2815 ways to be Swiss: foreigners in Switzerland face a long and winding road when it comes to acquiring the coveted red passport. There is a maze of requirements, regulations and red tape to navigate, but it doesn't reach a dead-end--and sooner or later, it's going to get easier.

Author:Anderson, Robert
Position:Politics
 
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The Swiss citizenry are not merely Swiss at the national level, but more effectively the Bernese residing in Worb, the Zuricher living in Adliswil or the Genevan coming from Meyrin. Foreigners domiciled in Switzerland, seeking citizenship in the country are often engulfed by this three-tier socio-political system, in which the federal. cantonal and communal governments are all actively involved in the application process.

There are no less than 2,815 official political communities in Switzerland. This complex, decentralized governmental apparatus brings with if a vast array of differentiating citizenship procedures and criteria that must be fulfilled, encompassing various decision-making bodies, a variety of fee structures, and also a wave of parameters relating to tests, timing, residency and even nationality.

Impressive Numbers

According to recent data compiled by the Swiss Federal Office for Immigration, Integration and Emigration, as of end-August 2004 resident foreigners accounted for precisely 20.2 per cent of Switzerland's population, growing by 1.7 per cent in the past year to 1,487,896 people. Italians still make up to the largest group of at 20.3 per cent of the total. Approximately two-thirds of the foreigners had lived in the country for at least 10 years. The greatest influx of foreign residents in the past year came from Germany and Portugal. The latest census data of the year 2000 show that nearly 10 per cent of all Swiss nationals living in the country, are naturalised foreigners. Since the last revision of Switzerland's citizenship laws in 1992, the number of official applications for the coveted red passport has more than quadrupled. From 1992 to 2002, roughly 236,000 foreigners residing in the country were bestowed the right to be a Swiss by the government. The majority (more than 64 per cent) of this number was women. Almost half of the officially naturalised Swiss citizens hold foreign passports as well, with the lion's share of these (84 per cent) coming from Europe. Moreover, at present there are about 700,000 foreigners residing in Switzerland who fulfil the general requirements of applying for naturalisation.

Unlimited Citizenship Processes

Applicants for regular naturalisation are people who have lived in Switzerland for 12 years (the years spent in Switzerland between the ages of 10 and 20 count double). Depending on the canton, citizenship applications must be submitted to the respective authorities of...

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