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AUSTRIAN CITIZENSHIP

Why has naturalisation in Austria doubled in 2022 – and who are the new citizens?

Almost 5,000 people became Austrian citizens in the first three months of 2022, more than twice the year before.

The Austrian Parliament Building
Austria's Parliament Building(PHOTO BY JOE KLAMAR / AFP)

The first three months of 2022 saw 4,865 people being awarded Austrian citizenship through naturalisation processes.

That’s more than twice as many naturalisations as in the same quarter of the previous year (2,402 naturalisations), according to data released this Thursday, 19th, by Statistik Austria.

While Covid may have made an impact, when compared to the last year before the coronavirus pandemic, the number of naturalisations surged by 76 per cent.

The Austrian organisation says that the increase is primarily due to the entry into effect of the 2020 amendment to the Austrian Citizenship Act, allowing descendants of victims of the National Socialist (Nazi) regime to apply for dual citizenship.

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

“Under this legal title, descendants of victims of the Nazi regime have had the possibility of naturalisation since September 2020 without giving up their previous citizenship in return.”, Statistik Austria explained.

In the first quarter of the year, 1,927 people received Austrian citizenship according to the new amendment, corresponding to 39.6 per cent of all naturalisations in the quarter.

Almost all people naturalising through the new rules live outside of Austria (1,911).

Most are citizens of Israel (16.1 per cent), followed by the United Kingdom (8.5 per cent) and the United States (8.4 per cent).

Who are the new Austrian nationals?

According to Statistik Austria, the most recent Austrian citizens were previously from Turkey (7 per cent), Syria (6.2 per cent), and Bosnia and Herzegovina (4.9 per cent).

READ ALSO: Reader question: Will my children get an Austrian passport if born in Austria?

About half the naturalisations were women (49.7 per cent), and the proportion of people under 18 years old was 31.7 per cent.

About one-fifth of the newly naturalised had been born in Austria (21.2 per cent).

Eight states saw an increase in the number of naturalisations compared to the year before, with the most noticeable increase in Vorarlberg (up by 96.1 per cent), followed by Vienna (64.5 per cent) and Tyrol (54.3 per cent). Only in Salzburg, where there were 120 naturalisations, there was a decrease (by 4 per cent) in numbers.

Austrian naturalisation rules

Austria is considered a relatively difficult country to get naturalised. Not only do people need to prove language and integration, but it can get expensive, with applicants who are awarded the citizenship having to pay sometimes more than € 2,000.

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

Another thing that keeps people from applying is the obligation that naturalised citizens – with very few exceptions – give up their previous citizenship.

This is because Austria does not allow double citizenship for naturalised citizens unless they are descendants of the victims of the Holocaust or are granted an exemption.

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AUSTRIAN CITIZENSHIP

Austrian presidential elections: Why 1.4 million people can’t vote

Due to Austria's strict rules on citizenship and growing number of international residents, the number of people that are not allowed to vote is increasing.

Austrian presidential elections: Why 1.4 million people can't vote

The election of Austria’s Federal President will take place later this year on October 9th and the upcoming vote is once again raising the topic of citizenship and voting rights in the country.

The Kurier reports that 18 percent of residents (or 1.4 million people) in Austria over the age of 16 do not have the right to vote because they are not citizens, with the highest concentration of ineligible people in Vienna, Innsbruck and Salzburg. 

As a comparison, 20 years ago there were just 580,000 people without the right to vote in Austria.

FOR MEMBERS: Could Austria change the rules around citizenship?

Statistics Austria data evaluated by the APA shows that around 30 percent of the voting age population in Vienna, Innsbruck and Salzburg are not entitled to vote. In Linz and Graz, it is around 25 percent.

However, there are some smaller communities in Austria where the number of people without the right to vote is even higher.

In Jungholz in Tyrol, 66 percent of the population are not eligible, followed by 51 percent in Mittelberg in Vorarlberg. Kittsee in Burgenland and Wolfsthal in Lower Austria also have high proportions of Slovakian residents who are not able to vote.

Who is eligible for citizenship in Austria?

Currently in Austria, if someone wants to take up citizenship via naturalisation they have to undergo an extensive and expensive process and fulfil specific criteria.

Generally, there needs to be at least 10 years of lawful and uninterrupted residence in Austria. But there are exceptions for those with citizenship of an EU or EEA country, those born in Austria, or married to an Austrian, for example.

READ MORE: IN NUMBERS: One in four Austrian residents now of foreign origin

The main hurdles, however, include having to give up any other citizenships, as Austria doesn’t allow for dual citizenship in naturalisation cases with few exceptions, and the payment of a high fee, which depends on the municipality.

In Vienna, the application costs €130. If successful, the new Austrian citizen can expect to pay from €1,100 to €1,500 just for the award – that doesn’t include costs with documentation, translation, and issuance of documents such as an Austrian passport.

The tricky topic of Austrian citizenship 

Most international residents in Austria do not pursue citizenship as it means revoking citizenship of their home country.

But the Kurier reports that political scientist Peter Filzmaier has warned there could be negative consequences if large sections of the Austrian population remain unable to vote.

Filzmaier said: “Since people are affected by the decisions of the political system in their place of residence, it could also be linked to their place of residence instead of citizenship.”

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How does Austria’s presidential election work?

In May of this year, Federal President Alexander Van der Bellen also raised the topic of easing citizenship rules when he told an interviewer that the “hurdles” for Austrian citizenship are too high.

So far though, any discussions surrounding citizenship reform have been dismissed by the Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) and the Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ).

Additionally, political scientist Flizmaier advises any further debate on the issue to take place outside of election time when there is less “emotion”.

READ ALSO: Five of the biggest challenges facing Austria right now

Will Austria change its citizenship rules?

While junior partner Greens have been in favour of easing some rules, little is expected to happen with the ÖVP in power.

The next parliamentary elections are set for 2024, though. If the SPÖ continues climbing in the polls, an SPÖ-Green coalition could push forward different rules.

Also, if the Red-Green-Yellow ruling coalition in Germany does succeed in easing naturalisation rules in the neighbouring country, Austria could see further pressure for domestic changes.

But that remains to be seen, mainly depending on the 2024 election results.

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