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A standard naturalisation practice? No thanks!

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The naturalisation process for young foreigners could be replaced by an automatic, faster one in which they no longer have to prove they are integrated.  But the concept of ‘third generation foreigners’ is hard to define. The Swiss People's Party therefore urges more caution in the naturalisation process, says party parliamentarian Barbara Steinemann.

There could soon be a standardised naturalisation process for those under 25 years old. It will then be up to the federal administration in Bern to decide for all young people going through this process who is granted citizenship, based on their files.

Barbara Steinemann has been a parliamentarian since 2015. A member of the Swiss People’s Party, she is a lawyer by profession Keystone

 But the project’s concept of ‘third generation’ is misleading: one of the grandparents must have been granted residency. This could even be temporary admission during an asylum request. One parent must have lived in Switzerland for at least ten years and during this time have attended school here for five years. Only the citizenship candidate must have actually been born in Switzerland and must also have gone to school here for a minimum of five years. Neither the second nor third generation is required to have spent their whole life here.

The government has said in its voter information on the subject: “They participate in sports clubs, sing in choirs or have joined other clubs. Their home country is Switzerland”. Of course, this applies to many young foreigners – but not to everyone. This argument puts everyone in the same basket; it projects an idealised view that rarely corresponds with reality.

The imagery on the posters at the train stations [of a woman in a burka and the slogan ‘No to facilitated naturalisation’] may seem exaggerated. But it illustrates existing radicalisation tendencies among Muslim youths, an issue with which the whole of Europe is struggling and which we should also take seriously in our own country, also in relation to the granting of citizenship.


This proposal reverses the burden of proof when it comes to integration. In future, the under 25s will be automatically considered to be integrated enough if they have fulfilled the aforementioned conditions. ‘Sleeper’ terrorists and Salafists could be granted facilitated naturalisation and so could pupils who will only shake hands with their male teachers. The authorities should be allowed to remain vigilant, also in future. And, in this federal state, this [naturalisation] task must remain entrusted to the communes.

It has never been easier to get a Swiss passport than it is today. We have almost 40,000 new citizens per year. This is more than twice as many compared with the European Union. This is also because, in contrast to many other European countries, we allow people to hold several passports. Everyone should be subject to careful checks and key should be the level of integration and not the place of birth and five years of schooling in Switzerland.

In the future, naturalisation will be based on formal criteria and a written procedure. From January 1, 2018 well-integrated young people under 25 will have the residency requirement reduced to ten years, with years spent between the ages of 8 and 18 counting double. These people can apply for citizenship the normal way just like everyone else. This includes the much mentioned descendants of Italian guest workers, who, by the way, show little interest in the red Swiss passport, probably due to their cultural closeness [to the home country].

Making facilitated naturalisation too easy hurts the cause of those who have gained citizenship for good reason and our state. The misleading definition of what it means to be a third-generation immigrant, the general assumption that all applicants are integrated, and the centralisation and automatic nature of the process, are all disproportionate aspects of this constitutional change. This is why it must be rejected.

The views expressed in this article are solely those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the views of publishes op-ed articles by contributors writing on a wide range of topics – Swiss issues or those that impact Switzerland. The selection of articles presents a diversity of opinions designed to enrich the debate on the issues discussed.

Translated by John Heilprin

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