Foreigners in Switzerland face language-class obligation

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Thu Sep 8 14:51:27 UTC 2005

Foreigners face language-class obligation

swissinfo   September 7, 2005 5:28 PM

The focus of the new measures is on language and integration classes
Foreigners in Switzerland applying for a residence permit could soon face
compulsory language courses under plans drawn up by the government. The
authorities say the measures, which are due to come into force next
February, would help promote integration.

Under the new rules, the authorities will have to take into consideration
the degree of integration of the applicant when granting a residence
permit or permit extension. Previously these conditions only applied to
applications for citizenship. In a statement on Wednesday, the justice
ministry said the new requirements would also apply to those who give
religious instruction, culture or language classes within foreign

This stipulation has been interpreted in some quarters as applying
particularly to imams sent from abroad. Dominique Boillat, a spokesman for
the Federal Migration Office, said it was especially important for people
acting as a link between cultures to be integrated.

Margins of society

Boillat told swissinfo that some immigrants remained on the margins of
society because of poor language skills, lack of work or involvement in
the local community. "Lack of integration creates divisions between
immigrants and the rest of society which can translate into tensions," he
said. Under the new system, if integration is judged to be successful, the
authorities will have the power to grant a permanent residence permit
after five years of residency. Currently this can take up to ten years.

The Federal Migration Office will assume a coordinating role in this
policy but the integration criteria will vary from canton to canton. The
move comes as parliament prepares to debate a new law on foreigners later
this month. This law is intended to replace existing legislation, which
dates back to 1931.

The new law will regulate the admission and residence of non-European
Union or European Free Trade Association nationals who are not asylum
seekers. It will also be the first time that the principles and objectives
of the integration of foreign nationals are extensively laid down in law.


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