No. 98.]

My Lord: In your dispatch, marked circular, of the 11th ultimo, I am instructed to furnish your lordship with a report, for the information of the naturalization commission, on the state of the Swiss law with regard to the nationality of children born of alien parents in Switzerland.

Finding it difficult, without the assistance of the federal government, to draw up a report on this subject, the laws concerning which appear to vary in different cantons, [Page 1437] I addressed a note to the president requesting him to obtain for me, from the various cantonal governments, replies to the following questions, which I thought calculated to procure the information required by the naturalization commission:

What is considered to constitute a Swiss citizen according to the laws of the various cantons?
In what manner, if in any, can such citizenship be forfeited?
Are the children of alien parents born in the canton regarded by the law as Swiss citizens?
De facto by the mere incident of their birth on Swiss territory?
If not, how long must the parents have resided in Switzerland previous to the birth of the children, or what additional circumstance, beyond the fact of their birth on Swiss territory, are required to constitute the children of Swiss citizens?
Are the children expected to elect Swiss citizenship by some formal act on their coming of age? and what is held to constitute a presumptive election of Swiss citizenship on their part?

In reply I have received a communication from the president, copy of which I have the honor herewith to inclose, together with the printed work therein referred to, drawn up by the federal chancery on the cantonal regulations for acquiring the right of citizenship.

I have, &c.,


The Lord Stanley, M. P., &c.

In the note which the minister of Her Britannic Majesty addressed to the federal council on the 19th instant, his excellency expressed the desire to obtain various information upon the condition of Swiss legislation respecting the nationality of children born of foreign parents upon Swiss territory, which information was divided under the following heads:

1st. What is necessary that a person may be considered as a Swiss citizen according to the laws of the cfifferent Swiss cantons?

In order to become a Swiss citizen it is necessary that a person shall acquire the right of citizenship in a canton or a commune. No special right of Swiss citizenship exists. The right of communal citizenship takes the precedence and is acquired by descent, gift, or the payment of purchase-money, the amount of which varies according to the state of the commune’s resources, and is always subject to the legislation of the canton.

After the acquisition of the citizenship of the commune, naturalization is conferred in the respective canton either by the government or legislative authority, for which naturalization the payment of a further sum as special purchase-money is required. Without naturalization the incorporation into a commune has no effect. So far as concerns naturalization of foreigners, the federal law only contains the provision of article 43 of the federal constitution, by virtue of which foreigners cannot be naturalized in a canton until they are freed from every tie toward the state to which they belong. The particulars of the legislation of the cantons are to be found in a collection of provisions relative to the subject, enacted by each canton, published in 1862 by the federal chancery, of which a copy is inclosed. If any changes have been made in those provisions, they relate, in each instance, to the form rather than the substance.

2. If citizenship can be lost, in what manner is it lost?

The right of Swiss citizenship ceases only with death, or by the voluntary renunciation, by the person who possesses it, of his cantonal and communal right of citizenship and by the release which the competent authority of the canton gives him. But this emancipation from the ties which bind him to the state is not granted until the proof exists in due form of the acquisition of citizenship in a foreign country. The legitimate children of an absent Swiss always acquire their right of citizenship from their father, and illegitimate children from their mother, provided that no other formality is necessary than the proof of descent. Swiss nationality is not lost by long absence, &c., as, in accordance with the provision of the same article 43 of the federal constitution, no canton can deprive any person leaving it from his right of origin or citizenship.

3. Are the children born in a canton of foreign parents considered in accordance with the laws as Swiss citizens?

De facto, by the mere fact of the birth of these children on Swiss soil. In the contrary case:
How long must the parents have resided in Switzerland before the birth of the child, or what other circumstances, independently of the birth of the child on Swiss soil, are necessary in order that the children should be considered as Swiss citizens?
Must the children he expected to declare their choice of Swiss citizenship by a formal act on reaching their majority?

What gives ground for the supposition of a presumptive choice on their part of the right of citizenship?

In replying to this question and its three subdivisions, the federal council has the honor to observe that the principles just stated suffer no kind of exception; especially not in favor of foreigners born in Switzerland, even if they and their parents have been domiciled in Switzerland for a very long time. In this respect Switzerland maintains purely and simply the same principle that she recognizes for the children of her own citizens, viz, legitimate children follow the condition of their father, and illegitimate the condition of their mother.

Hoping that this information may be of some use to the naturalization commission, for which it has been requested, the federal council avails itself of this fresh occasion to renew to his excellency Mr. Saville Lumley the assurances of its high consideration.

On behalf of the federal council the president of the confederation,


The chancellor of the confederation,