Switzerland

Switzerland is party to the 1954 Convention and to most relevant human rights instruments, but it has not acceded to other core statelessness treaties. There is an administrative procedure in place to determine statelessness, but it is not set in law nor in line with good practice. The protection granted under the procedure is often limited to a one-year renewable residence permit and the definition of a stateless person currently applied is not in line with the 1954 Convention. Nonetheless, claims under the procedure must be considered, decisions can be appealed, and basic minimum support is available to applicants. In 2017, the Swiss Government has accepted a recommendation through the Universal Periodic Review to formalise and ensure the procedure is fair and accessible, and has agreed to bring the definition of a stateless person in line with the Convention. These changes have so far not been implemented.

Procedural safeguards are in place for those detained under immigration powers, and alternatives to detention exist in law and practice, but some stateless people not identified as stateless may be at risk of arbitrary detention. There is not a full safeguard in Swiss nationality law for otherwise stateless children born on the territory, but there are routes to naturalisation for children who would otherwise be stateless, and there are provisions to prevent statelessness in the case of foundlings, adopted children, and children born to Swiss nationals abroad. Birth registration should be possible even where parents are undocumented, and civil registry officials are prohibited from sharing information with immigration authorities. Provisions on deprivation of nationality are established in law and there is a safeguard to prevent statelessness in most cases, but not all.

Last updated: 
Jan 2023
Country expert(s): 

Additional resources

ASSESSMENT KEY

++POSITIVE
+ SOMEWHAT POSITIVE
+-POSITIVE and NEGATIVE
- SOMEWHAT NEGATIVE
--NEGATIVE

ADDITIONAL INFO

-NORMS & GOOD PRACTICE

 

International and Regional Instruments

Assesses whether countries are State party to the relevant international and regional instruments, including whether reservations have an impact on statelessness, and whether instruments are incorporated into domestic law. The four core statelessness treaties (1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons; 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness; European Convention on Nationality; Council of Europe Convention on the Avoidance of Statelessness in Relation to State Succession) carry more weight than other relevant human rights instruments in the assessment.

Switzerland is State party to only one of the core statelessness treaties, the 1954 Convention. It is not party to the 1961 Convention, the European Convention on Nationality nor the European Convention on the Avoidance of Statelessness in Relation to State Succession. Although it is party to most other relevant human rights treaties, Switzerland retains a number of reservations that could impact on statelessness, for example in relation to freedom of movement, access to the labour market, and family reunion.

  • Switzerland is State party to the 1954 Convention with no reservations and it has direct effect.
  • Switzerland is not State party to the 1961 Convention.
  • Switzerland is not State party to the European Convention on Nationality nor the European Convention on the Avoidance of Statelessness in Relation to State Succession.
  • It has signed and ratified the European Convention on Human Rights with no reservations.
  • Although not a member state of the European Union (EU), Switzerland has implemented the EU Returns Directive under Bilateral Agreements.
  • Switzerland is State party to most other relevant international treaties (except for the Convention on the Rights of Migrant Workers), but it does retain some reservations. Its reservations to the Convention on the Rights of the Child could have implications for statelessness, as they relate to family reunification rights; the separation of children from adults in situations of deprivation of liberty; and children's rights in the criminal justice system.
  • Switzerland has made reservations to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which relate to restrictions on residence and free movement rights of certain foreigners at cantonal level. Switzerland also has made reservations to the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination which relate to foreigners’ access to the labour market, which could have implications for stateless people.

Statelessness Population Data

Examines the availability and sources of disaggregated population data on statelessness. Provides recent figures and assesses reliability of measures countries have in place to count stateless persons, including in the census, population registries, and migration databases. Notes whether statelessness has been mapped in the country and whether there are sufficient measures in place to count stateless persons in detention.

Switzerland collects and publishes disaggregated data on statelessness, and estimates for the size of the stateless population are available. However, government departments use varying categories and definitions, which are not publicly available, so the reliability of official figures on statelessness is questionable. The State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) publishes data on stateless people applying for naturalisation and international protection. UNHCR published a mapping of statelessness in Switzerland in 2018. Statistics on immigration detention are gathered at cantonal level, but data on the number of stateless people in detention is not publicly available.

  • The Swiss Government uses different categories of ‘nationality’ and definitions of statelessness in different departments, and the definitions are not publicly available. The State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) uses the categories 'stateless', 'without nationality' (ohne Nationalität) and 'state unknown' (Staat unbekannt). The Federal Statistical Office (FSO) uses the categories 'stateless', 'not attributable according to current borders' and 'no indication'. The categories 'without nationality' and 'state unknown' as well as 'not attributable according to current borders' and 'no indication' might indicate hidden stateless populations such as Palestinians or Tibetans.
  • In June 2022, SEM reported 757 stateless people (disaggregated by gender, type of residence permit, and Canton). The FSO reported 578 stateless people in December 2021. In October 2021, in addition to 685 ‘stateless’ people, SEM reported 267 'without nationality', and 1,138 as 'state unknown'. Stateless people are also recorded in SEM's naturalisation statistics. The FSO reported 1,924 people under the category ‘no indications’ at the end of December 2019. UNHCR’s Global Trends report for 2021 listed 740 stateless persons, including forcibly displaced persons. There have been no official surveys or mapping studies of statelessness by the authorities to date, but UNHCR Switzerland published a mapping study in November 2018. However, there is no UNHCR estimate for the population at risk of statelessness. There are varying government figures for the number of stateless persons amongst asylum seekers and refugees.
  • Studies have estimated large populations of undocumented migrants living in Switzerland. A 2015 study estimated 76,000, and others up to 180,000. It is unclear to what extent there may be stateless people in this population. There is anecdotal evidence that children born in Switzerland to parents from jus soli countries in the Americas may be stateless.
  • Statistics on immigration detention are not publicly available. As immigration detention is mainly a cantonal competence, the federal authorities rely on information provided by the Cantons.
  • SEM publishes statistics on enforcement in the context of departure from Switzerland, including enforced removals of those who have either not claimed asylum or been refused asylum, and those removed under readmission agreements.

Statelessness Determination and Status

Identifies whether countries have a definition of a stateless person in national law that aligns with the 1954 Convention, and whether they have a dedicated statelessness determination procedure (SDP) leading to a dedicated stateless status. If an SDP is not place, it assesses whether there are other procedures in which statelessness can be identified or other routes through which stateless people could regularise their stay or access their rights. Countries are subdivided in three groups to enable comparison between those with an SDP leading to protection, those with other procedures, and those with a statelessness status but no clear mechanism to access protection. The existing procedures and rights granted to stateless persons are examined and assessed against international norms and good practice. Assesses whether stateless people fleeing war have access to temporary protection.

There is an administrative procedure to determine statelessness in Switzerland, but it is not formalised in law and there are significant gaps, including that the definition of a stateless person is not in line with the 1954 Convention. On the positive side, there is no fee and authorities must examine all claims, but there is very limited public information about the process nor guidance to facilitate access. In practice, the burden of proof is on the applicant and the standard of proof applied is inconsistent. There is not normally an oral interview and access to legal aid is rarely granted in practice. Decisions can be appealed to the administrative court, and applicants may access minimal subsistence assistance. Recognised stateless people can apply for a residence permit and travel document, and are permitted access to healthcare, social security, and employment.

  • Although the 1954 Convention has direct effect in Switzerland, Swiss authorities apply a different definition of a stateless person, which is not in line with international standards. Nonetheless, Swiss courts have held that the Swiss definition is compatible with the 1954 Convention.
  • Switzerland only recognises people as stateless if they have lost their nationality through no fault of their own (nor fault of their parents) and have no means of reinstating it. In the past, recognition additionally required the person to demonstrate an interest worthy of protection (schutzwürdiges Interesse), in other words, the applicant must have substantiated that they would legally be in a better position if recognised as stateless. In practice this was interpreted in a very restrictive way. However, jurisprudence has found that given there is a right to access an SDP under Article 8 ECHR, the requirement of proving a legitimate interest to access the SDP might be arbitrary; and that a person has a legitimate interest in being recognised as stateless even if they already have refugee status. It is not yet clear though how this judgment will impact practice.
  • In its third cycle of Universal Periodic Review (November 2017), Switzerland accepted a recommendation to ensure that the definition of a stateless person is fully consistent with the 1954 Convention, but as of February 2023, this had not yet happened.
  • There is no specialised training on statelessness and nationality law for lawyers, judges, or government officials (migration and asylum procedure officials, staff of reception detention centres, police, etc.), either on a federal or cantonal level.
  • Statelessness may be addressed in ad hoc training on more general topics such as migration, asylum, and nationality law.
  • There is an administrative procedure to determine statelessness in Switzerland, but it is not a formalised procedure established in law. The procedure leads to a recognition of statelessness and a residence permit, but the residence permit is not specific to stateless persons.
  • The procedure is governed by general administrative guidance, and the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) is the centralised competent authority. There is no dedicated statelessness unit within the SEM, so applications are handled by the Asylum Division “Aufenthalt” sections.
  • An application to the procedure must be submitted in writing (in German, French, or Italian), be reasoned, and include evidence. Documents in other languages should be submitted with a certified translation, but the authority has discretion to accept documents in other languages in exceptional circumstances.
  • There is no fee (although there may be costs associated with the procedure, for example, to issue a residence permit) or time limit to submit the application, nor any requirement for lawful stay. There is an obligation on the authorities to consider all applications, but it is not possible to make an application ex officio.
  • There is little public information and no instructions on how to make a claim for stateless status, but in November 2019, humanrights.ch in collaboration with UNHCR published a model application for statelessness determination aimed at lawyers and NGOs, but which can also be used by stateless individuals. An internal guidance document published by SEM is targeted at decision makers and not written as public information or guidance for applicants.
  • In principle, SEM must establish the facts, and the applicant has a duty to cooperate. In practice the burden of proof is primarily on the applicant who must provide documents to demonstrate that they are stateless.
  • The standard of proof in the procedure is ‘full proof’ (the applicants must prove they are stateless), which is higher than in asylum applications, where the standard is reduced to ‘credibility’. However, the application of the standards in practice is inconsistent.
  • Other than in the asylum procedure, there is no explicit legal provision addressing child or gender-specific protection needs and evidentiary challenges.
  • The SEM Instruction on statelessness in principle serves as internal guidance. There is no public information available on any other internal guidance.
  • Swiss courts have interpreted the 1954 Convention as excluding Palestinians from protection as stateless persons only if they can, realistically and without threat to their safety, access the protection of UNRWA. Currently, the Swiss authorities cannot require that a person travel to Syria to receive protection of UNWRA.  It was also held in judicial proceedings in 2021 that a person is to be recognised as stateless even if they would be able to acquire Syrian nationality if present in Syria, if they are unable to travel to Syria due to dangerous conditions.
  • There are no particular measures in place to ensure that the best interests of the child are respected in the procedure. In its 2021, the Committee on the Rights of the Child called upon the Swiss authorities to ensure children’s best interests are taken into account as a primary consideration in asylum procedures. This recommendation could be extended to statelessness determination procedures as well.
  • In principle, free legal aid and representation at first instance and appeals stage is conditional on the individual not having sufficient means and having some prospect of success. In practice, free legal aid is virtually never granted in first instance procedures with SEM. Nevertheless, in July 2018 the Federal Administrative Court confirmed that due to the complexity of the procedure for statelessness determination, applicants have a claim to free legal representation.
  • An interview is permitted in law, but in practice, both the first instance and appeal procedures are normally conducted without an interview or hearing. Applicants must submit documents in one of the official languages of Switzerland, and translation costs are not covered. There is no right to an interpreter.
  • Decisions are given in writing with reasoning.
  • There is no quality assurance audit of the procedure. UNHCR does not participate in the proceedings and does not have access to files.
  • There is a general obligation on authorities to refer people to the relevant competent authority and procedure, but only once an application has been lodged. There is no obligation to formally refer someone in the asylum procedure to the statelessness procedure, but it may happen informally.
  • There is no automatic legal admission or status during the procedure, and detention and expulsion are legally possible, but there are no verified reports of this happening in practice.
  • If the applicants have no other residence status upon application for the procedure, they have the right to minimum assistance, care and financial means for a decent standard of living, but this is a very low level and they have no right to work. In practice, most applicants are seeking asylum or recognised as refugees and so have some rights as such.
  • There is no fixed timeframe for the procedure apart from the general constitutional guarantee to have a case decided within a reasonable time. In practice it can vary between several days and several years and may be affected by a parallel claim for asylum.
  • Depending on the residence permit held, freedom of movement may be limited. For example, typically, asylum seekers and those with provisional admission are assigned to live in a specific Canton and cannot relocate without permission. Recognised refugees and stateless people may live anywhere in Switzerland.
  • The SEM decision can be appealed to the Federal Administrative Court and thereafter to the Federal Tribunal.
  • Legal aid is available for the appeal if the applicant does not have sufficient means and has some prospect of success.
  • There is no fee for an appeal, but the applicant must bear the costs if the decision is negative. Costs can be waived if the person does not have sufficient means and had some prospect of success.
  • There is no specific mechanism to monitor and assess errors in decision making.
  • People recognised as stateless can apply initially for a one-year renewable residence permit and a travel document. After 10 years’ legal residence, a permanent residence permit may be granted at the discretion of the authorities.
  • Family reunion rights depend on the type of residence permit granted: for temporary residents it is discretionary; for permanent residents it is non-discretionary provided the family intends to live together; those with temporary admission (no residence permit) can apply after three years, provided the family lives together, has appropriate housing and is not dependent on social security.
  • A person recognised as stateless and granted a residence permit has access to the labour market and freedom of movement.
  • Children up to the age of 16 have a constitutional right to free primary education. Higher education should be accessible on the same basis as nationals (there may be some minor fees).
  • Recognised stateless people have access to healthcare and social security.
  • Stateless people are not allowed to vote in national elections in Switzerland, and the right to vote at the cantonal and local level varies. The eligibility criteria vary between Cantons, but generally depend on residence status and duration of stay, rather than statelessness.
  • Stateless people fleeing Ukraine may apply for ‘Protection Status S’ in Switzerland, a temporary protection status that resembles the protection granted under the EU Temporary Protection Directive, subject to certain eligibility criteria.
  • Stateless people may be eligible for Protection Status S if they held international protection or national protection status in Ukraine before 24 February 2022; or if they can prove by means of a valid short-term residence permit or residence permit that they have a valid right of residence in Ukraine and cannot return to their home country in safety and on a permanent basis. Protection Status S may also be granted to family members of a person who is eligible under one of these categories, or family members of a Ukrainian national who was resident in Ukraine before 24 February 2022.
  • Barriers for stateless people arise where they did not have or do not have evidence of a protection or residence status in Ukraine prior to arriving in Switzerland.
  • Residence permit B, granted to people recognised as stateless according to the 1954 Convention in Switzerland, provides a more solid status and more rights than Protection Status S.

Detention

Analyses law, policy and practice relating to immigration detention generally, but focusing on protections in place to prevent the arbitrary detention of stateless people during removal and deportation procedures. Subthemes examine areas such as the identification of statelessness and assessment of whether there is a reasonable prospect of removal, procedural safeguards such as time limits, judicial oversight, and effective remedies, as well as the rights granted to stateless people upon release from detention and protection against re-detention.

Protections against the arbitrary detention of stateless people are limited in Switzerland. Statelessness is not considered a juridically relevant fact in decisions to detain, a country of removal does not need to be identified prior to detention, and detention can be ordered while the authorities are establishing a person’s identity. The law provides for some alternatives to detention, but these are not systematically considered prior to detention. Some procedural safeguards are in place, such as a time limit, judicial oversight within 96 hours of the detention order, and access to free legal aid, but there are reports of barriers to accessing legal assistance. If removal cannot take place, people can be released and will be undocumented, with very few rights unless they have another route to regularisation.

  • Powers for immigration detention are provided for in law to enforce a removal order in case alternatives to detention were not successful or are considered not to be effective. Although the law foresees the application of alternatives, in practice there is no systematic consideration of alternatives during decisions to detain and they are rarely applied in practice.
  • There is evidence that detention is used in practice prior to all alternatives being considered.
  • The law does not provide for a statutory time limit on alternatives, although the general principle of proportionality requires time limits and reviews of necessity and proportionality. Judicial review of any measure of constraint, including alternatives to detention, is theoretically available.
  • A country of removal does not need to be identified prior to detention. Coercive detention can be ordered before the country of removal has been determined and detention pending deportation can be ordered while the authorities are establishing the person’s identity.
  • If the removal or expulsion order proves to be unenforceable for legal or practical reasons, or the reasons for detention cease to apply, the person must be released.
  • It is likely that some stateless people are placed in immigration detention in practice, but no information is available to verify this.
  • Statelessness is not a juridically relevant fact in the decision to detain, which can lead to detention being disproportionate and unlawful if removal is not possible.
  • There is no definition of vulnerability in law, and statelessness is not systematically considered to be a factor increasing vulnerability.
  • The law requires consideration of vulnerability in relation to detention conditions, but statelessness is not specified as a vulnerability factor. There is no information available in the public domain on how the vulnerability assessment is conducted in practice.
  • A referral to the statelessness procedure is possible if the person lodges a claim for statelessness, but there is no formal referral mechanism.
  • There is a maximum time limit set in law (six months plus up to 12 months where the applicant is non-cooperative). For children aged 15-18, the maximum is six months plus six months.
  • The law provides that people must be informed in writing of the reasons for detention, and informed about their rights, including the right to challenge the legality and conditions of detention. It is not clear how this obligation is met in practice, and it is unlikely that detainees are routinely informed about the statelessness procedure.
  • Free legal aid in principle is guaranteed for persons with insufficient means, and the case must present a particular difficulty and have some prospect of success. NGOs report that people in detention face difficulties accessing legal aid in practice.
  • A judge must review the initial detention order at an oral hearing within a maximum of 96 hours after detention. After the initial review, a request for release can be submitted every month. An appeal can be lodged with the cantonal administrative court and then with the Federal Court. If removal or expulsion proves to be unenforceable the person must be released.
  • There is legal guidance on identification and documentation for removal and there is a SEM instruction on the identification and documentation of those subject to removal. However, this is not explicitly linked to the statelessness procedure.
  • If removal cannot be implemented the detained person will be released undocumented and regularisation is only possible if they have a route to residence, for example, through marriage.
  • Undocumented migrants have very limited access to social services (minimum assistance, care and financial means required for a decent standard of living but not social security). They have no right to work. In principle they could pay contributions to public health insurance to gain coverage. The right to education for children is guaranteed.
  • In principle, detention is limited to the maximum period, but re-detention is possible, and if the decision to detain is not on the same grounds as before, cumulative time spent in detention may not count towards the maximum period.
  • Switzerland has concluded bilateral readmission agreements that explicitly allow for the readmission of stateless persons (for example, there are agreements with Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, Kuwait and Serbia). There is no requirement for statelessness determination to take place prior to readmission. Some of the readmission agreements refer to the definition of a stateless person under the 1954 Convention, whereas others merely state that a stateless person is ‘a person without nationality'.
  • There is no information about whether stateless people are routinely returned in practice under such agreements.

Prevention and Reduction

Assesses the adequacy of safeguards in nationality laws to prevent and reduce statelessness, including facilitated routes to naturalisation for stateless people, and protections for otherwise stateless children born on the territory or to nationals abroad, foundlings and adopted children. Examines law, policy, and practice on birth registration, including access to late birth registration, and reduction measures taken by States to prevent and reduce in situ statelessness. Analyses provisions on deprivation of nationality and whether there are safeguards related to renunciation and deprivation of nationality to prevent statelessness from occurring.

There are some provisions in Swiss nationality law to prevent statelessness, for example, in the case of foundlings, adopted children, and children born to Swiss nationals abroad (even if they do not register with the Swiss authorities before the age of 25, which can result in loss of the right to nationality in other cases). There is a facilitated route to naturalisation for children who meet certain criteria. However, there is no safeguard in law for otherwise stateless children born in Switzerland. The only route to Swiss nationality for children born stateless in the country is a naturalisation procedure based on five years’ legal residence and other integration criteria, which is discretionary and expires once the child turns 18. In 2021, the Committee on the Rights of the Child criticised the five-year residence requirement and called on the Government to ensure that all children born on Swiss territory are entitled to a nationality at birth, or subject to a significantly reduced residence requirement, if otherwise stateless. Birth registration should be possible even where parents are undocumented, but there are reports of barriers and delays in such cases. However, there are no barriers to late birth registration and civil registry officials are prohibited from passing on information about residence status to immigration authorities. Provisions on deprivation of nationality are established in law and there is a safeguard to prevent statelessness in most cases, but not all.

  • There is an accelerated naturalisation procedure only for stateless people married to Swiss nationals and for stateless children (under the age of 18) with five years' legal stay preceding the application, who are 'integrated' (respect public security and order, constitutional values, can communicate in one of the national languages), and are in work or education (and not dependent on social security).
  • There are significant costs associated with naturalisation. There is a federal fee of 100 CHF (95 EUR) for adults and 50 CHF (47 EUR) for minors. Additionally, applicants must pay fees at both the cantonal and municipal levels, which vary significantly and can be substantial.
  • Cantonal authorities can also conduct a citizenship or integration test; federal law requires language skills at level B1 orally and A2 written in one of the national languages, and Cantons can set higher standards. Exemptions may be granted on the basis of disability or illness or other serious circumstances, but not statelessness. Applicants may not be dependent on social security.
  • People who have been sentenced to a custodial sentence are excluded from naturalisation but can be allowed to naturalise in the case of minor misdemeanours, at the discretion of the authorities.
  • There is a ‘good character’ clause, requiring respect for the constitutional values of Switzerland.
  • There is no safeguard in nationality law for otherwise stateless children born on the territory, although there are routes to naturalisation for some stateless children. There is a provision in law for simplified naturalisation of stateless children based on five years' legal residence and other criteria (including integration, language ability, no dependence on social security, and respect for constitutional values). The decision is discretionary on the part of the authorities and the possibility expires once the child turns 18.
  • In 2021, the Committee on the Rights of the Child criticised the five-year residence requirement and called on the Government to ensure that all children born on Swiss territory are entitled to a nationality at birth, or subject to a significantly reduced residence requirement, if otherwise stateless.
  • It is not a requirement that the parents are also stateless for the child to qualify for naturalisation, but the legal residence requirement may result in children born stateless in Switzerland not being able to acquire Swiss nationality if their parents have irregular residence status.
  • To qualify for simplified naturalisation, children must be recognised as stateless in addition to fulfilling the other criteria, and the standard and burden of proof are the same as for the statelessness procedure.
  • Information about nationality and procedures to acquire nationality is not actively provided to parents of children at risk of statelessness.
  • Foundlings are granted nationality automatically by law. The provision is limited to children under 18. If parents are later identified, nationality can only be withdrawn if it would not result in statelessness and if the child is under 18.
  • A Swiss child adopted by foreign nationals loses Swiss nationality once the adoption enters into legal force, but only if the child acquires the nationality of the adopting parent or already has this nationality.
  • A foreign child adopted by Swiss nationals acquires Swiss nationality, but only after a period of one year’s residence living with the adoptive parents, so there could be a risk of temporary statelessness if the child loses their former nationality or is stateless on adoption.
  • Children born outside Switzerland to a Swiss national parent generally are Swiss nationals at birth. In principle there are no conditions for the acquisition of nationality by a child born abroad to a Swiss national, but nationality can be lost or forfeited if the child has not been registered with the Swiss authorities (in Switzerland or abroad) before their 25th birthday, but there is a safeguard to prevent statelessness in these cases
  • In the case of unmarried parents where only the father is Swiss, additional evidence of paternity may be required.
  • All children born in Switzerland must be registered at the local civil registry office in the district where they were born within three days. The hospital will usually register the child automatically, but if the child is born at home or elsewhere, it can be reported by the mother or any other witness. Late registration is possible in law and practice and there are no fees or other barriers.
  • All children receive a birth certificate and a family certificate which also identifies the parents and any siblings. However, practice can vary from canton to canton.
  • If the parents are undocumented, the child’s birth must still be registered, but there are credible reports of undocumented parents encountering barriers when trying to register births. A 2009 report states that in 2007, 813 births were not yet registered because of missing information about the identity of the mother or the father.
  • There are no credible reports that the parent's sexual or gender identity directly leads to difficulties in registering the children of LGBTQIA+ couples. However, there may be challenges in the registration of children born abroad through surrogacy when they intended parents are Swiss.
  • In 2015 and in 2021, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child recommended Switzerland ensure birth registration is available as soon as possible for all children, regardless of their parents’ legal status or origin.
  • An Instruction to the Civil Registry Ordinance on the registration of non-nationals explicitly prohibits public officials from reporting unregistered people to the immigration authorities when registering births. A problem can arise if the health insurance of an undocumented person states a false address, and this address is reported to the civil registry.
  • The child's nationality is recorded on the birth certificate and is determined on the basis of the parents’ documents. If the parents’ nationality is unknown, the child's nationality will not be recorded. If the parents are recognised as stateless, this is recorded on the birth certificate. There is no legal basis for the nationality determination, but the Federal Office for Civil Registration has issued guidance. However, practice may vary at cantonal level. The child's nationality can be recorded at a later stage if relevant information becomes available, but there are no safeguards to ensure that authorities check ex officio whether nationality can be established at a later stage.
  • There have been no recent proactive measures taken by the Swiss Government to reduce statelessness nor promote birth registration for high risk groups. Undocumented migrants are believed to be at risk of births not being registered.
  • There is a safeguard to prevent statelessness in all cases of deprivation of nationality except where nationality was acquired by fraud.
  • Renunciation of nationality requires that the person concerned holds or at least is assured of another nationality.
  • The competent authority for deprivation of nationality is the SEM. Deprivation is subject to prior sentencing in most cases (except where a criminal procedure in another State would be difficult to pursue), there is a right of appeal, and free legal aid is available if conditions are met (lack of sufficient means and some prospect of success).
  • Deprivation of Swiss nationality is permitted on national security grounds (actions seriously detrimental to the interests or reputation of Switzerland), but not where this would render a person stateless. In 2019, for the first time since the Second World War, Switzerland deprived two individuals of their nationality on national security grounds. Both were dual nationals and therefore not directly rendered stateless as a result.
  • The provisions on deprivation of nationality risk discriminating on the basis of nationality status if they are only applied to dual citizens, and if people with a migrant background or who are members of religious or ethnic minority groups are disproportionately affected.
  • Except for the case of annulment, deprivation has no impact on children and spouses. In case of annulment, children cannot be included in the annulment order if it would result in statelessness.

Resources

Library of resources, legal instruments, publications and training materials on statelessness, specifically relevant to this country. More regional and international materials, as well as resources from other countries, are available on the Resources library. Domestic case law can be consulted in the Statelessness Case Law Database (with summaries available in English).

Please note that we are in the process of adding new resources, so check back soon.

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