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Swiss MPs refuse to extend ‘fast track’ naturalisation to registered partners

A foreign national married to a Swiss can benefit from the so-called “fast track” naturalisation. But this right will not be extended to unmarried couples, MPs decided on Wednesday.

Swiss MPs refuse to extend 'fast track' naturalisation to registered partners
Only a wedding allows a faster naturalisation process for foreign nationals. Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

A foreigner who is married to a Swiss citizen can apply for naturalisation after three years of marriage and five years of residence in Switzerland.

As a reminder, ordinary (or regular) naturalisation is the one most foreign citizens go through to become Swiss, after having lived here on a work-based residency permit for at least six years, with various additional age- related conditions.

In addition, cantonal legislation requires a minimum residence period of between two and five years in the commune and in the canton concerned.

Facilitated (or simplified) naturalisation is a shorter and less complicated process usually open to the foreign spouses and children of Swiss citizens, and — since early 2017 — to third generation foreigners.

READ MORE: Third generation fast-track naturalisation in Switzerland: What you need to know

But unlike married couples, those in registered partnerships are not eligible for the simplified process.

In 2013, two motions by the Green Party sought to end this unequal treatment, but the issue was put on the back burner for several years. On Wednesday, however, the National Council followed the Council of States in rejecting the proposal.

MPs refused these initiatives, arguing that homosexuals who have been living in registered partnerships will be able to marry from July 1st.

As for granting this right to all the others, “a popular vote would have to take place because the Federal Constitution would have to be amended in order to put registered partnerships and married partnerships on an equal footing on this point”, said MP Andri Silberschmidt.

Left-leaning deputies are criticisng the decision to refuse equal naturalisation treatment for all couples, regardless of their marital status.

“This how our parliament imposes what the unions should look like to obtain a certain service from the state”, said socialist deputy Ada Marra.

READ MORE: Naturalisation through marriage: How your partner can obtain Swiss citizenship

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For members


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?