Young foreigners in no rush for Swiss passports

In February 2017, 60% of voters endorsed a reform to simplify the citizenship procedure for immigrants whose grandparents came to Switzerland Keystone

Fewer than 500 young people have applied for Swiss citizenship since the law changed earlier this year to ease naturalisation rules for third-generation immigrants. 

This content was published on July 8, 2018 minutes

According to the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM), between February 15 - when the change to the law came into effect - and the end of June, 482 young third-generation immigrants applied for a Swiss passport, the Le Matin Dimanche newspaper reported on Sunday. 

The keenest were youngsters of Italian origin (255), followed by Turkish (65), Kosovar (38), Spanish (30), Macedonian (17) and Portuguese (17).

Last year there was a national vote on this issue. In February 2017, 60.4% of voters endorsed a reform to simplify the citizenship procedure for immigrants whose grandparents came to Switzerland. 

+ Read about the vote that eased citizenship rules for third-generation immigrants

According to Geneva University sociology professor Philippe Wanner, around 25,000 young people aged 9 to 25 are in theory eligible for a passport.

However, despite a simplified procedure, Wanner said there were still a number of constraints, including the administrative steps, costs, individual motivation and compulsory military service. 

Wanner believes that after the initial rush, the average number of facilitated naturalisations for this category of applicants will stabilise at around 150 a year.

Some critics like the conservative right Swiss People’s Party still believe that the change will result in massive numbers of people seeking citizenship. Aargau parliamentarian Andreas Glarner told the Sunday paper that "the figures will increase and the worst is to come".

Application procedure

Normal procedure in Switzerland is that non-nationals must have spent ten years in the country before applying for citizenship, after which they sit tests and interviews. 

The new law eases the time burden for those meeting several conditions. They must have been born in the country, hold a C permit, have gone to school in Switzerland for five years, and have a grandparent born in the country or who lived in Switzerland legally for at least six years. 

The maximum age for applying through this facilitated channel is 25, to ensure candidates do not wait longer to shirk military service.

As with the standard procedure, candidates are expected to be well-integrated into their communities and to respect the values of the Swiss constitution.

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