This week, a proposal put forward by Lisa Mazzone, a federal parliamentarian from Geneva, to grant automatic citizenship to those born in Switzerland was rejected by 29 to 13 votes in the Council of States, Switzerland’s upper house, reported 20 Minutes.
Unrestricted jus soli, or birthright citizenship, is increasingly rare beyond the nations of North and South America, where it remains the norm. Across the rest of the world, only Chad, Lesotho, Tanzania, Tuvalu and Pakistan have it, while another 30 odd nations have restricted forms of it. For example, the UK grants citizenship to those born there who have at least one parent with permanent residency status, and France grants nationality to those born there with a parent who was born there, regardless of the parent’s nationality. If Switzerland introduced unrestricted jus soli, it would be the only nation in Europe to have such a system.
Gaining Swiss citizenship is difficult. It requires a minimum of 10 years residence in Switzerland on the right kind of permit and a long list of other requirements. Applications for Swiss nationality must be approved by the federal administration, cantons and the municipality where the applicant resides. Cantons and communes have minimum residency requirements, so moving house can sink an application. Living on welfare often stands in the way of naturalisation too. In addition, the process is costly and labour intensive. In the end, many who call Switzerland home never get around to becoming Swiss, sometimes after several generations.
Karin Keller-Sutter, head of the Swiss department of police and justice, spoke out against the proposal, citing the birth tourism that occurs in the US as an argument against it, along with a loss of control over immigration and naturalisation. In addition, it would run against the grain of Swiss federalism, which grants power to the cantons and municipalities to decide who qualifies for citizenship, she said.
Mazzone is also behind another proposal to make it easier for those born in Switzerland to foreign parents to become Swiss. This would not grant automatic unrestricted jus soli. Instead it would make the process easier. A federal government commission will now study this.