You read that right: former US presidential candidate confirms she is officially Swiss
Bachmann’s dual citizenship muddles more than the Tea Party
GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – The ranks of dual US-Swiss citizens have just been plumped by former US presidential candidate Michele Bachmann from Minnesota, whoe certainly knows how to wax poetic about the old country, which the family frequently visits.
Bachmann’s husband was interviewed by Swiss-German international television Tagesschau during a visit by Swiss parliamentarians to Washington, about her husband, son of Swiss immigrants to Wisconsin, and their children taking up their inherited Swiss nationality. The reporter is quoted by US media as saying that a wife of a Swiss citizen automatically becomes Swiss, which is incorrect: he in fact says that all the rules were followed. The law changed in 1992 and the wife of a Swiss citizen must actively apply to become Swiss today, not formerly the situation, but an expedited process can be used. The same is true for children of a Swiss citizens, in some situations.
The fact that the Bachmanns were married in 1978 appears to have given them the option to register their marriage with the commune in Switzerland in March, and include the entire family in the official Family Certificate document, which is necessary for a Swiss passport.
A Swiss embassy official in the US confirmed to WRS radio in Geneva Wednesday that he was told by the Bachmann family’s commune that they registered their marriage with a commune in March.
Becoming Swiss isn’t automatic for spouses, some children
The news zoomed around the US that Michele Bachmann has become Swiss, although Bachmann herself doesn’t say so in the televised interview. The TV station said it had confirmation that 19 March the entire family took up citizenship in Wigoltingen, canton Thurgau (the bumpf on spouses of Swiss citizens, from the federal government). One niggling detail seems a little difficult to verify: “The applicant receives the citizenship of the canton and commune of his or her Swiss spouse. Article 26 of the Citizenship Act requires by analogy that the applicant be integrated into Swiss life …”
The reports making the rounds in the US also state that the children are automatically citizens because their father claimed his citizenship in March 2012, but this would apply only to children born after 2006, so the Bachmann children, like their mother, had to actively register as citizens. Technically, this makes the sons liable for military duty, but overseas Swiss are frequently able to avoid this and at age 28, eldest son Lucas is past the normal recruitment age and Harrison, who has been teaching for two years, is also unlikely to be chased by his local Swiss recruiting centre.
Tax benefits a myth for dual citizens
The biggest blooper made by some of the media picking up the story is the innuendo that the Bachmanns could ultimately avoid US taxes by becoming Swiss, overlooking the fact that dual US-Swiss citizens have to file taxes in both countries, and future US taxes could be avoided only if taxes due were first paid and then the Bachmanns renounced their US citizenship, making it clear they were not doing it for tax reasons. This would probably be accepted only if they have lived in Switzerland, based on accounts from US citizens who have renounced their citizenship there.
The Bachmanns, as Swiss citizens, may or may not have a Swiss bank account – the Swiss TV reporter didn’t ask – but given the media play given to Republican candidate Mitt Romney’s offshore Swiss account, the question is likely to be raised in the US. For the Swiss abroad, living in the US, who are finding that Swiss banks are closing their accounts, and for Americans living in Switzerland who have the same problem because of the cost and potential problems with the IRS for the banks, any special treatment the Bachmanns might receive would not go down well.
Michele Bachmann worked for the IRS as an attorney from 1988 to 1993, leaving when she became a mother.
The Bachmanns say they claimed Swiss citizenship for their children, Tagesschau reports; oldest son Lucas, a medical student, has already spent some time in Switzerland and a passport gives the children the right to work here. They may, however, find it difficult to open a bank account to pay their rent, the case with a growing number of dual nationals with US and Swiss citizenship.
Bachmann laughed at the interviewer’s suggestion that she could now run for president of Switzerland. But she might want to study this a little more closely, since being female wouldn’t be the issue it was in the US: Switzerland has already had three women presidents.
Hollywood Reporter interviews Bachmann children, January 2012