For members


Two Passports: What dual nationals in Switzerland should know when travelling

Holding two citizenships can be an advantage but is also sometimes subject to some rules. This is what Britons, Americans, and other dual nationals should know when travelling from and to Switzerland.

Two Passports: What dual nationals in Switzerland should know when travelling
When arriving in Switzerland, this passport is best. Photo by: Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

For many readers of The Local, gaining Swiss citizenship helps them to feel more settled – but there are also travel benefits, including avoiding the long queues reserved for foreigners when arriving in Switzerland.

Citizens of the European Union can also enter Switzerland freely, through the same quick line.

This no-hassle access has especially been an issue for British citizens. Before Brexit, they could whizz through the CH / EU passport control line at the airport. Now, however, they have to queue up with third-country nationals.

What if a UK citizen is also a Swiss national?

Then it’s much easier. They, as well as all dual citizens (of Switzerland and another country), are obviously much better off travelling with both passports — presenting the Swiss (or EU) one when arriving in Switzerland for a quicker, headache-free entry, and showing the British one when passing through immigration control into the UK – for very same reasons.

This was made clear recently when Financial Times journalist Chris Giles tweeted that the UK Border Force “detained” his dual-national daughter while she was travelling from France into the UK with her German passport – and not her British one. 

He went on to say that UK border guards released his daughter. According to Giles, the border staff said she should have had both passports with her “and asked why she was travelling on her German one”.

So the lesson here is clear: even though you are not breaking any laws (at least not Swiss ones), if you travel with your ‘other’ identity papers when arriving in Switzerland, presenting your country-specific passport is much simpler.

There is also another reason why a dual national is better off showing the Swiss passport when entering Switzerland.

As one reader with the American / Swiss nationality told The Local, she once inadvertently showed her US passport when arriving in Geneva from the United States.

While there is nothing illegal about that, the immigration officer asked her how long she plans to stay in Switzerland. When she said “I live here”, he asked for her residence permit. When she replied that she is also a citizen of Switzerland, the man asked for her Swiss passport, telling her she will find it easier in the future to automatically present her Swiss ID when arriving in the country.

READ MORE: What the latest statistics tell us about dual nationals in Switzerland

The United States is an exception to the rule

While the dual US-Swiss citizen is better off, for practical reasons shown in the above example, presenting the Swiss passport when entering Switzerland, that choice doesn’t exist when travelling to the United States.

According to the US State Department, “US nationals, including dual nationals, must use a US passport to enter and leave the United States”.

The reason for this rule is not given, though the US has a conflicting stance on Americans willingly applying for another citizenship.

While it accepts that people born abroad may be automatically considered a citizen of that country, the US government balks at anyone voluntarily applying for another passport.

“A person who acquires a foreign citizenship by applying for it may lose US citizenship”, the State Department says. “In order to lose US citizenship, the law requires that the person must apply for the foreign citizenship voluntarily, by free choice, and with the intention to give up US citizenship”.

Judging by Switzerland alone (though the situation is likely similar in other countries as well), while some Americans do give up their US passports when becoming Swiss, many others don’t.

So never show any other passport than the American one when coming to and leaving the USA.

The State Department doesn’t mention what the penalty for this “infraction” could be, but it’s better not to find out.

READ: How to apply for Swiss citizenship: An essential guide

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For members


SWISS pilots threaten an October strike action

The Swiss pilots’ union could go on strike during Switzerland’s busy autumn holiday period.

SWISS pilots threaten an October strike action

The union, Aeropers, which has been negotiating salary increases and improved working conditions with Switzerland’s national airline, has rejected the carrier’s latest collective labour agreement (CLA) and is threatening to go on strike.

The  (CLA) is a kind of contract that is negotiated between Switzerland’s trade unions and employers or employer organisations. Generally speaking, they cover a minimum wage for each type of work; regulations relating to work hours; payment of wages in the event of illness or maternity; vacation and days off; and protection against dismissal.

READ MORE : What is a Swiss collective bargaining agreement — and how could it benefit you?

The pilots said they would cease flying on October 17th, which falls in the middle of school holidays in a number of cantons — the period when many families holiday abroad.

“SWISS has not sufficiently entered into the matter of the legitimate interests of its pilots”, Aeropers said, adding that if the airline doesn’t come up with a better offer, the union “will initiate the procedures for a strike”.

For its part, SWISS said in a press release that it offered its pilots 60 million francs more than on the previous CLA, but “Aeropers executive committee has rejected this latest offer as inadequate, and has made demands of its own totalling over 200 million”.

However, Aeropers head Thomas Steffen has denied SWISS’ claim saying the 200-million figure is “a fantasy number” that has no basis whatsoever. According to Steffen, the pilots’ demand was “significantly less than half of this sum”.

He went on to accuse the airline of “propaganda” at the detriment of its employees”.

He added that the strike would me a last-resort measure if the dispute on pay, which has been going on for a year, is not resolved within a month.

“We’ve negotiated for a year and made sure that our members are level-headed and fly safely and reliably, despite being without a contract,” Steffen said.

If the SWISS cockpit staff, which also includes its sister airline, Edelweiss, does go on strike, it will be the latest labour dispute in Europe’s aviation, which includes a strike by Lufthansa ground crew, which impacted Switzerland over the summer.

However, strikes by Swiss workers is relatively uncommon compared to other countries.

READ MORE: Why are strikes so rare in Switzerland?