Switzerland Votes to Relax its Citizenship Rules

IAS Prelims 2023

People in Switzerland have voted to relax the country’s strict citizenship rules, making it easier for third-generation immigrants to become Swiss.

Initial projections suggest that 59% of Swiss voters said yes to simplifying the rules.

Being born in Switzerland does not guarantee citizenship. Non-Swiss residents must typically wait 12 years before applying.

The new proposal will exempt third-generation immigrants, who are born in Switzerland and whose parents and grandparents lived permanently in Switzerland, from interviews and tests in the naturalisation process.

Supporters of the plan to simplify the process argue that it is ridiculous to ask people who were born and have lived all their lives in Switzerland to prove that they are integrated.

Some opponents had argued that the new proposal could lead to the “Islamisation” of the country.

However, the new law will affect only about 25,000 people, the majority of whom are of Italian origin.

More than half of third-generation residents in Switzerland are descended from Italian immigrants, while other large groups have roots in the Balkans and Turkey.

The current vetting procedure, aimed at ensuring that new citizens are well integrated, includes interviews carried out by town councils. Questions put to interviewees can include requests to name local cheeses or mountains.

Those in favour of maintaining the current system also argue that the strict vetting rules make it superior to the more anonymous systems in neighbouring France and Germany.

Over the past 30 years, three previous attempts to relax the rules were defeated.