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EXPLAINED: Am I eligible for Austrian citizenship?

Becoming an Austrian citizen is difficult, but by no means impossible. Here's what you need to know.

Austria flag on field
An Austrian flag flies above a green meadow. Photo: TOBIAS SCHWARZ / AFP

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.

The spouse of an Austrian national may obtain Austrian citizenship if they have lived continuously in Austria for at least six years and have been married and lived with their partner for at least five years. 

The person obtaining citizenship via marriage must officially renounce their existing citizenship.

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.

READ MORE: Just how good does your German have to be to gain residency and citizenship in Austria?

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, 2020. 

Will Austria change citizenship rules? 

Austria’s opposition SPÖ party (Social Democrats of Austria) is calling for easier access to Austrian citizenship.

As The Local has previously reported, Austria has some of the strictest citizenship requirements in Europe.

The party argues there should be a legal right to citizenship after six years of legal residence – rather than the current ten year requirement – provided all other criteria are met. 

COMPARE: Which European countries have the toughest rules for gaining citizenship?

The SPÖ also want children born in Austria to automatically receive citizenship if one parent has been legally resident in Austria for five years

In cases like this, children would also have dual citizenship.

READ MORE: Will Austria implement easier citizenship rules?

The party also called for federal government fees of (currently €1,115 euros) for naturalisation to be canceled and individual state fees, to be standardised at a correspondingly low level.

Under the new plan, the rules would also be relaxed with regard to receipt of social benefits. 

Citizenship would then be open to all those who have not received social assistance benefits in at least 36 months in the past six years.

In addition, the SPÖ want to replace the existing citizenship exam with a course in which participants would help to “make our basic rights and democracy tangible in a participatory way”.

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WEATHER

Wild weather in Austria: How to protect yourself during summer storms

With violent storms becoming increasingly common in Austria, here’s how to protect yourself (and your home) this summer.

Wild weather in Austria: How to protect yourself during summer storms

Storms are a regular occurrence in Austria during the summer months, but the strength and frequency seems to be increasing.

Overnight on Tuesday, June 28th, both the Pöllinger and the Treffner rivers in Carinthia burst their banks causing widespread flooding, mudslides and damage across the region.

Reports on Wednesday morning said the villages of Treffen am Ossiacher See and Arriach (Villach-Land district) were still metres under water and several people had been rescued from the deluge.

READ ALSO: Who to call and what to say in an emergency in Austria

According to ORF, emergency services were still struggling to reach some areas and there were unconfirmed reports of missing people.

A Tweet from Unwetter-Freaks said: “Bad pictures from #Arriach in #Kärnten , which was hit by several storm cells last night. According to ORF, the place is currently cut off from the outside world and cannot be reached by the emergency services.”

Earlier this week, rural areas in Upper Austria were also hit by storms (overnight, June 27th) bringing torrential rain and hail the size of golf balls, which caused extensive damage to crops and grassland in the key agricultural state.

READ ALSO: 23 essential articles to help you navigate life in Austria

The Klaus reservoir had to be drained of 200 cubic metres of water to avoid flooding and trees were brought down across the province by wind gusts – some up to 91 km/h.

The Kronen Zeitung reports the storm caused damage to around 16,000 hectares of agriculture land, with insurers estimating the cost to be up to €6.5 million.

One Tweet showed the size of the hail on Monday night and read: “In the night we had ‘light’ hail.”

Storms then hit the region again on Tuesday night leading to a lightning strike on a hay barn in the Mühlviertel and the flooding of an underground car park in Linz.

With the summer season far from over and the possibility of more wild weather in the coming months, here’s how to stay safe during storms in Austria.

FOR MEMBERS: When and where to avoid driving in Austria this summer

Check the weather report

It might sound obvious, but checking the weather forecast should be at the top of the list of summer storm preparations.

Unlike in the past, weather reports are now typically reliable, and apps like Bergfex and Accuweather are well-known for providing detailed forecasts and weather warnings.

However, long-range forecasts can change quickly, so if you’re planning a camping or hiking trip, be sure to check the weather between 24 and 48 hours before to avoid being caught out.

Additionally, the Österreichischen Unwetterzentrale (Austrian Severe Weather Centre) has regular updates about storms and weather forecasts for Austria and users can sign up for email and SMS notifications.

Stay indoors

According to the organisation, Die Helfer Wiens (The Helpers of Vienna) one of the biggest risks during a storm is being hit by a fallen tree or flying debris.

For this reason, they advise people (and pets) to stay indoors during a storm and close all windows and doors. 

If staying in a tent or campervan, it’s also a good idea to seek shelter in a building (if possible) until the storm has passed.

However, if you are outside during lightning, the Austrian Red Cross says the best approach is to crouch down into a ball to reduce the amount of contact you have with the floor.

READ MORE: How to keep your apartment cool in Austria this summer amid rising energy prices

Stay away from the cellar

Cellars and underground car parks can quickly become flooded during heavy rain – as seen in recent storms in Upper Austria and Carinthia, and last year during violent storms across Austria.

Flash flooding can happen quickly (the clue is in the name), so stay away from cellars and underground spaces during a storm and call the emergency services if you suspect a flood in your home.

Remove plants and furniture from balconies

Having plants and flowers on a balcony is a lovely way to brighten up an outside space, but they risk being damaged during a storm.

To safeguard your pots and lovingly-planted flora, move them inside – especially during a thunderstorm with strong wind gusts and lightning.

The same applies to any outdoor furniture that could be damaged by wind or hail, like cushions, decorative objects and sun umbrellas.

Park cars under shelter

Hail is one of the leading causes of dents to bodywork on cars and damage to windscreens, both of which can be costly to repair.

If hail is forecast during a storm, park a car in a garage or under shelter, if possible. 

If strong wind is expected, then avoid parking a car under trees as debris, or even the tree itself, could end up landing on the vehicle.

FOR MEMBERS: EXPLAINED: How Austria banned everyone from the forest for 123 years

Don’t go into the forest

Whether walking or driving, the best advice is to stay from the forest or areas with lots of trees during a storm.

While sheltering under a tree can protect from rain or hail, lightning or strong wind can bring down trees. This makes the forest a dangerous place to be in a storm.

But if you do find yourself in the unfortunate position of being in a forest when a thunderstorm hits, stay away from low branches and tree trunks and crouch down low. Place any walking sticks or metal poles away from you and stay away from metal fences.

Avoid risky activities

Certain outdoor activities are especially hazardous if there’s a lightning storm. 

Any activity in an open area or that puts you into contact with water or metal is strongly advised against. So that means fishing, swimming, boating, cycling and golfing are out until the storm is over. 

Keep torches and candles ready

Power cuts are common during storms, so keep a stock of candles and torches ready in case you end up without electricity for several hours.

It’s also a good idea to have a portable USB charger to make sure your phone doesn’t run out of battery during an emergency.

Who to call in an emergency

These are the numbers to call if you need help from the Austrian emergency services during a storm.

122 – fire service (Feuerwehr).

133 – police (Polizei).

144 – ambulance (Krankenwagen or Rettungswagen).

120 – ÖAMTC emergency breakdown service.

123 – ARBÖ emergency breakdown service.

140 – mountain rescue.

Finally, 112 is the single European emergency number, whose operators will direct you to the relevant services. This number can even be called on a locked mobile phone without needing the pin.

Find out more with The Local’s guide on who to call and what to say in an emergency.

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