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NATURALISATION

Everything you need to know about applying for Austrian citizenship

Austria has some of the toughest naturalisation rules in Europe. Here's what you need to know if you're trying to become Austrian, writes Hayley Maguire.

Everything you need to know about applying for Austrian citizenship
Want to become Austrian? Here's how. Photo: ALEXANDER KLEIN / AFP
Becoming a citizen of another country is a big decision. Even more so in a country that is known for having tough citizenship rules – like Austria.

In fact, Austrian citizenship, or naturalisation, is one of the least applied for in the EU. This is put down to strict eligibility requirements on the length of time spent in the country and, in most cases, renouncing original citizenship.

It doesn’t mean becoming an Austrian citizen is impossible though and last year more than 10,000 people went through the process of naturalisation in Austria.

Who is applying for Austrian citizenship?

In 2019, the number of people becoming an Austrian citizen increased by 12.2 per cent from 2018. But who is applying for Austrian citizenship? And where do they originally come from?

Figures from Statistics Austria show that former citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina make up the largest group of people, with 1,183 naturalisations last year. This was closely followed by former citizens of Serbia and Turkey.

Other figures show there is a gender difference in the number of EU citizens becoming Austrian. Data from 2014 to 2018 shows almost two thirds of EU naturalisations were by female applicants. But for third-country nationals, the gender division is almost equal.

The number of British people becoming Austrian has increased in recent years, particularly following the 2016 referendum vote for the UK to leave the EU.

In 2018, 44 former British citizens became Austrian and in 2019, the figure rose to 96.

This figure is minimal compared to neighbouring Germany though, where 14,600 Britons naturalised in 2019. 

The Austrian national flag is seen at the Austrian Parliament next to the statue of Greek goddess Pallas Athena in Vienna on September 5, 2012. Photo: ALEXANDER KLEIN / AFP

Who is eligible?

There are several ways that a person can become an Austrian citizen.

First, children born to an Austrian citizen mother automatically become Austrian citizens themselves at birth.

But if only the father is Austrian and the parents are not married, then an acknowledgement of paternity (Vaterschaftsanerkenntnis) can be made for the child to become Austrian. In cases like this, children can also have dual citizenship.

Next, spouses or civil partners of Austrian citizens may be eligible for citizenship by extension if they meet certain requirements, like living together in the same household for five years.

Long-term residents are eligible for naturalisation if they have lived in Austria continuously for at least 10 years. And five of those years must be as a permanent resident.

There are also other eligibility conditions for long-term residents, including a high-level of German language skills and the ability to support yourself financially.

Then there is an exception known as ‘extraordinary merit’ that involves selected people being granted Austrian citizenship, usually on the basis of wealth. There is more to it than just investing money in Austria though.

Applicants must also provide other forms of investment to be eligible, such as the creation of jobs or introducing new technologies to the country. And be willing to give up their original citizenship.

Finally, the most recent change to the process in Austria is the introduction of citizenship for the descendants of Jews that fled the Nazis. This category allows Jews from around the world to become an Austrian citizen without giving up their current passports. 

The first person to benefit from the new law became an Austrian citizen in September. He left Austria in 1944 when he was eight-years-old and has spent most of his life in Israel.

How to apply and costs

The process of applying for Austrian citizenship involves completing an application form and submitting the following documents:

  • Passport/ID card

  • Birth certificate

  • Proof of other citizenship

  • Proof of address

  • Marriage/divorce certificate (if applicable)

Then there is the Integration Test to prove German-language skills at Level B1 and the Citizenship Test. The latter includes questions about the Austrian democratic system and the history of the country, as well as the province where the applicant lives.

More information on how to apply is available at the following link. 

EXPLAINED: How to apply for Austrian citizenship

The cost of becoming an Austrian citizen can vary depending on the citizenship route. 

As a guide, the cost of the application is around €130 and the fee for granting citizenship is typically between €1,100 and €1,500. However, this does not include other costs, such as fees for the translation of official documents and taking the German language test.

READ ALSO: How much does it cost to become an Austrian citizen?

Becoming an Austrian citizen is not cheap or easy, but it is possible and results in becoming a citizen of an EU country with a high standard of living.

For more information about applying for Austrian citizenship, the following websites are useful resources.

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LIVING IN AUSTRIA

What happens if you get arrested in Austria?

It’s always good to know your legal rights when living as a foreigner in Austria - including if you get in trouble with the police.

What happens if you get arrested in Austria?

Getting arrested is probably not high up on a list of must-dos for international residents in Austria, but it’s not a bad idea to know what would happen if you did.

In a nutshell, the process in Austria is similar to most other countries in that you have to be suspected of committing a crime to be arrested.

But what happens next? What are your rights? And how long can someone be held in custody?

Here’s what you need to know.

FOR MEMBERS: EXPLAINED: What cyclists and drivers in Austria need to know about new rules

When can someone be arrested in Austria?

If someone is suspected of being a criminal, they can be arrested by the police and taken to a police station for questioning. 

Under the Austrian Code of Criminal Procedure, suspects must be informed of their rights as soon as possible, or at the very least before being interrogated by the police.

They also have a right to remain silent or to make a statement, as well as consult a lawyer.

According to Vienna-based attorney Evert Vastenburg, the initial detainment after arrest can last up to 48 hours while a judge decides whether a person should remain in custody or not.

A suspect can then be released on bail or under certain conditions, such as handing over a passport to police.

However, those suspected of serious crimes that typically lead to a prison sentence of 10 years or more (if found guilty) are almost always remanded in custody.

READ MORE: Austria wary of cyber attacks after personal data of foreign residents leaked online

When is someone remanded in custody?

To be refused bail and remanded in custody, there must be serious suspicion that another crime could be committed. 

The judge also must believe there is no other way to deal with the suspect. For example, he/she needs to be readily available to the authorities for questioning.

Another valid reason to keep someone in custody past the initial 48 hours is the risk of someone absconding. In fact, Vastenburg says a flight risk is often assumed with people that do not live and work in Austria.

Other reasons to deny a suspect release are a risk that evidence will be destroyed, witnesses will be contacted, or there is a possibility that further crimes will be committed.

What happens if bail is denied?

If bail is denied and a person must be held in custody for more than 48 hours, they have to be legally represented by a lawyer.

If a suspect can’t afford to hire a lawyer, they will be appointed a Verfahrenshilfe (public defender) by the state.

The case will be then reviewed by a judge on a regular basis to decide if custody should continue.

The first review will take place after 14 days, then at one month and every two months, but a suspect can petition for release at any time.

READ ALSO: Six tourist scams to be aware of in Austria

How many foreigners are in Austrian prisons?

According to data from the Austrian Judiciary, the number of foreigners in Austrian jails as of June 1st 2022 was 4,332 – almost 50 percent of all prisoners.

In relation to the statistics, the Austrian Judiciary states: “The high proportion of foreigners is one of many challenges for the Austrian penal system. 

“In particular, with regard to successful rehabilitation, the fastest possible transfer to the countries of origin is encouraged.

The most common nationality of foreign prisoners in Austria is Romanian, followed by people from the former Yugoslavian states, Hungary, Nigeria and Turkey.

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