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?