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SWISS CITIZENSHIP

Switzerland refuses to make it easier to become Swiss

Switzerland's Federal Council rejected a motion by some MPs to make the process of obtaining Swiss citizenship easier for certain foreigners.

Switzerland refuses to make it easier to become Swiss
Nor everyone in Switzerland can display these flags on their window. Photo by Etienne Girardet on Unsplash

In view of the low naturalisation rate in Switzerland, MP Katja Christ from the Green Liberal party has filed a motion asking to revise the minimum length of stay required to obtain Swiss citizenship from 10 to seven years.

Christ also pointed out that the naturalisation process itself, especially on the municipal level, should be revamped.

That is because such a procedure sometimes involves discriminatory decisions by the communal assembly, which are based on the candidate’s origin rather than his or her eligibility for citizenship, she said.

The government responded that any denial of naturalisation believed by the candidate to be unjustified can be appealed.

Another MP, Corina Gredig, also asked to lower the minimum length of stay required by the cantons for naturalisation from the current five to three years, arguing that many people move from one canton before the five-year term.

READ MORE: Which Swiss cantons have the strictest citizenship requirements?

However, on Thursday the Federal Council rejected the motions, saying that a revised legislation on foreigners went into effect in 2019, so fairly recently, and the issues brought up in the two recent motions were already addressed at that time.

During the debates leading up to the new legislation, the parliament refused to reduce the minimum length of stay in Switzerland to eight years and in cantons  three years, authorities said.

The law lays out criteria not only for naturalisation, but also for integration in general, as well as for conditions to receive work permits in Switzerland, which include the need to provide certificates from government-accredited institutions to prove language proficiency.

READ MORE: Work permits: Switzerland introduces new rules for language proficiency certificates

The refusal to lighten up naturalisation requirements comes amid ongoing discussions in Switzerland about how to make this process easier for third-generation foreigners who are eligible to become Swiss.

Unlike many other countries, being born in Switzerland doesn’t automatically mean the person is Swiss.

If their parents were born abroad and still hold foreign passports, a person will not obtain Swiss citizenship at birth. 

Even though they were born in Switzerland and have lived their entire lives in Switzerland, they have the same nationality as their parents and will continue to be considered as foreigners – until and unless they become naturalised.

However, this process is more complex than it seems, as it is unreasonably bureaucratic, requiring proof that is often difficult to obtain.

EXPLAINED: Why so few third-generation Swiss are actually ‘Swiss’?

As a result of these strict conditions, very few third-generation foreigners become Swiss: out of about 25,000 people in this category, only 1,847 received their Swiss passports at the end of 2020 — the last year for which official statistics are available.

“There should be political will to implement change, which is not the case”, Rosita Fibbi, migration sociologist at the Swiss Forum for the Study of Migration and Population at the University of Neuchâtel, told The Local in an interview on May 4th.

“No significant steps to make the process truly easier have been introduced to date”; she added.

The latest Federal Council decision  not to act on the recent motions means no relief is in sight on the naturalisation front.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: Why so many foreigners in Switzerland skip naturalisation?
 

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SWISS CITIZENSHIP

QUIZ: Would you pass Zurich’s Swiss citizenship test?

Zurich, Switzerland's most populous canton, is standardising its test for Swiss citizenship. Think you could pass it?

QUIZ: Would you pass Zurich’s Swiss citizenship test?

Voters in the Swiss canton of Zurich on May 15th approved a proposal to simplify naturalisation requirements for the canton’s 350,000 foreigners. 

Zurich, Switzerland’s most populous canton, has 162 municipalities. While it might be a slight exaggeration to say there are 162 unique tests, the questions can vary greatly. 

Naturalisation: How well must I speak a Swiss language for citizenship?

The May 15th vote standardised the process by establishing a standardised knowledge test for the entire canton.

This means that the test will be drawn from the same questions regardless of whether you live in Adlikon bei Andelfingen or Zumikon. 

Whether you’ve just arrived in Zurich or you’re a long-time Swiss citizen, this set of cantonal naturalisation test questions gives you a chance to see how well you’d do. 

How does the naturalisation test work? 

The test includes 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.

While the test will be standardised – as in, the 50 questions will be drawn from the same 350 across the canton – there will be questions directed at municipal, cantonal and federal issues. 

The test will be in German, although the canton promises that it will take place in ‘plain language’. 

More information about the new requirements is available at the following link. 

EXPLAINED: How Zurich has simplified the Swiss citizenship process

Would you pass Zurich’s citizenship test?

With the decision to standardise the test only given public approval in May – and with things taking a little while in Switzerland generally – as at June 30th the canton-wide test has not yet been put in place. 

The Zurich government website indicates final work is being done to ensure the test is appropriate. 

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

A number of questions have however been released. The test is in multiple choice format, with applicants being given three or four options for most questions. 

The following are translated versions of some of the questions which are actually included on the test. 

As you can see, many relate to Switzerland federally and do not have specific relevance to Zurich. 

To take the test on the Zurich cantonal website – and for more information – click here. 

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