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AUSTRIAN CITIZENSHIP

Austria sees big jump in number of naturalised citizens

Austria has seen a 61 percent increase in the number of naturalisations in the first semester of 2022, but where are the new Austrian citizens originally from?

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

The first six months of 2022 saw 8,158 people being awarded Austrian citizenship through naturalisation processes.

That’s 61 percent more naturalisations than in the same period of the previous year (5,057 naturalisations) and 52.5 percent more than the first half of 2019, before the pandemic, according to data released by Statistik Austria.

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

“The strong increase is primarily due to naturalisations of victims of National Socialism (Nazism) and their descendants, who account for almost 30 percent of the newly naturalised persons in the first half of the year,” says Tobias Thomas, Director General of Statistik Austria.

In 2020, an amendment to the Austrian Citizenship Act allowed descendants of victims of the National Socialist (Nazi) regime to apply for dual citizenship. With this, descendants of the Nazi regime were allowed to become Austrians without giving up their previous citizenship.

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

In the first half of 2022, 2,421 people (of whom 2,396 live abroad) were granted Austrian citizenship under the new amendment, corresponding to 29.7 percent of all naturalisations in this half-year.

Who are the new citizens?

People who were naturalised under this new guidance are most frequently nationals of Israel (939 or 11.5 percent of all naturalised persons in the first half of 2022), the United States (546 or 6.7 percent) and the United Kingdom (525 or 6.4 percent).

Other naturalised individuals (a total of 5,737 persons) were most frequently nationals of Turkey (603 or 7.4 percent), Syria (531 or 6.5 percent) and Bosnia and Herzegovina (469 or 5.7 percent).

Half of the naturalisations in the first six months of 2022 were women (50.3 percent), and about a third were minors under 18 (31.9 percent). Almost a quarter of the newly naturalised persons were born in Austria (1,923 or 23.6 percent).

READ ALSO: MAP: Who are the foreigners in Austria?

In all states, more people were naturalised in the first half of 2022 than in the same period of the previous year.

The relative increases were highest in Vorarlberg (up by 59.7 percent to 313 naturalisations), followed by Vienna (43.0 percent to 2 265) and Styria (+38.0 percent to 487).

Compared to the first half of 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic, there were also more naturalisations in seven states, especially Carinthia (an 81.5 percent increase to 265 naturalisations).

Only in Vienna (3.5 percent decrease to 2,265) and in Upper Austria (1.2 percent decrease to 757) were there fewer naturalisations compared to 2019.

READ ALSO: Diversity and jobs: How migrants contribute to Vienna’s economy

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POLITICS

Reader question: Can I vote in Austria’s presidential elections?

On October 9th, Austria will vote to elect a new president, but who can vote in these national elections?

Reader question: Can I vote in Austria's presidential elections?

Austria’s presidential election will take place on October 9th, with seven candidates vying to take over at the Hofburg – the official workplace of the country’s president.

According to opinion polls, the favourite to win is the current president Alexander Van der Bellen, who is running for reelection.

READ ALSO: Austrian presidential elections: Who are the seven candidates?

A presidential candidate must be an Austrian citizen, be eligible to vote in the National Assembly and be at least 35 years old on election day.

Members of ruling dynasties or families that reigned in the past are not eligible to run in the presidential election. This is to avoid a return to monarchy in Austria via the role of the Federal President.

Who can vote in these elections?

The only people allowed to vote in Austrian federal elections are Austrian citizens aged 16 or above.

That means foreigners – even those born and raised in Austria, are not entitled to choose a new president. Unless, of course, they take up Austrian citizenship (usually giving up their original citizenship).

Since Austria has a large proportion of foreigners in the population, many people will not be able to vote in these elections.

READ ALSO: ‘I pay taxes in Austria’: Anger as foreigners barred from Vienna council vote

In fact, some 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.

In comparison, 20 years ago, Austria had just 580,000 people without the right to vote.

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 about 25 percent.

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

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 cannot vote.

Austrian citizenship

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

Generally, there needs to be at least ten 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 ALSO: Could Austria change the rules around citizenship?

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, but could reach thousands of euros.

And though the topic of easing the requirements has come up several times in Austria, the country doesn’t seem any closer to changing its citizenship laws.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: Where in Europe can non-EU foreigners vote in local elections?

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