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Swiss MPs reject move to grant citizenship to foreigners born in Switzerland

A motion to grant citizenship to foreigners born in Switzerland has been making rounds of the parliament for more than a year. It has finally been rejected.

Swiss MPs reject move to grant citizenship to foreigners born in Switzerland
Not everyone in Switzerland can display these flags on their window. Photo by Etienne Girardet on Unsplash

Unlike many other countries such as the United States or Canada, Switzerland doesn’t recognise the so-called “birthright citizenship” which automatically grants a Swiss passport to anyone born here.

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

Even though they 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.

In March 2021, two MPs have filed a motion asking that those born in Switzerland of foreign parents get a Swiss passport at birth.

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

On Wednesday, the National Council rejected a similar parliamentary initiative to allow children born in Switzerland to foreign parents to become Swiss from the age of 18.

“A child who is born in Switzerland, speaks the language with the accent of their region, and follows the school path there should be able to benefit from the nationality of the country where he grew up; it’s just common sense”, said Green MP Delphine Klopfenstein Broggini.

While the proposal had the unanimous backing of left-wing parties, their conservative counterparts argued that “we must stick to our ‘birthright’ tradition”, according to Jean-Luc Addor, a deputy from the  right-wing Swiss People’s Party (SVP).

He added that “there can be no right to naturalisation without integration” and “the mere fact of being born in Switzerland and having grown up here is not always a sufficient to guarantee of integration”.

READ MORE: Reader question: Will my children get a Swiss passport if born in Switzerland?

The post-rejection debate incited “some brouhaha” in the chamber, according to Swiss media.

Asked by a Green MP Stefania Prezioso Batou about the difference between a Swiss and a foreigner who was born and educated in Switzerland, Addor replied: “The difference is that the Swiss are born Swiss!”.

“Life is made up of differences between men, between women, between Swiss, between foreigners, that’s how it is”, he said.

This is not the first attempt to grant citizenships to Swiss-born foreigners, nor the first rejection.

The Federal Council presented similar proposals three times — in 1983, 1994 and 2003. They  were supported by a large majority in parliament but nothing came out of them in the end.

“For almost 20 years nothing has happened and we have left the debate to those who always want more restrictions in this area. It’s time to go on the offensive again”, Mazzone noted.

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

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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?