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AUSTRIAN CITIZENSHIP

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

Austria has one of the strictest laws around citizenship in Europe. But is it true you'd have to renounce your original nationality to become Austrian?

Austrian citizenship: Do you really have to renounce your original nationality?
How hard is it to get Austrian citizenship? Photo by Ante Hamersmit on Unsplash

Austria has seen a big increase in the number of naturalisations, with 61 percent more occurring in the first half of 2022 than in the same period the year before.

In real numbers that meant that 8,158 people were awarded citizenship in the first six months of the year.

One of the reasons so few people become Austrian –  making it a country with almost 1.5 million people not entitled to vote – is that it is challenging to get citizenship.

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

And yes, in almost all cases, people who naturalise Austrian will have to revoke the citizenship of their home country.

Does Austria allow for dual citizenship?

Yes, it is possible to be a dual citizen in Austria. The more common case is “by blood”, meaning that the person was born to one Austrian parent and one foreign parent. The Alpine country has no issues with this person maintaining both citizenships (though the other country might have different rules).

This means that if you are British or American, for example, and you have a child with your Austrian partner, that baby will hold dual citizenship.

This is Austria and it gets a little trickier than that if the father is Austrian and the couple is not married, but you can read more about this here.

But what about naturalisation cases?

An awarded citizenship, meaning a person holds another citizenship and gets awarded an Austrian one without having “Austrian blood” (without jus sanguinis)

As a rule, foreign people who acquire Austrian citizenship must revoke their previous nationality.

According to the federal government, in cases where the previous home country won’t provide for an automatic loss of citizenship as the person takes on the Austrian one, you first become Austrian. Still, you need to revoke the previous nationality within two years.

READ ALSO: Could Austria change the rules around citizenship?

If you don’t show proof that you have “left the previous state association”, you will lose the right to Austrian nationality. Austria says you need to submit an official “certificate of dismissal” (Entlassungsurkunde) from your original country. This could be different types of documents, depending on the country – and could be easier or harder to get. 

Americans, for example, have had a notouriously difficult time renouncing their US citizenship, especially during the pandemic.

Things get a little more complicated with children who naturalise because many countries won’t allow a minor to give up their nationality. So in those cases, the naturalised child will have to choose which citizenship to hold once they turn 18.

Are there any exceptions?

Yes, there are a few exceptions. Most notably, the new citizenship rules for victims of the National Socialist (Nazi) regime, in place since 2020, allowed victims (and their descendants) of the national socialist regime to apply for dual citizenship.

READ ALSO: How can I apply for dual citizenship in Austria?

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.

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

Additionally, people can be allowed to have dual citizenship after naturalisation in very rare, state-approve exceptions.

“Only if the award of Austrian citizenship is in the special interest of the Republic of Austria (award in the interest of the state) due to the extraordinary achievements already made by the person and still to be expected from him/her, Austria waives the withdrawal from the previous state association.”

Useful vocabulary
Staatsbürgerschaft – citizenship
minderjährige Personen – minors
Voraussetzungen – prerequisites
bestimmten Zeitraum – specific period of time
Nachweis von DeutschKenntnissen – Proof of knowledge of German

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For members

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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