Swiss citizenship For Members

'Too soon': Why Swiss MPs refused to ease naturalisation rules for some foreigners

Helena Bachmann
Helena Bachmann - [email protected]
'Too soon': Why Swiss MPs refused to ease naturalisation rules for some foreigners
Third-generation foreigners still face bumps on the road to Swiss citizenship. Photo by Anne-Christine POUJOULAT / AFP

The issue of simplifying the citizenship process for Swiss-born foreigners, which has been on Switzerland’s political agenda for years, has now been scrapped.


While some MPs have been calling for the loosening of the current requirements, thought to be too strict and difficult to fulfill, the majority of deputies voted to maintain the status quo.

The Council of States has vetoed  on Wednesday a parliamentary initiative of the National Council which sought to relax the criteria for the naturalisation procedure for Swiss-born grandchildren of immigrants.

This decision came a month after 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 — even though in 2017, voters approved facilitated naturalisation for Swiss-born grandchildren of immigrants.

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


After that ‘yes’ vote, more relaxed measures were introduced in 2018, though many restrictions still remain (see below).

This has prompted deputies from left-wing parties to push for further easing of the requirements.

“The procedure is still tedious, with significant administrative burden and obstacles," according to Green MP Lisa Mazzone.

These motions have, however, been turned down on Wednesday because “facilitated naturalisation for the third generation was introduced only a few years ago and we must  wait for more information on the evolution of the situation before starting a new revision of the law,” said Marco Chiesa of the populist Swiss People’s Party (SVP), which has opposed laxer rules for these, or any other, foreigners.

READ ALSO: 'Broken system' - The fight to make it easier for foreigners to become Swiss

Why do people born in Switzerland have to be naturalised?

Unlike many other countries, being born in Switzerland doesn’t automatically mean the person is Swiss — even if they have lived their entire lives here.

If their parents were born abroad and still hold foreign passports, a person will not obtain Swiss citizenship at birth, but must be naturalised.

The Social Democratic party has been pushing for years for laws allowing citizenship by birth in a manner similar to the United States, France, and many other countries.

“Anyone who is born in the country, grows up, works, and spends his life here should also have the appropriate rights as a citizen. That is a democratic and human rights principle,” said socialist MP Paul Rechsteiner.

However, this plan has been encountering resistance, particularly from the SVP, who have consistently advocated for a tough naturalisation framework. 

READ MORE: How Switzerland’s Social Democrats want to introduce ‘citizenship by birth’


What are criteria for third-generation naturalisation?

Greens and Social Democrats have been trying (unsuccessfully so far) to relax the rules many in Switzerland consider too harsh.

Even after the new law was introduced in 2018, “the legal requirements are impossible to meet,” according to a report by the Federal Commission for Migration (FCM) “Thus, it is clear that facilitated naturalisation is not actually easier for the third generation, but rather more difficult.”

The burden of proof is very high and often, as FCM stated, difficult to meet.

For instance, at least one of the grandparents must have been born in Switzerland or it can be plausibly established that the grandparent had a B, C, L or A permit. 

Or, at least one of the parents had a C permit, had lived in Switzerland for at least 10 years and had completed at least five years of compulsory schooling here.

However, as the FCM pointed out, the documentation relating to grandparents could be difficult to obtain if they are deceased and no family records can be found.

And many parents who arrived in Switzerland later in life did not meet the five years of compulsory schooling  criteria, so eligibility for citizenship under this rule “is a real obstacle”, according to the study.

“For third-generation foreigners, the administrative burden inherent in the current procedure is unfairly high: while they themselves meet all the criteria, their application for naturalisation depends above all on the residence status of their parents,” the report said.

READ MORE: Third generation fast-track naturalisation in Switzerland: What you need to know 
All this doesn't necessarily mean the efforts to introduce less stringent rules are definitely finished, but so far MPs haven't indicated whether, or when, they will continue the battle.


Join the conversation in our comments section below. Share your own views and experience and if you have a question or suggestion for our journalists then email us at [email protected].
Please keep comments civil, constructive and on topic – and make sure to read our terms of use before getting involved.

Please log in to leave a comment.

See Also