Debt can't prevent someone getting Swiss citizenship, court rules

The Local Switzerland
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Debt can't prevent someone getting Swiss citizenship, court rules
Does being in debt prevent you from becoming a Swiss citizen? Photo: Marlon Trottmann GettyImages

Swiss cantons and municipalities have been refusing to naturalise foreigners who are subject of debt collection proceedings. But is this really legal?


The Foreign Nationals and Integration Act (FNIA), defines successful integration — an important condition for naturalisation — as personal responsibility, self-sufficiency, and participation in the country’s economy.

In its handbook on naturalisation, State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) notes that “compliance with Swiss law is measured in particular by an exemplary financial reputation.”

SEM goes on to list accumulation of debt (along with non-payment of taxes, health insurance premiums, fines, or rents) as a valid reasons for denying citizenship.

However, a court in Aargau has decided otherwise.

It has ruled, a case that has dragged on for years, that denying citizenship under such circumstances violates applicants' rights. 

This verdict came after a Kosovar woman who has lived in Switzerland for 32 years had her application for naturalisation rejected several times, due to being in debt.

The administrative court, however, accepted her appeal against this decision, ruling that the rejection due to debt enforcement is unconstitutional. 

This doesn’t mean that  the practice of rejecting indebted citizenship seekers will now cease, as further appeals could be made to a higher court — which could, in turn, rule against the woman.

But for now at least, the verdict of the district judges stands.


Social assistance too

By the same token, depending on public money to support yourself if you are a foreigner seeking to be naturalised.

It is considered an even greater offence (and a decidedly ‘unSwiss’ trait) if you refuse to work.

In fact, your application for Swiss citizenship will be turned down if you have been on welfare in the three years prior to applying.
An exception is made if the benefits are paid back in full before your application is received.

READ ALSO: Which minor offences could prevent you becoming a Swiss citizen?


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