Tue | Jul 17, 2018

Swiss ease citizenship for 'third-generation' foreigners

Published:Monday | February 13, 2017 | 12:00 AM


Voters in Switzerland decided yesterday to make it easier for young "third-generation foreigners" to get Swiss citizenship, agreeing to extend to about 25,000 people under age 25 access to the fast-track process now available to foreign spouses of Swiss nationals.

A "naturalisation of third-generation immigrants" measure passed in a national referendum with 60.4 per cent of the vote, Swiss broadcaster SRF reported. The measure gives young people whose parents and grandparents have lived in Switzerland for years a simplified path to citizenship.

Being born in Switzerland doesn't automatically confer citizenship in Switzerland and some other European countries. While about 25,000 people are estimated to be eligible for the new process, the referendum's passage ultimately could be far-reaching in a country where non-citizens make up one-fourth of the population.

Voters yesterday also rejected a complex tax-reform initiative aimed at getting Switzerland in line with international standards.

SRF reported that 59.1 per cent of voters rejected the tax-reform referendum, which would have scrapped a two-track tax system that offers lower rates to foreign firms to lure investment.




Experts say the tax initiative's failure means that overall rates are likely to be set higher - which would be a disincentive to companies that bring in jobs and ultimately tax revenues.

Many domestic companies, meanwhile, could see their tax rates go down.

Critics including regional government leaders and much of the political left had said the initiative would deplete tax coffers for an uncertain payoff.

Proponents had countered that the reforms were needed to keep competitive a country that has few exportable natural resources and relies heavily on globalised industries such as finance and pharmaceuticals.

The "third-generation foreigners" initiative will mean less paperwork, fewer delays and lower fees for anyone under 25 whose parents and grandparents have lived in Switzerland for years, but who did not go through the time-consuming, onerous naturalisation process.

Its immediate beneficiaries are mostly people from elsewhere in Europe or Turkey whose families have been in the Alpine nation for decades, not migrants and refugees from Africa and the Middle East whose recent arrival in Europe has sparked a backlash from the political far-right.