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The pros and cons of obtaining Austrian citizenship

The pros and cons of obtaining Austrian citizenship
AFP
Every year thousands of people apply to become an Austrian citizen. Even though it is notoriously difficult to get and requires applicants to renounce their original citizenship.

So, what makes people want to become Austrian? And what are the pros and cons of Austrian citizenship?

The reasons often vary depending on where people are originally from and their reason for moving to Austria in the first place.

While citizenship brings with it the right to vote and reside in Austria there are other advantages, but also some clear downsides.

To find out more, we spoke to four international residents in Austria about their reasons for applying for citizenship, and the advantages and disadvantages of becoming Austrian.

Sense of belonging to Austria

Mike Bailey, a German to English translator in Vienna, became an Austrian citizen in 2018 due to a mixture of Brexit concerns, and family and career commitments.

As an EU citizen, he had to renounce British citizenship after becoming Austrian. But Mike’s wife, originally from Russia, had to renounce her Russian citizenship and become temporarily stateless while pregnant before obtaining Austrian citizenship.

READ MORE: What you need to know about getting Austrian citizenship

“In the worst case scenario – no withdrawal agreement – I was not sure if I could continue with my job, even after living here for 18 years,” he said.

“I had no intention to move back to the UK, so I naturalised just before the birth of our twins which meant they were born Austrian.”

Since becoming a citizen, Mike, 43, says he feels more connected to Austria and reassured that his status is protected in the country where he has lived for 20 years.

“I actually feel much more attached to Austria than I ever thought I would,” he said.

Brexit was also a deciding factor for Raquel Macho, 52, an office manager and people partner from Solihull, UK, who lives in Leonding, Upper Austria. She recently started the process of applying for citizenship.

“Brexit was the decider for me as I want to remain an EU citizen like my husband and two children and not have to worry about problems with movement within the EU in the future,” said Raquel.

“The pros of Austrian citizenship are a sense of belonging and having a voice. I don’t have one in the UK as I have been gone for longer than 15 years, and I don’t have one in Austria because I am not a citizen.”

The benefits of an EU passport

For non-Brits, like Shan Aly from Pakistan, becoming an Austrian citizen is about gaining a stronger passport for travel and having the same rights as Austrians.

Shan, 32, first moved to Austria to study a Master’s degree at FH Kufstein in Tyrol. He now lives in Vienna where he works as a marketing specialist in the food industry.

“The value of the Austrian passport is high, which makes it easier to travel, and I also want to have the same rights as Austrians, like when it comes to buying property,” said Shan.

“I come from Pakistan so having an Austrian passport will make things easier for me. With my job I have to travel a lot and often have to apply for visas.”

Reconnecting with family heritage

Amber Catford from California, has dual citizenship (UK and USA) and has been living in Austria as a British passport holder since 2013 with her partner. She is an illustrator and graphic designer based in Innsbruck, Tyrol.

Amber, 29, is applying for citizenship through the new category for victims (and descendants) of the national socialist regime, which allows people to retain their original citizenship. Her grandmother was from Vienna and fled Austria during the regime.

“I didn’t plan to move to Austria, but in following my heart, this is where I landed and I had made it my home even before this law came into effect,” said Amber.

“There may be a dark history behind the reason I can gain citizenship, but it is special to be able to come back to a place many years later and reclaim a small piece of my family history.

“It will be nice to know that I can stay here without worrying about visas, and to be able to vote in all the elections.”

READ ALSO: Why do so few foreigners become Austrian?

The downside of applying for Austrian citizenship

For most people applying to become an Austrian citizen, the biggest disadvantage is losing their original citizenship. This is something that Raquel struggled with at first.

“It took me a long while to reach the decision to apply but now I realise that I will always have British blood running through my veins and I will always cherish my roots,” said Raquel.

Another consideration for applicants is that all male citizens under the age of 35 in Austria have to serve in the military for six months, or in civilian service for nine months. This will apply to Shan if he is granted Austrian citizenship.

“I have talked to my current employer about it and they are happy to wait for me, but then there will be a gap in my CV,” said Shan.

The process of applying for citizenship can also take a long time due to the bureaucracy involved and Raquel advises others to be aware of this.

“Make sure you plan in advance, take the German courses, learn the history and ensure you have all your important documentation here in original form,” said Raquel.

And then there’s the costs involved.

The fees to have one’s application considered run to thousands of euros.

For more info on the costs and rules of the application process you can read our article on “What you need to know about applying for Austrian citizenship”.

by Hayley Maguire


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