Swiss lawmakers refuse to ease citizenship rules for third-generation immigrants

Helena Bachmann
Helena Bachmann - [email protected]
Swiss lawmakers refuse to ease citizenship rules for third-generation immigrants
'Swissness' is not accessible to everyone. Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

A parliamentary commission rejects the push for simpler naturalisation rules for Swiss-born grandsons and granddaughters of immigrants.


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. They are referred to as second or third-generation foreigners.

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

But this process is quite complex, as “the obstacles to be overcome are so high that the legal requirements are impossible to meet,” according to a report by the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM).


There have been some motions in the parliament filed by the Social Democratic and Green MPs in favour of at-birth citizenship for the second generation, but so far nothing has come out of these attempts.

And though in 2017 voters approved facilitated naturalisation for the third generation, hurdles still remain, as no progress has been made to date on this issue.

In fact, this week the Political Institutions Commission of the Council of States recommended that the parliament turn down any motions aimed at lowering the obstacles to naturalisation for this group of people.

The reason, according to the Commission, is that facilitated naturalisation for the third generation was introduced only four years ago and "we must now wait for more information on the evolution of the situation before starting a new revision of the law.”

More decisions on this issue will be made during the spring session of the parliament, which will take place from February 27th until March 17th.

In the meantime, access to Swiss nationality for this population group remains "unreasonably bureaucratic," as in many cases proof required for this process to be successful is difficult to obtain, SEM’s report found.

This article details the criteria that third-generation foreigners must meet in order to obtain Swiss citizenship:

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

As a result of these strict conditions, which in many cases are impossible to meet, most third-generation foreign nationals don’t even bother to apply for naturalisation: out 25,000 people in this group, only about 800 seek citizenship each year. 

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


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