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SWISS CITIZENSHIP

Foreigner wins appeal after being denied Swiss citizenship due to car accident

Authorities in the canton of Schwyz denied a man’s naturalisation request because of a 'minor' car accident which injured no-one. A Swiss court has overturned the decision, ordering that the man be naturalised this year.

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

The man, named in Swiss media as Orhan T, crashed into a post when driving home from work in August 2020. Swiss media reports he nodded off at the wheel after working several long days in the weeks before. 

After the crash the man was hit with a CHF900 fine for “driving a motor vehicle in a non-drivable condition”. There are no suggestions alcohol or drugs were involved. 

When applying for naturalisation, authorities in the central canton of Schwyz postponed his application for a further five years (two years probation and a three-year additional waiting period). 

Orhan otherwise appeared to be an ideal candidate for naturalisation. He has lived in Switzerland since 1994 – well over the ten year minimum – and runs a restaurant which employs several staff. 

Swiss news outlet 20 Minutes reports his restaurant sponsors the local football team, Goldau FC, and supports a range of local clubs and societies. 

He also received positive references from a number of local political representatives all across the political spectrum, from the right-wing Swiss People’s Party to the centre-left Social Democrats. 

In a decision handed down on March 30th, 2022, the Administrative Court in Schwyz said the man’s accident was a “one-off misstep” which should not prejudice his claim at citizenship. 

“It is not apparent how this one-off misstep, in which all other integration requirements are assessed as positive, can have a negative impact on successful integration.”

The court ruled that cantonal authorities must naturalise the man before summer. 

‘A fundamental change in naturalisation practice’

The man’s lawyer said the verdict is likely to have significant consequences for naturalisation in Schwyz and maybe in Switzerland in general, as single incidents will have less of a bearing on a naturalisation claim where the evidence shows a person is clearly integrated. 

“The administrative court is making it clear that an overall assessment must be made even if there are minor missteps. ‘Killer’ criteria are therefore no longer permissible – it must always be specifically checked whether a person is integrated or not.”

Citizenship advocacy organisation Naturalisation Stories agrees, saying “thanks to the judgement, the authorities must now fundamentally change their practice”. 

Recent Swiss history is littered with examples of otherwise worthy candidates being knocked back due to relatively minor aspects. 

Switzerland’s naturalisation process is notoriously difficult, with applicants facing a range of hurdles at all stages of the process. 

In considering an application, not only will a person have to satisfy financial requirements and minimum times living in Switzerland, but they will need to meet a range of requirements laid out by three levels of government: the commune, the canton and the Confederation.

It is at the communal level where things can get particularly unusual, with people knocked back for not knowing enough about local zoo animals, for not liking hiking and for preferring to holiday abroad rather than in Switzerland. 

Nine examples of this are laid out in the following report. 

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

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SWISS CITIZENSHIP

Switzerland revokes citizenship for ‘unfair and deceptive behaviour’

A woman who gained a Swiss passport through marriage has had her citizenship revoked after she divorced - just one of the reasons that Swiss nationality can be removed from foreigners.

Switzerland revokes citizenship for ‘unfair and deceptive behaviour’

Married in 2010 to a Swiss man 15 years her senior, a Moroccan woman became naturalised through the facilitated process in 2015, but separated from her husband just months later.

As soon as the couple divorced in 2017, the woman remarried in Lebanon, raising suspicions among Swiss authorities about the ulterior motives behind her marriage in Switzerland.

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

According to media reports on Monday, “after inquiring into the circumstances of the couple’s breakup” and concluding that the woman married expressly to get a Swiss passport,  the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) revoked her naturalisation.

She appealed the decision, first to an administrative court, and then to Switzerland’s highest judicial authority, the Federal Court. Both have upheld SEM’s decision.

“The SEM may cancel the facilitated naturalisation obtained by false statements or by the concealment of essential facts”, the federal judge ruled, adding that the woman obtained her citizenship through “disloyal and deceptive behaviour”.

While this may seem like a rare occurrence, in fact it is not.

On average, SEM revokes close to 50 naturalisations each year following a divorce.

But there are also other circumstances when the government can strip someone of Swiss citizenship.

As The Local reported earlier in 2022, “dual nationals can have their Swiss citizenship revoked if their conduct is seriously detrimental to Switzerland’s interests or reputation”.

One example of when such a drastic and irrevocable step can be taken is in the case of people convicted of war crimes, terrorism, or treason.

Between 1940 and 1947, 80 Swiss nationals were deprived of their citizenship because they collaborated with the Nazis.

More recently, in 2019, a Turkish-Swiss dual national lost his Swiss citizenship after being convicted by the Federal Criminal Court for being a member of Islamic State (ISIS).

The last such case, in 2020, involves a woman who was born and raised in Geneva but also has a French passport in addition to a Swiss one. She took her two young daughters to live in the ISIS enclave in Syria without the knowledge of their respective fathers.

In both these cases, authorities revoked their citizenship, banning them from returning to Switzerland and possibly posing a security threat within the country.

Whatever the reason for withdrawing the citizenship, it can only be done if the person has a second nationality. Otherwise, Switzerland would create stateless people, an act prohibited by international law.

And while in certain cases the citizenship can be reinstated, you can’t get it back if your naturalisation has been nullified or if your citizenship has been revoked, for reasons cited above.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: Can Swiss citizenship be revoked – and can you get it back?
 

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