Inspiring Approaches

BernThe digital City Card

What is inspiring?

After years of preparation for a Bern City Card for Urban Citizenship to benefit undocumented migrants (“Sans Papiers”), strict austerity measures have made the implementation of all new projects impossible. The city administration hopes to make a virtue out of necessity by making the City Card for undocumented migrants part of the digital identification for all Bernese, which was to be introduced anyway (according to the political debate on the implementation of the project in 2021).


Office for Migration and Racism Issues (FMR) of the City of Bern

E-mail: (Head of FMR)

How does it operate?

Instead of a plastic card, the City Card is now to be integrated into a smartphone app in the form of a QR code. Similar to the Zurich City Card, it is not meant exclusively for undocumented migrants, but is rather a regular digital identity card for all citizens, and is also issued to undocumented migrants living in the city. It is planned that the Bernese advice centre for undocumented migrants will issue the City Card to all migrants, provided they can credibly show they live in the city. This also means they would not have to contact the authorities to be issued with an ID.

What is the outcome?

Overall, the City Card should have the potential to create fear-free access to urban services for undocumented migrants, although many institutions such as schools or day-care centres are already formally accessible to them without risk. Nevertheless, the low number of people using the contact points in cases of domestic/sexual violence, or the childcare centres, indicate that undocumented migrants often do not dare to make use of these institutions. The City Card can be used as a means of conveying to undocumented migrants that they have legal rights and can access services.

Who initiated the project? How?

The civil society collective “We all are Bern” and advice centre for undocumented migrants in Bern initiated the project with the progressive red-green parties that govern the city. Bern’s municipal council has taken up the issue and stipulated it will consider the City Card as part of its “Integration Priority Plan 2018-2021”: “The city is involved in the debate on the concept of ‘urban citizenship’ and will pursue its aim of introducing a City Card available to all residents regardless of their residence status.”

What is new in 2023?

In October 2022, the Bern City Council approved funding for the development of a City Card in the amount of 120,000 Swiss francs. With this, it is concretising the objective of introducing a digital City Card for all city residents from the "Priority Plan Migration and Racism 2022-2025". The municipal office for migration and racism issues is leading the elaboration of the City Card project. In late autumn 2023, the concrete implementation plan (including time frame, cost plan, technical solutions and functions of the card) is to be forwarded to the municipal council. It has not yet been finally clarified whether a physical card will also be issued by the city. This would correspond to the wishes of various communities.

All inspiring approaches