12 June 2017
That little red book
I recently saw an article on www.news.ch about how more than half the kids under 6 in Switzerland have at least one foreign parent. In 2015, of the 8.3 million inhabitants, 2 million of them were foreigners and 9% of the population have duel nationalities. Being an expat and having lived here for over 17 years, this is hardly news to me, although the figures are interesting.
This brings me to the next subject, applying for Swiss citizenship. A rather news-worthy topic it seems. For example the story of the woman in Canton Aargau who had her application rejected by the commune due to her “annoying” animal-welfare campaigning. The story was covered worldwide.
The more local news focuses on the changes to the requirements for citizenship application, such the reduction from 12 to 10 years’ residence required, the costing in Geneva (being no longer income-based as of 1 June 2017) or the cantons that want to make the application process more stringent. The subject of citizenship seems to be un-ending.
Investopedia.com names Switzerland among the top 5 countries who make it especially difficult to obtain citizenship, along with Germany, Austria, Japan and the US.
The reason behind the so-called difficulties? All have requirements of time spent living in that particular country, ranging anywhere between 5-30 years. Applicant must be integrated into society, speak the national language and contribute to society, economically, socially and culturally.
I don’t know about you, but to me, these seem like fairly reasonable requirements for obtaining a citizenship.
Can I point out though that as “difficult” as the requirements for citizenship are, these 5 countries all rank between 1 and 4 on the Global Passport Power Rank Index and individually all sit in the top 20 (www.passportindex.org ). Not to mention that Switzerland has been placed 5 in the Global Peace Index for 2017 (http://economicsandpeace.org) and regularly ranks in the top 10 places to live in the world.
Now let me get to my point; once you qualify, I don’t believe that the application for obtaining Swiss citizenship is overly difficult. That said, it can be overwhelming.
The official documents required (birth/marriage certificates) can be tedious to obtain from overseas embassies and the time constraints to get everything together puts even more pressure on the process.
The cost can also be a deciding factor, at a minimum CHF 850 per application depending on the canton. This excludes translation of documents, embassy fees etc. Not to mention that it can take a minimum of 18 months from application to consent as each goes through three stages of approval; Federal, Cantonal and Communal. No wonder some people seem not to bother at all.
I have to say though, having personally been through the process a few years ago, and having helped others with theirs, holding that little red book in your hand is a proud moment.