The Perks of Becoming Swiss

Photo: Parker Bryan

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Because of bilateral agreements between Switzerland and the EU, I can legally work anywhere in Europe without going through all the permit paperwork.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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?