How can I apply for dual citizenship in Austria?
It’s well-known that citizenship rules in Austria are strict. In fact, the Alpine country has a reputation for some of the toughest citizenship requirements in the world.
The reason for this is that dual citizenship is not allowed for most people, which means applicants have to give up citizenship of their own country to naturalise - a rule that only one fifth of global states actually enforce.
For many people, permanently giving up their home country is too much to ask. But there are some rare exceptions to the rule.
When can you keep your original citizenship in Austria?
According to the law, there are only two cases when dual citizenship is allowed.
First, if the retention of original citizenship is in the interest of the Republic of Austria - usually as a result of a person’s achievements or status.
Second, if personal reasons are worth considering, although the law doesn’t provide any specific examples and an exception would depend on personal circumstances.
As a result, dual citizenship applications in Austria are often complex and usually require expert input from lawyers to argue the case.
Attorney Dr Wiesflecker, from Law Experts Rechtsanwälte-Attorneys, said: “We often argue that the person has a leadership role in his field and especially compared to other Austrians of his industry.
“The allowance of dual citizenship from the Austrian side always strongly depends on the individual case and has to be in the interest of the Republic of Austria.”
The application process is also time consuming and there is no guarantee that dual citizenship will be granted.
Dr Wiesflecker said: “The process involves submitting a lengthy application detailing the applicant’s life and reasons for wanting dual citizenship.
“The cases we work on mostly involve Austrian citizens living overseas, but we also work on applications of non-Austrians applying for an exemption to the rule.”
However, applications in the interest of the Republic of Austria are usually more successful than making a claim due to personal reasons.
Dr Wiesflecker said: “For applications from Austrian citizens, we always try to argue that people have family ties to Austria, but it’s very difficult to get a positive decision for personal reasons.”
When has dual citizenship been granted?
A recent example of a successful application was a British academic who was granted both British and Austrian citizenship.
Law Experts Rechtsanwälte-Attorneys, based in Innsbruck, Tyrol, argued that the academic had strong personal connections to both countries, which fulfilled the criteria for an exception based on personal reasons.
The application also highlighted that the academic’s professional work was very important to Austria and therefore in the interest of the Republic of Austria.
The evidence was accepted and the application was granted, although these cases are rare.
New citizenship rules for victims of the National Socialist (Nazi) regime
In September 2020, the Austrian government introduced an amendment to the Austrian Citizenship Act which allowed victims (and their descendants) of the national socialist regime to apply for dual citizenship.
During the 1930s and 1940s, many Jews fled Austria to escape persecution, which often meant losing Austrian citizenship and becoming a citizen of another country.
This left them, and their children and grandchildren, without a legal claim to their Austrian heritage.
The new law was introduced to rectify this and allows applicants to retain their original citizenship, as well as become a citizen of Austria.
Dr Wiesflecker said: “Before this statute it was really difficult [for descendants] to get Austrian citizenship.
“It was necessary to prove that Austrian citizenship was acquired by descent, which also included that the relevant ancestor had not voluntarily taken a foreign citizenship.
“If the ancestor never lost his or her Austrian citizenship, then it was possible that they transferred the citizenship by descent to the children.”
Last year, Amber Catford from California, told The Local she was applying for dual citizenship as a descendant of her grandmother who had fled Austria to America.
Amber said: “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.”