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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.

How can I apply for dual citizenship in Austria?
A collection of passports on a white background. Image: Wikicommons

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.

READ MORE: What makes Austrian citizenship so hard to get?

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.”

READ MORE: Everything you need to know about applying for Austrian citizenship

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.

EXPLAINED: How to apply for Austrian citizenship

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.”

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

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EXPLAINED: Who is entitled to Austrian citizenship by descent and how to apply for it?

Austria's nationality law is based on the principle of "jus sanguinis", with citizenship is given to sons and daughters of Austrian parents, but this can get tricky.

EXPLAINED: Who is entitled to Austrian citizenship by descent and how to apply for it?

As in many other European countries, Austria’s citizenship rules are based on blood (jus sanguinis). A child is considered Austrian if at least one of their parents is Austrian, irrespective of place of birth.

In theory, this should be a simple concept. But, in Austria, it can get tricky depending on the year a child was born, whether the mother or the father is an Austrian citizen and whether or not they were married at the time of birth.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How to get Austrian citizenship or stay permanently in Austria

Here is a simple guide to understanding how Austrian citizenship by descent works, who is entitled to it and how to apply.

Children born to married parents

A child that was born in wedlock, meaning that their parents were married at the time of birth, is entitled to Austrian citizenship by descent if at least one of the parents is an Austrian citizen at the time of the child’s birth.

However, children born before September 1983 are only entitled to Austrian citizenship if the father is Austrian. This is because, before a change in the law, the country considered that the woman would automatically “take” the citizenship of her married partner.

Things are the opposite for unmarried partners.

Children born to unmarried parents

A child that was born out of wedlock can obtain Austrian citizenship by descent if the mother is Austrian at the time of the birth.

Since August 2013, children born to unmarried parents can obtain Austrian citizenship if the father is Austrian, and an acknowledgement of paternity is made within eight weeks of the child’s birth.

In all cases where recognition of fatherhood or the determination by the court is done after his timeframe, children may be awarded Austrian citizenship by award in a simplified procedure. However, this means that the child will still have to go through specific requirements for naturalisation.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How to apply for Austrian citizenship

Adopted children

Children of adoptive parents can obtain citizenship through a simplified and accelerated award process up to 14.

When things get tricky(er)

Things get a little bit more complicated if a person is trying to acquire Austrian citizenship by descent from a distant ancestor.

This is because they will need to prove that every person in the “bloodline” is entitled to Austrian citizenship, following the rules and considering the year.

For very distant relatives, with many family members born before 1983, each person must have been born either to married parents with an Austrian father or unmarried parents with an Austrian mother.

A birth, marriage, and death certificate (when available) will have to be shown for each relative in the Austrian bloodline. Additionally, the State will require proof that none of the persons has renounced Austrian citizenship before the birth of a son or daughter.

READ ALSO: How foreigners can get fast-track citizenship in Austria

Finally, there is an issue of whether the ancestor really was Austrian at all.

Between 1867 and 1918, Vienna was one of the capitals of an immense empire, the Dual Monarchy of the Austro-Hungarian empire.

The territory extended through what is now Austria and Hungary but also Slovenia, the Czech Republic, parts of Italy, Croatia, Serbia, parts of Poland, Romania, Ukraine, and Montenegro.

After the First World War, the Austro-Hungarian empire was dissolved. But, then, not all people who first considered themselves Austrians still kept Austrian citizenship. Thus, it is not uncommon for families that believe a grandfather came from Austria to find out they actually were Romanian or Polish, for example.

austria flag austrian flag austria

Austrian flag: who is entitled to citizenship by descent? (Photo by Sandra Grünewald on Unsplash)

How to apply for it?

If you are entitled to Austrian citizenship by descent, there are several ways to apply for it, depending on your residency. For people who live outside of Austria, the Embassy or consulate is the place to go.

For those who live in Austria, the provincial government’s office is where you can get more information and submit the documents.

Exceptions and different rules

In 2020, the Austrian federal government introduced an amendment to the Austrian Citizenship Act also to allow descendants of victims to apply for dual citizenship and become citizens in a simplified process.

All former Austrian citizens who were forced to leave before 15th May 1955 can apply for dual citizenship. This includes citizens of successor states of the former Austro-Hungarian Monarchy who were residents in Austria.

READ ALSO: How descendants of victims of Nazism can apply for Austrian citizenship

The law extends to their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, including those that were adopted as a child.

Dual citizenship

In general, Austria does not allow for dual citizenship. Therefore, when people naturalise Austrian, one requirement is to renounce other citizenships.

READ ALSO: Austrian citizenship: Do you really have to renounce your original nationality?

However, people who acquire citizenship by descent do not have to renounce other citizenship. If, in the case of parents of different nationalities, the country of citizenship of the non-Austrian parent also foresees a jus sanguinis (citizenship “by blood” like Austria), the child will have dual citizenship.

According to Austrian law, the child does not have to decide between Austrian and the other nationality upon becoming an adult – the other State might require such a decision.