If you are able to become Swiss – or will soon be able to – but will not go through the process, we’d like to get to the bottom of why. 

Please let us know below and click through to give us more specific information. If it is a combination of reasons, let us know the major one.

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Zurich approves simplified path to Swiss citizenship

Voters in Switzerland’s most populous canton on Sunday approved a proposal which will make it easier for foreigners to get Swiss citizenship.

Zurich approves simplified path to Swiss citizenship

The vote passed with 69.1 percent support, making it the most popular of the four initiatives put to the polls. 

Around 350,000 foreigners live in Zurich, which is roughly one quarter of the population – although the percentage is as high as 50 percent in some municipalities. 

The successful proposal called for Zurich’s naturalisation process, including the citizenship exam, to be made uniform across all 162 municipalities. 

The questions in the exam will now be centralised on a cantonal level. 

The test will include 350 questions about Swiss history, tradition, politics and culture, with a focus on Zurich. 

Anyone taking the test will be given 50 questions at random and must answer at least 30 correctly to pass. 

More information about the citizenship process in Zurich can be found at the following link. 

EXPLAINED: How Zurich wants to make naturalisation easier

What else was decided on Sunday? 

Voters in Zurich also decided to reject a proposal to lower the voting age to 16, with 64.1 percent saying ‘nein’ to the proposal. 

A proposal to provide for more parental leave – and even up gender imbalances between fathers and mothers – was also rejected. 

Finally, voters supported law changes which sought to enshrine Zurich’s climate change goals in the cantonal constitution. 

A detailed breakdown of the vote can be seen here.