A recent case in the canton of Bern reveals the risks of moving to a municipality where they speak a different language.
A Brazilian women married to a Swiss national found this out the hard way, according to the newspaper 20 Minutes.
After moving from a French-speaking municipality in the Canton of Neuchâtel to the German-speaking commune of Ligerz in the canton of Bern, a bilingual canton, the Brazilian applied for a C-permit, a permit that allows the holder to live indefinitely in Switzerland, something she was able to do because she’d lived in Switzerland for 10 years.
New rules require those applying for C-permits to master the local language to a level of A2 for speaking and A1 for writing. However, while she speaks fluent French, one of Switzerland’s national languages, she speaks no German, the language spoken where she now lives. As a result she has had her C-permit application rejected.
Ligerz, known as Gléresse in French, borders the French-speaking municipality of La Neuveville, also in the canton of Bern. If the woman moved 100 metres down the road to this commune, she would qualify for a C-permit.
The new local language requirements also apply to naturalisation, although the required level is higher. Becoming Swiss now requires 10 years of qualifying residence, a C-permit, and local language competency to a level of B1 for speaking and A2 for writing – see note below on language levels.
Because of long standing reciprocal agreements, nationals of some countries are given more flexibility on language requirements. French, German, Italian, Austrian, Belgian, Danish, Spanish, Greek, Dutch, Portuguese and Liechtenstein nationals are exempt from the local language requirements when applying for a C-permit.
The Brazilian woman must now decide whether she will settle for a new B-permit, move to a French-speaking commune, or learn basic German and apply again.
Language is a complicated matter in Switzerland. The nation has four official languages and numerous other languages and dialects. On top of this some Swiss have had to cope with shifting language borders. Between 1860 and 2000, 83 municipalities changed their official language.
Note: Level A1 is initiation, A2 beginner+ and B1 intermediate – click here for more information.