26 July 2009

One Swiss Mystery Solved

We've run into this on several occasions ourselves and I hear it all the time from other Expats living in Switzerland.

Why do the Swiss require all of our birth and marriage certificates to have been certified in the last 6 months?

It has finally been explained to me!

Here's why...

Apparently these documents get updated. Who knew?

In Switzerland, and in most of Europe, your birth & marriage certificates are kept filed at your Heimat (home town). When you get married, get divorced, have children or whatever, you bring the documentation to the Gemeinde (town hall) in your Heimat (home town) and they make an amendment to your birth/marriage certificate.

How weird is that?

They do not realize that in other countries (i.e. United States), it doesn't matter how many children you have, how many marriages and divorces you have, your birth certificate and marriage certificate will remain the same forever and ever. Therefore, a recent certified copy doesn't matter.

Fortunately, we were able to explain this to our lawyer, who explained it to the Swiss Adoption Authorities. Because getting a recently certified copy of a marriage certificate from a Caribbean Island is not an easy matter and could take months. We cannot just send our parents down to the Department of Vital Statistics, which is what we did to get recent copies of our birth certificates.

And that's why we ordered multiple copies of our marriage certificate right from the start. So that we would have them on hand if we ever needed them. Thankfully, they accepted it...


Expat Traveler said...

That is really very interesting.. And you know I never put that together...

I guess there are just things that will be so different in North American..

But I wonder if all european countries do this?

Global Librarian said...

It doesn't happen in the English-speaking countries. No surprise as those legal/bureaucratic systems are all based upon England's system and therefore are bound to be somewhat similar.

But I did an informal poll. It also happens in France, Germany, Greece and Italy.

In fact, when I asked people from those countries if they had that system, they were all surprised to find out that other countries may do it differently!

The Big Finn said...

I know that my dad had his records in Finland updated after my sister and I were born. I think part of the reason is that Finland recognizes our right to apply for Finnish citizenship through my father's birthright. The records are updated so that the children can request citizenship later in life (even if the father is deceased) without having to produce the father's birth certificate. How it actually works - I have no idea. And, I don't intend to find out.

J said...

How strange

Pointless Drivel said...

I would hazard a guess it is influenced by the Catholic Chuch. All your records of sacraments received in the church are kept at the church where you were baptized.