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Swiss lawmakers decide against easier access to Swiss citizenship

Sandra Sparrowhawk
Sandra Sparrowhawk - [email protected]
Swiss lawmakers decide against easier access to Swiss citizenship
Switzerland to tax French cross-border commuters working from home, Photo by Christian Wasserfallen: https://www.pexels.com/photo/the-switzerland-and-europian-flags-near-the-court-of-swiss-confederation-in-bern-switzerland-7327878/

Switzerland's National Council, the lower house of parliament, has rejected a motion to make getting a hold of the red passport easier for foreign residents in Switzerland.

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The rules on gaining Swiss citizenship are notoriously strict and dissuade many foreign residents from applying, yet Switzerland’s National Council has decided to keep them in place, Blick reports.

Even though a new initiative was recently launched seeking to shorten residency requirements for foreigners in order to quality for Swiss citizenship, on Wednesday the National Council rejected a bid by the Green Liberal Party to lower the hurdles to Swiss citizenship.

READ MORE: The new bid to ease Swiss citizenship laws

Most MPs turned down four motions asking for "fair rules in naturalisation,” preferring to maintain the current system which requires foreign nationals to live in Switzerland for 10 years before being able to apply for Swiss passport.

Also, the minimum length of stay in communities before the possibility of naturalisation — typically between two and five years — should not be reduced either, the MPs decided.

In the recent past, the Swiss Parliament has repeatedly rejected easing the requirements for naturalisation – including two parliamentary initiatives that would have granted foreigners more co-determination rights after five years in Switzerland.

The four motions that have now been rejected by the factions of the Swiss People's Party, Free Democratic Party, and Mitte show that civil rights reforms are having a difficult time in Switzerland.

The motion, which sought to reduce the length of stay to seven years, was rejected by 107 votes to 83 with one abstention.

Additionally, the (in some municipalities) rather high minimum length of stay requirement should also not be reduced to between one to three years. This initiative also failed by 102 votes to 89 with one abstention.

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Currently, cantons are obliged to set their minimum residency requirements between two and five years.

Furthermore, it should still be possible for those who are entitled to vote at a municipal assembly to decide on an application for naturalisation.

Green Liberal Party’s Katja Christ sought to transfer this decision to a parliament, an executive, a commission of authorities, or a comparable body instead. However, the National Council rejected this by 104 votes to 87 with one abstention.

Finally, the naturalisation hurdles for children of foreigners should also remain as they are and not be lowered. This was rejected by the large chamber by 105 votes to 85 with one abstention.

Even long-term pupils in Switzerland still have to take a naturalisation test.

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READ MORE: 'Broken system': The fight to make it easier for foreigners to get Swiss citizenship

In May, another new initiative was launched to shorten residency requirements for foreigners in order to quality for Swiss citizenship. The move, called a “Popular initiative for a modern nationality right (initiative for democracy),” is spearheaded by an organisation called Aktion Vierviertel in German and Action Quatre Quarts in French.

The group is campaigning for foreigners who have lived and worked in Switzerland for at least five years — rather than 10 years as is required currently — to be able to apply for a Swiss passport.

The organisation now has until November 23rd 2024 to collect the 100,000 signatures that are needed to launch a referendum.

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