A leading political party in Switzerland has offered personal assistance to foreigners to become Swiss citizens.
Non-Swiss who live in the country and want to become naturalised can currently apply with various types of permits, but this will change from January 1, 2018, when only those with C permits (long-term residents) will be eligible to apply to become Swiss.
The leftwing Social Democrats say they want as many people as possible to apply before the change in the law takes effect.
To this end, more than 40 politicians from the head of the party downwards have volunteered their time to advise applicants, help them find the right forms and prepare them for interviews, in person and via email.
The party’s president, Christian Levrat, told the German-language newspaper the SonntagsBlick, “Many people feel uncertain when faced with administrative issues. For migrants this hurdle is even higher”.
Explaining why the matter was important to the party, vice-president Barbara Gysi told the Swiss daily 20 Minuten, “Almost a quarter of our population lives here, pays taxes and is involved in society, but without a voice. It’s important to us that everyone who calls Switzerland home, can also join in the discussion.”
The change in the law
Applicants to become Swiss will only have to have lived in Switzerland for ten years, instead of the current 12, once the new law comes into being.
However, they will also have to have lived in the same canton for between two to five years (depending on the region) and pass a new written language test as well as the existing oral exam.
Foreigners with B permits (residents), short-term L permits or the so-called ‘carte de legitimation’ for international civil servants and their family members, can still apply for citizenship up until the law comes into force in 2017. The Social Democrats believe time is running out for those who wish to do so.
From 2018, non-Swiss will have to hold a C permit, which is granted after five to ten years residency.
swissinfo.ch and agencies