View Full Version : Torn Between Passports

Doktor Goebbels
Wednesday, October 13th, 2004, 01:45 AM
Torn between passports

Up to one million Swiss could be forced to relinquish a passport if the right-wing Swiss People’s Party succeeds in its threat to abolish dual nationality.

Several other countries have also revised their rules, but experience shows that the process can be fraught with difficulties.

Triumphant after voters threw out proposals to ease citizenship restrictions last month, the People’s Party has now set its sights on abolishing the right to dual citizenship.

The law was revised in 1992 since when Swiss citizens have been allowed to hold more than one passport. Reversing the legislation would affect about a million Swiss citizens, taking into account the approximately 434,000 dual citizens living abroad.

“It would certainly be a major step backwards if this were to happen,” Jean-Paul Aeschlimann, vice-president of the Organisation of the Swiss Abroad (OSA) told swissinfo.

Blood or birth?

In most countries, citizenship has historically been based on one of two principles: the right of territory (“jus soli”) or the right of blood (“jus sanguinis”).

Countries like the United States and France adhere to the former, granting citizenship almost automatically to anyone born in the country. They usually also permit citizens to hold more than one passport.

This explains why nearly one in three French people has parents or grandparents of overseas origin.

The United States prefers a “don’t ask, don’t tell” approach, treating all citizens as Americans, and ignoring the fact that a citizen may be in possession of another passport. Indeed, US legislation contains no provisions governing dual nationality.


Germany and Italy, by contrast, have historically granted citizenship only to people who can prove they are “German” or “Italian” by blood.

In the case of Germany, restrictions on citizenship have been eased recently, but young immigrants who do qualify are permitted to hold two passports only until they are 23-years-old. They must then choose one or the other.

Italy amended its legislation to allow dual nationality in 1992. It also now allows children born in the country to apply for citizenship at age 18. Normally, this is granted, provided the applicant has lived in Italy since birth, and that the application is filed within a year after one’s 18th birthday. Any delay means the “right” to citizenship is lost.


The rules in many other countries are ambiguous. Austria, for instance, does not allow citizens to hold a passport of another country, but may make an exception if one applies for permission. To qualify for Austrian citizenship, one normally has to have lived in the country for ten years.

The Netherlands, for its part, is in the process of tightening its laws. Once an immigrant can demonstrate sufficient proficiency in Dutch, and show that he or she is familiar with the country and its people, a passport is normally not far away.

But new legislation currently working its way on to the statute books will remove the right to dual nationality unless immigrants can prove that giving up citizenship of their native country would cause significant problems.


Switzerland’s Federal Office of Immigration, Integration and Emigration (IMES), says tightening the rules regarding dual nationality is fraught with problems.

Attempts in neighbouring Italy to outlaw dual citizenship failed because the rules proved impossible to enforce.

And even if countries successfully compel citizens to choose one nationality, there is nothing to prevent them from re-gaining the one they gave up at a later date, Daniel Babey of IMES told swissinfo.

He added that outlawing it in Switzerland would be extremely costly, given the administrative burden of checking whether one million citizens had actually complied.


Copyright © Swissinfo / Neue Zürcher Zeitung AG


friedrich braun
Wednesday, October 13th, 2004, 01:54 AM
I have a dual citizenship, and I'd like to keep it this way.

Wednesday, October 13th, 2004, 10:10 PM
Germany and Italy, by contrast, have historically granted citizenship only to people who can prove they are “German” or “Italian” by blood.

That's a popular myth. In reality Germany had an actual blood citizenship only between 1935 and 1945.

Even before the loosening of the restrictions by the red-green government in 2000 it was possible for There was (unfortunately) never any law that one had to be of "German blood"; the laws didn't know that expression. Every non-German could be naturalized already after WW2 under certain conditions: living for a certain period in Germany, giving up the old citizenship etc. There were hundered thousands of Turks and Negroes with German citizenship already before 2000. The basic law and the naturalization laws didn't know anything of an exclusive "German blood" principle. Surely German was, who was the descendant of German citizen, and not everyone who was born here - but it was not to difficult for non-Germans to be naturalized.
One also could have already before 2000 dual citizenship in a couple of cases, e.g. if one was a child of a German and a foreigner, that was no problem.

On the other hand also the states where allegedly the "soil principle" is valid, also have the "blood principle": Basically American also is, who is born as child of an American in foreign states.

There is no total antagonism between "blood" and "soil" citizenship in the western world - it is only that this or that country the one was more the principle than the other, but the citizenship laws normally show elements of both.

Also, the guarantee of German citizenship for people with German ancestors, who themselves aren't German citizens, was established after WW2 only for the ethnic Germans in east-central- and eastern European expulsion areas, for the historical ethnic German minorities there, when they were expelled or had to suffer because of their German ethnicity. Descendants of German immigrants to America, who's ancestors had become Americans (also after WW2: German citizenship can't be "deprived", is the constitution rule since 1949, but in fact one "automatically lost" it if one proposed another citizenship [since 2000 also that rule is more loose]), or e.g. also ethnically German Alsacians, South Tyroles, Austrians etc. always had been for Federal German law simply foreigners, and not people who have a special theoretical privilege of being naturalized.
Also those in the eastern expulsion areas had to prove thereselves' ethnic Germanness. Having some German ancestor generations ago is not enough. The nowerday practice, that ethnic Germans or alleged ethnic Germans (most who come today are mixed or only related somehow by marriage) from the former Soviet Union don't speek German or only hardly and have loose connection to German culture, is theoretically per law only an exception, as they are Spätaussiedler (late resettlers), where one concedes that their culture and language was banned for decades.