My whole life, I have had the privilege of living in an international community. Both schools I have attended are renowned for the multi-cultural experiences they offer. By default, I was called an international student- which for me was ironic.
I was born in Switzerland, and I am inherently American thanks to my parents. Up until 2 weeks ago, the only citizenship I held was that of a country I did not feel as connected to as others with the same citizenship. I was proud to be American, and still am – but I was proud because my American friends and my parents were and so I felt like I needed to be. Everyone around me has at least 2 passports, has lived in other countries and is worthy of being called ‘international’. The word itself, with the prefix inter, means among two nations- and I was a citizen of only one (not that if anyone isn’t a citizen of multiple countries that they’re not international- citizenship doesn’t define that, it’s just how I felt at the time). The connection I have to the USA is family, whom I visit every other year. The longest period of time I was ever there was 6 weeks, and the states were supposedly ‘my home’. The only ‘home’ it was for me was my passport home, that’s it.
When I would say “I’m American.” I dreaded the follow-up: “Oh, where from?” because I would have no answer and suddenly, my citizenship seemed unreal. It didn’t count. Now that I am officially Swiss, follow-up questions are easier to answer (except for “So you speak Swedish then?” *sigh*).
I received my bright red passport and fingerprint encrypted ID card, after over three years since the process began. Since I was born here, I had to have lived here for 13 years to be eligible so I started right after my birthday and now I’m 5 months shy of turning 17.
My family, like many here, is diplomatic through the United Nations, being Americans abroad. Considering Swiss citizenship, I knew that there would be upsides and downsides. I am tax-exempt, once I start driving I get reduced gas prices, and can shop completely duty-free. My folks aren’t Swiss and aren’t planning to be, so I get to benefit from the status till I turn 18 and then will have to fend for myself.
So for those of you either wondering why the heck I would do this or for those of you who may be considering doing the same as me, I have found that there are benefits from being a Swiss citizen, that it was worth the time and fees (and more fees, and more fees) for me.
- I can never be deported from Switzerland, no matter what. If I commit a crime, wherever and however it may be, the Swiss cannot kick me out and I can stay in my home canton for trial as needed. Not planning on needing that benefit, but you never know.
- I automatically have a Swiss bank account opened for me, which would’ve been hard if I had tried opening one as an American. Americans don’t have the best reputation concerning Swiss Banks.
- Because of bilateral agreements between Switzerland and the EU, I can legally work anywhere in Europe without going through all the permit paperwork.
- I will be able to vote in national and local elections, and even run for mayor, and some executive government positions! Even though I am American, I was not born in the US and so I cannot run for local or national positions there.
- Because of Switzerland’s fantastic reputation, it is the one of the most advantageous in the world in terms of minimizing the need for visa requirements when traveling. I will be able to travel easier and won’t need a tourist visa for most countries.
- If I get married and want to come back to Switzerland, my spouse would automatically be granted a residence permit free of charge.
And the best one, in my opinion:
7. My children will inherit Swiss citizenship automatically because of my own. They will get all these benefits and more! Because I am now Swiss, generations to come in my family will inherit citizenship through me (which is weird to think about now, but also cool).
It’s still a new concept for me, to refer to myself as Swiss. I am still overly proud to be American, and I’m not planning to change that anytime soon. Over the course of the three years, I cannot tell you how many times I had to go get my picture taken, sign forms, tell secretaries that yes, my first name is Parker and reassure officials that I have always been short and that I’m not going to grow. I received three phone calls from the government during class, to confirm I really did speak french (and of course to make sure I had got my own name right, yet again) and those were a little bit stressful to say the least, and now people wonder why I have that number in my contacts.
But really- overall the whole thing was confusing, time-consuming, expensive but incredibly rewarding. And I cannot wait to see what it brings me for the future. Hop Schweiz?
Hello! Cool article! Im about to turn 17 and I just got my citizenship. The stuff you listed is all super helpful. I was curious as to what kind of college benefits came along with being a citizen; financial aid, living expenses?
Actually, under U.S. law, the fact that you were born to a U.S. citizen parents makes you a citizen from birth. In other words, you are a ‘natural born citizen’ (as opposed to a naturalized citizen) and you are constitutionally eligible to hold any public office, including that of the President of the United States.
Also, just something to keep in mind, even if you are a naturalized citizen, you can hold any public office in the U.S. (excluding that of President and Vice President) if you’ve been living in the country for 14+ years.
I totally relate to you! I was an American citizen by birth, but I grew up in Switzerland. When I finally got my Swiss passport in addition to my American passport, I was already 18 years old, then I moved back to the US a year later. I am so proud of both nationalities, and grateful for the opportunities I receive from each. How nice is it to know that you could live or work in either the US or Europe?
There are two flaws in this article. Firstly, a bank account is not automatically opened for anyone. You just encounter much less restrictions compared to foreign citizens. Secondly, there is paper work involved in working in EU/EFTA member countries. You still need to get a permit to work in other countries, but you have again less restrictions and can even go before the European Courts as a right to reside in another member country is assured according to the Freedom of Movement agreement.
If only you all had a faintest idea of how hard it is for people from some countries to get a GC in US, let alone a flippin US citizenship! Hold it dearly and cherish it and put it to good use for the welfare of your family, community and country coz it sure ain’t easy!
This is amazing. Thanks for sharing. I am also wanting to get a Swiss citizenship as a heritage thing for my children’s children. I like that you think that way and consider the long term benefits. I am already looking at the options to obtain a residency there first and speak to a couple of lawyers for advice. One question though, when you travel back to the US, do you declare your other Swiss citizenship or vice versa when you travel back to Switzerland?
Don’t forget the unfair global income tax the US wants you to pay. Secondly, if you ever decide to give up your US Citizenship the exit tax will put the final nail in the coffin. Inform yourself well about this before you get too excited about your citizenship.