Inspiring Approaches

ZurichCity-ID Card

What is inspiring?

The city card is an innovative way of granting all residents of a city access to rights and urban (social) infrastructure - regardless of their residence status. It is a way of providing essential services to those who are not eligible for national or regional services. At the same time, it also avoids the risk of undocumented migrants being “discovered” and deported.

How does it operate?

In order to prevent the card from being handed out exclusively to undocumented migrants, thereby making them immediately identifiable, the Züri City Card is to be granted to the entire population of the greater Zurich urban area. In order to give inhabitants with residence status an incentive to use it, it also provides a whole range of additional functions, for example it can be used as a discount card in cafés, museums and shops. In this way, carrying the Züri City Card does not automatically indicate undocumented status – but it does give migrants non-discriminatory access to public and private services.

Who initiated the project?

The city’s municipal authority is progressive and run by a coalition of the left and green parties. It is open to regularising the status of migrants, although it barely has the relevant powers to effect this. In 2017, civil society groups and churches founded the association for the Züri City Card which has been campaigning for the introduction of an identity card based on the model of US Sanctuary Cities and their Municipal ID Cards ever since. In 2018, the city’s municipal authority acknowledged its responsibility towards those living in the city with no legal residence permit, and announced it would examine the necessary further steps for the city identity card: “The City Council supports the regularisation of ‘Sans Papiers’ (undocumented migrants) who have been living here for several years and is committed to ensuring they have secure access to the core basic and human rights to which they are entitled.” On 31 October 2018, the city council asked the administration to submit a concrete proposal for the introduction of the City Card. After the association collected around 8,400 signatures, and once two legal assessments had confirmed it as legally permissible, in November 2020 the city council voted to introduce the “Züri City Card”.

What’s the outcome?

All in all, the idea of the city ID card constitutes an inspiring approach that shows local solidarity in contexts where national legislation is hostile, or when the process for obtaining a legal residence status is slow. At the same time, in Zurich’s case, introducing it in practice has proven to be a challenge. The cost, preparation time and support needed on a range of government levels require a great deal of perseverance from activists.

What is new in 2023?

In May 2022, the majority of Zurich's city population voted in favour of funding the 'Züri City Card' to the tune of 3.2 million Swiss francs for the development of the project. Previously, a committee of conservative and right-wing conservative parties had taken the referendum against the said funding and the introduction of the - in their view illegal and unsuitable - Züri City Card. Now the city has the mandate to develop a concrete proposal for the introduction of the residence status-independent card for all citizens of the city by 2024/2025.

All inspiring approaches