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Frenchman barred from Swiss citizenship over speeding offence

Helena Bachmann
Helena Bachmann - [email protected]
Frenchman barred from Swiss citizenship over speeding offence
If you speed, you are not Swiss. Photo by Denny Müller on Unsplash

In yet another example of Swiss authorities denying citizenship to eligible candidates, a French citizen’s application for naturalisation has been finally rejected because he was caught speeding.


The speeding incident dates back to 2017 and the rejection of naturalisation application to 2018, but the final verdict of the applicant’s appeal was published only on Thursday. 
This is what we know:

The Frenchman, whose identity was not revealed, has lived in Switzerland for 40 years and owns several multi-million-franc businesses here.
In 2017, the Geneva resident reportedly drove past a 40-km/h construction site at 80 km/h and was subsequently slapped with a 540-franc fine.
His citizenship application was initially rejected in 2018, because the naturalisation committee took his careless driving to mean than the candidate was "not successfully integrated." His appeal against the decision failed.
READ MORE: Reader question: What does being 'successfully integrated' in Switzerland mean? 


This may sound like a trivial reason to deny a passport to an otherwise upstanding resident, but it is in line with Switzerland’s strict naturalisation criteria, which include complying with the country’s laws.

Not paying your taxes on time, having unsettled debts or being the subject of debt collection proceedings, and having a criminal record — which the Frenchman has, after being caught speeding — can also preclude naturalisation.

READ MORE: Why your Swiss citizenship application might be rejected - and how to avoid it

Law is law, but some decisions seem to be arbitrary.

For instance, an 18-year-old man was recently naturalised in Aargau, even though he was caught shoplifting in 2021.

Even though some officials opposed naturalisation, finding the young man’s behaviour "disrespectful,” these objections were overruled on the grounds that shoplifting incidents happened when the man was a minor, and he was granted Swiss citizenship after all.

READ MORE: Why the case of a teenager getting Swiss citizenship has sparked controversy

Failing the cheese test

But there are also other examples of arbitrary rulings.

One involved a British café owner in canton Schwyz, who was denied citizenship after failing to answer a question about the origins of a Swiss cheese dish, raclette. 

Another well publicised example was a Dutch woman living in Aargau, whose first attempt to get a Swiss passport was turned down because she complained about the noise of cow bells in her village.

In 2020, an Italian man was denied Swiss citizenship because he failed questions on the test about animals in the local zoo. The decision was, however, overturned by a federal court. 

And there is also the case of a family from Kosovo, long-term residents in Switzerland, who have had their application for citizenship refused, partly due to their habit of wearing jogging bottoms in town and not greeting people in the street.

The reason? You guessed it — lack of integration.

READ MORE: Sweatpant-wearing family denied Swiss passports


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