It could be worse

Periodically, journalists and others look at the test of U.S. History and Government given to aspiring U.S. citizens. The questions is asked, “How well do native-born Americans know this material?” The answer invariably is, not well.

Still, the U.S. citizenship process is straightforward and simple in comparison to some other countries.

SwissflagIn the Swiss National Museum in Zurich, there is a fascinating display of Swiss citizenship requirements. According to the exhibit, while there is a national uniform naturalization law, the majority of the 2,600 political communities (cantons—equivalent to our states—and municipalities) apply their own naturalization policy.

When an applicant is ready for citizenship, he or she is often interviewed and questioned about the municipality, the canton, and the nation. Sometimes, the process includes a surprise home visit. In some cantons, the interview is replaced by a test.

There are big differences among the cantons regarding the interview or test. In Bern, the capital city, an immigrant is assumed to be integrated after the requisite 12 years of residency. An applicant cannot, however shop around for a jurisdiction that has an easier naturalization process. The applicant must reside 12 years in the canton. So, if an aspiring citizen is transferred by his or her company to another canton after six years in one place, the residency clock starts over.

Questions on the test are not limited to knowledge of local or national government, or to major historical events or figures. Here is a question from the naturalization test from the canton of Geneva: “What is a fondue moitié-moité? Is it fondue made of half cheese, half wine? Is it a fondue order for two people? Is it fondue made of half Emantal cheese and half Gruyère cheese?

Sometime in your 12 years in Switzerland, you’ve probably had it. Hopefully, you will remember what it is.

Photo: Maurice Belanger