Court rules debt enforcement not grounds for refusing Swiss citizenship

Court rules debt enforcement not grounds for refusing Swiss citizenship

A court in Canton Aargau has ruled that being in debt is not grounds for someone to be refused Swiss citizenship. The cantonal administrative court argued that being denied naturalisation in Switzerland because of debt enforcement proceedings was unconstitutional.

Kosovar citizen had applied for Swiss citizenship in 2017

According to 20 Minuten, our story starts with a Kosovar citizen who first applied for citizenship in 2017. At the time, she had been living in Canton Aargau for 32 years, had attended Swiss schools and gave birth to two children in the alpine nation.

It took six years for the local community to accept her application for regular naturalisation and have it sent to the cantonal authorities for approval. However, in December 2023, the naturalisation commission in Aargau refused her citizenship outright because she had debt enforcement proceedings against her - in the majority of Swiss cantons, having forms of debt, especially if the debt is enforced, can rule people out of citizenship regardless of other factors.

Debt enforcement prevents naturalisation in Switzerland

In the woman’s case, in 2022 she had claimed 13.000 francs in social security and was issued with enforcement proceedings to pay the money back once her salary and income were restored. Despite paying the outstanding benefits back, the fact that she had gone into enforced debt during the naturalisation process was deemed a sufficient enough reason to deny citizenship.

The woman in question appealed and the case found itself in the cantonal administrative court. At the proceedings, the local council and cantonal officials argued that according to the law in Canton Aargau, if someone has debt enforcement proceedings issued against them by either public authorities or health insurance providers, naturalisation must automatically be refused.

Court rules naturalisation rules on debt are "unconstitutional"

Nevertheless, the court ruled against Canton Aargau, arguing that denying a person’s right to citizenship solely based on debt is “unconstitutional.” They argued that such a rule “prevents the constitutionally required, comprehensive and proportionate examination of integration," and that the woman's case should have been treated with more discretion.

The woman's case will now be sent back to the cantonal authorities for further analysis and possible approval. It is currently unclear whether the cantonal government will launch an appeal.

Jan de Boer


Jan de Boer

Editor for Switzerland at IamExpat Media. Jan studied History at the University of York and Broadcast Journalism at the University of Sheffield. Though born in York, Jan has lived most...

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