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AUSTRIAN CITIZENSHIP

How to become an Austrian citizen through marriage

Austrian citizenship has a reputation of being hard to get, but it is possible to naturalise through marriage.

Austrian-citizenship-marriage
Photo: Pexels/Jasmine Carter

Marrying someone from another country is romantic and exciting but it can result in extensive paperwork and tough decisions about where to live.

In Austria, it is possible to become a citizen (or naturalise) through marriage – as long as you jump through a few hoops first. 

Here’s what you need to know.

Become a resident in Austria first

The first step to becoming a citizen in Austria is to become a resident.

This is because citizenship usually follows a period of living in the country as a resident.

If you are the spouse or registered partner of an Austrian, EEA or Swiss citizen, you can apply to live in Austria.

This involves registering your Right of Residence Under EU Law, known as the Anmeldebescheinigung. The paperwork has to be filed at the local authority within four months of arriving in the country.

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

EU or EEA citizens will then gain the right to continuous residence in Austria after five years.

Non-EU or EEA citizens can request a residence card (Aufenthaltskarte) under the Family Member category.

Citizenship through marriage

To be eligible for citizenship, applicants have to live in Austria for at least ten years (or six years for EEA nationals), with five years as a permanent resident.

However, if applying for citizenship through marriage, the requirement is six years of continuous residence with five years of marriage in the same Austrian household as their spouse.

Applying for naturalisation through marriage from abroad is not an option. 

Applicants have to give up original citizenship

Citizenship in Austria is notoriously difficult to gain – even through marriage – and one of the biggest barriers is the requirement to give up original citizenship.

Earlier this year, Raquel Macho, 52, an office manager and people partner from Solihull, UK, told The Local about her decision to apply for Austrian citizenship. 

Raquel, who lives in Leonding, Upper Austria, said: “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.

“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.”

Requirements for naturalisation

To become naturalised in Austria through marriage, there is paperwork to complete and fees to be paid.

However, the documents required for the application are decided on a case-by-case basis through personal interviews.

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

Examples of documentation include a CV, passport-size photo, birth certificate, marriage certificate, degree certificate, Austrian residency documents, proof of income from the past three years and proof of social insurance.

Documents that are not in German have to be translated by a certified translator.

Additionally, applicants need to have German language skills at level B1 and pass the Integration Test with the Austrian Integration Fund (ÖIF).

For people that speak German at Level B2 or higher (and have an official certificate), the Integration Test is not required.

The cost of applying for citizenship in Austria typically runs into thousands of Euros and it can be a time consuming process.

What benefits does Austrian citizenship bring?

With Austrian citizenship, successful applicants get free access to the labour market, conditions of employment, social security, tax benefits and access to study grants. 

Keep in mind however that many of these will have already been available to permanent residents. 

They will also be eligible for an EU passport and the right to vote in elections.

Plus, unlike residency there is no need to renew a residence permit card every five years.

READ MORE: What’s the difference between permanent residency and citizenship in Austria?

Another added bonus is having the same rights as Austrians when buying property and having freedom of movement within the EU bloc.

People with citizenship also describe having a stronger sense of belonging in their chosen country.

Another consideration for men under the age of 35 is that becoming an Austrian citizen means completing six months of compulsory military service, or nine months of civilian service.

Useful links

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

City of Vienna

Federal Ministry for European and International Affairs

Living and working in Austria

Preparation for the Austrian citizenship test

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For members

MOVING TO AUSTRIA

‘Bring everything you have’: Key tips for dealing with Vienna’s immigration office MA 35

International residents of Vienna need the city's infamous MA 35, an immigration office known for delays and mistakes. However, there are some tips to make your visit more productive (and they don't necessarily involve moving away).

'Bring everything you have': Key tips for dealing with Vienna's immigration office MA 35

Austria is a country with a large proportion of immigrants and foreigners in its population. In fact, it continues to grow despite low birth rates because of the people moving to the Alpine country. In Vienna, the situation is even more pronounced, as the city has the highest share of international residents in the country.

Figures from the City of Vienna show that at the beginning of 2021, there were 805,039 foreigners living in the capital, which is almost 42 percent of the city’s population.

The office for immigration and citizenship in Vienna, known just as MA 35, is, for many immigrants, their first encounter with Austrian bureaucracy. Sooner or later, every foreigner living in the capital will pay a visit to the infamous MA35.

READ ALSO: ‘Insensitive and inefficient’: Your verdict on Vienna’s immigration office MA 35

The office has received plenty of criticism for long delays, mistakes and even mistreatment of those seeking services. Most recently, the long waiting times for citizenship applications have caused a stir, as The Local reported.

The Local readers have also shared their experiences, with a majority saying it was either “very poor” or “poor” and citing stories of delays, mistakes and rudeness. One respondent from Croatia had only one tip: “Move to another country”.

For them, the experience had been “terrible, delayed, without enough information”.

However, other readers have also shared their advice on how to have a better (or at least not so bad) experience with the MA 35. For example, one reader who chose to be anonymous said people should “keep your answers short and precise, so you don’t give the more reasons to doubt you”.

“Document everything and try and anticipate their needs, so you don’t go back and forth”, they added.

Another reader from Slovakia had short but valuable advice: “Come super early, plus you need small change for the copy machine.”

READ ALSO: Why is cash so important to Austrians?

Get prepared in advance

Julio C. Rimada Herrara, a Cuban who has lived in Vienna for three years, also has straightforward and useful advice: “Read in detail all the instructions and look for advice if needed”.

For many readers, the main thing was to get prepared in advance. Amra Brkic, from Bosnia, said: “prepare all documents and read all that is needed from documents”.

Another person, from Brazil, agreed: “Get all your documents filled and ready beforehand.”

They added there were still people filling out forms outside “even though you can print those from the web”. So, it’s good to know what you may need and sort it out before heading to the office.

Olga M., from Russia, believes there is no such thing as being overly prepared. She said: “Bring all the possible documents you have with you, even if nobody asked for them in advance”.

German is key

If there is one piece of advice that was repeated over and over by respondents of our survey, that was: to speak German. If only a little, to have a polite introduction, but better if fluently. And, if you are just not there yet, bring someone with you who does speak the language.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How to get free vouchers to learn German in Vienna

Vineet Deshpande, from India, said: “If you don’t speak German, take someone who speaks German with you for the appointment.”.

Marta, from Poland, was more direct: “Learn German. No, it is not a joke.”

The Austrian capital Vienna is home to a large number of immigrants. (Photo by Dan V on Unsplash)

Aida, from Bosnia and Herzegovina, said: “If language skills are not yet on a conversation level, bring someone who can help you translate”. She also mentioned that it could be beneficial to hear other people’s experiences over social media and prepare in advance by talking to people going through similar situations.

However, Brenda Osorio disagrees: “Every case is different, don’t listen to the people who advise you”.

“If you have a question and they don’t reply to you, go directly to ask. It is also our responsibility as immigrants to have our documents organised and to inform ourselves”, Brenda, who is Mexican, added.

Get professional assistance

For many people, the best idea is to hire a professional attorney specialising in migration law. That way, you ensure things are done on time and all documents comply with Austrian rules.

“A professional lawyer will advise the applicants on preparing a completed document for the MA35. By having completed documents, you will ease the job of the offices and so you will get your permit or citizenship easily,” said Kim Koay, who came from Malaysia and has lived in Vienna for around ten years.

“They will look through your document and, if everything is okay, approve their permit on the same day. I have experienced this myself”, she said.

READ ALSO: Visas to qualifications: How foreign residents in Europe can get help with paperwork problems

A reader from the United States who recently moved to Austria said: “Sadly, we only had a response when we worked with a relocation agent. If you can afford one, save yourself time and heartache by working with a reputable company.”

Jack French, from the UK, said: “Engage a lawyer – it is worth the cost to avoid totally endless delays and unreasonable demands.”

Time and persistance

Many readers also acknowledged that the office simply needs more time, especially since the Austrian capital has so many immigrants (and continues to receive more each day).

“Apply well before the expiry of your cards and keep asking them about the status of your application on a regular basis”, said one reader who stated they were from Asia.

austria passport

Those looking to apply for the Austrian citizenship also need to go to the MA 35 (© Amanda Previdelli / The Local)

When it comes to the appointment, Maddi Latimer, from Canada, had some advice that could help you avoid long lines and wasted time outside of the office: “make your appointment early in the morning in order not to get caught waiting due to backed up appointments”.

Stefan de Paula, who has lived in Austria for seven years but moved from Brazil, had a bleak but honest tip: “Get used to the lack of motivation of those people. It’s nothing personal with you; they just can’t do better.”

READ MORE: What measures against foreigners is Austria’s far-right trying to take?

Still, keep being persistent. Nicole, from the United States, said: “Call and email regularly – as much as you can and in German.”

For a reader in Serbia, kindness was the best tip: “learn at least to say hello, thank you and similar in German.

“Treat employees in MA kindly and try to explain why this procedure is really important for you (you don’t want to be separated from your partner as you just got married, an employer is really needing you to start soon…).”

If nothing else works, though, don’t forget that Austria is still a country that puts great value on titles. Pallavi Chatterjee, from India, experienced this first hand: “Pro-tip: share your academic degrees after your name on your email signature. I hate to admit it, but my two postgraduate degree titles after my name kinda helped.”

And remember, it’s not uncommon for them to make mistakes.

So, the advice from Michael Crean, who comes from Ireland, is also essential: “Do not simply accept the information or demands they give you. Check out other sources and get professional advice”.

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