Place of origin

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In Switzerland, the place of origin (German: Heimatort or Bürgerort, literally "home place" or "citizen place"; French: Lieu d'origine; Italian: Luogo d'origine) denotes where the Swiss citizen has his municipal citizenship. It is not to be confused with the place of birth or the place of residence, although two or all three of these locations can be identical depending on the person.

Acquisition of the municipal citizenship[edit]

Front of a 1918 Zollikofen (Bern) Heimatschein municipal citizenship certificate.

Swiss citizenship has three tiers:

  • Municipal citizenship, granted by the place of residence after fulfilling several preconditions, like sufficient knowledge of the local language, integration into the local society, and a minimum amount of years lived in said municipality.
  • Cantonal (state) citizenship, for which a Swiss municipal citizenship is required. It requires a certain amount of years lived in said canton.
  • Country citizenship, for which both of the above is a requirement, also requires a certain amount of years lived in Switzerland, and involves a criminal background check.

The last two kinds of citizenship are a mere formality while the municipal citizenship is the most significant step in becoming a Swiss citizen.

However, any Swiss citizen can apply for a second, a third or even more municipal citizenships for prestige reasons or to show his or her connection to the place he currently lives in - and thus have several places of origins. As the legal significance of the place of origin has waned (see below), Swiss citizens can often apply for a municipal citizenship for a mere 100 Swiss francs or so after having lived in the same town for just one year or two. Especially in the past, though, it has been normal to demand 2000 or 4000 Swiss francs as a citizenship fee because of the financial obligations involved for the municipality.

A child born to Swiss parents is automatically granted the citizenship of the parent with the same last name, so the child either gets the mother's or the father's place of origin. A child born to mixed parents (Swiss father, foreign mother or vice versa) acquires the citizenship and thus the place of origin of the parent that is Swiss citizen.[1]

International confusion[edit]

The Swiss identity card, the passport or the driving licence do not show the birthplace of the holder but the place of origin, while it is usual for non-Swiss identity papers or passports to show the birthplace. In some cases, the place of origin is identical with the birthplace, but not so in the large majority. This can be even more confusing by the fact that people can have more than one place of origin.

Significance and history[edit]

A citizen of a municipality does not enjoy a larger set of rights than a non-citizen of the same municipality. To vote in communal, cantonal or national matters, only the current place of residence matters - or in the case of citizens abroad, the last Swiss place of residence.

As of 2014, the law requires that the place of origin carries, for two years after moving, all social welfare costs of a citizen who changes his domicile. This is slated to be changed soon - the place of domicile will be the only payer of welfare costs.[2]

In 1923, 1937, 1959 and 1967, more and more cantons joined treaties that assured that the domicile has to pay welfare costs instead of the place of origin, reflecting the fact that less and less persons lived in their place of origin (1860: 59%, in 1910: 34%).[3]

In 1681, the Tagsatzung - the then-time Swiss parliament - decided that beggars should be deported to their place of origin, especially if they were not appropriately cared for by their place of origin.[3]

In the 19th century, Swiss authorities even offered free emigration to the United States if the Swiss citizen consented to losing the place of origin, and thus his or her right to receive welfare.[3]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ Article 4, Federal Law on the Acquisition and the Loss of Swiss Citizenship ("Bundesgesetz über Erwerb und Verlust des Schweizer Bürgerrechts")
  2. ^ Neue Zürcher Zeitung: Der Heimatort wird irrelevant
  3. ^ a b c Historical Dictionary of Switzerland, entry "Fürsorge" (welfare)