The mayor of Zurich has sent letters to foreign residents of the city, urging them to become Swiss citizens before standards become stricter at the end of the year. The citizenship drive has not gone down well with everyone.
Every third resident of Zurich currently holds a foreign passport, compared to a quarter of the population nationwide. From 2018, anyone who wants to become a Swiss citizen will have to vault higher hurdles thanks to changes in the law.
The period of residency for non-facilitated naturalisations will fall from 12 years to 10, but applicants need to prove language proficiency and stay in one canton for a set period of time. Only holders of the top ranked C residency permit will be allowed to apply.
Swiss newspaper 20 Minuten reported on Friday that Zurich has mailed letters to 40,000 expatriates bearing a message from its mayor, Corine Mauch, urging them to become Swiss. “Our democratic system would be strengthened if more people were able to vote,” her spokesman, Nat Bächtold, told the newspaper.
But the letter-sending policy has been criticised by conservative right Swiss People’s Party Zurich parliamentarian Claudio Zanetti, who bemoaned the fact that taxpayers are footing the postage bill.
The plan to tighten naturalisation rules have been known for a couple of years already, and the results have been spectacular. In 2015, the number of foreign residents becoming Swiss soared 19% with the same level being reached last year.
In Geneva, which hosts the United Nations’ European headquarters and many other global organisations and NGOs, the number of newly created Swiss citizens more than doubled in 2015 to nearly 6,000.
According to 20 Minuten, foreign residents in Basel have also received similar letters while Lucerne and St Gallen are considering a ‘proactive’ approach to naturalisations.
In 2014, voters approved a referendum to restrict the number of foreigners entering Switzerland. Two years later, another ballot to expel foreign criminals was rejected. In February of this year, voters approved another initiative on making it easier for people whose grandparents came to Switzerland.