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Court ruling Italian unfairly denied Swiss citizenship after 30-year residence

Man holds up a Swiss passport

Swiss local authorities have the final word on who gets citizenship.

(© Keystone / Christian Beutler)

An Italian man, who had been living in Switzerland for 30 years, was not given a fair chance to win Swiss citizenship by his local authority, the Federal Court has ruled.

The man was rejected for poor social integration and because his geographical and cultural knowledge was deemed insufficient. But the court said that too much emphasis had been placed on these criteria and that some of the questions he was asked were too specific.

For example, he did not know that bears and wolves are kept in the same enclosure at his local zoo.

The authorities at Arth in the central canton of Schwyz should have been more balanced by taking into account that the applicant had run a small business for several years, having frequent contact with local residents, according to the ruling published on Monday.

The court heard from the failed applicant that the naturalisation interview was conducted in a tense manner and that some hostility had been shown by the interviewers.

Foreigners with no direct blood ties to Switzerland through either birth or marriage must live in the country for at least ten years before they can apply for citizenship. Applicants can be denied if they have a criminal record.

In this particular case, the applicant had been accused of failing to declare an Italian property in his tax returns, but the public prosecutor had decided not to take him to court.

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