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New appointment dates: How Vienna's MA 35 is speeding up citizenship and immigration requests

The Local Austria
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New appointment dates: How Vienna's MA 35 is speeding up citizenship and immigration requests
Expect it to take six months or in some cases longer to get all your visa and residency paperwork sorted. Photo: Steve DiMatteo / Pixabay

Immigrants moving to Vienna have faced long lines and complex bureaucracy in the city citizenship and immigration office, the MA 35. But now the city wants to improve the service - here's how.

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The often criticised, long waiting times at Magistratsabteilung 35 (MA 35) - responsible for immigration and citizenship - will be shortened. In the future, consultations will occur in groups, and the staff will also be increased, the City of Vienna said.

Starting from April 8th, information and consultation dates for groups of up to 170 participants will take place monthly. In addition, the staff will be increased by about 90 additional employees, the responsible city councillor Christoph Wiederkehr (NEOS) announced in a release on Tuesday. 

This is intended to speed up the procedures.

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

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Increased demand

The demand for Austrian citizenship has increased enormously since last year. Around 1,300 people per month are interested in an information appointment at MA 35, whereas a year ago, this number was about 600, it said. 

The goal, Wiederkehr said, is to make procedures more efficient through these measures and to increase the authority's capacity by 50 percent by fall. "In the long term, however, the citizenship law urgently needs to be modernised and renewed to prevent lengthy procedures," Wiederkehr demanded.

According to the city, of a total of 20,606 naturalisations in Austria in 2022, almost 70 percent were carried out in Vienna by MA 35. 14,167 persons were naturalised in Vienna in the previous year — a large proportion related to applications for citizenship submitted for Nazi victims and their descendants.

READ ALSO: Why is the number of people becoming Austrian on the rise?

MA 35 has repeatedly been criticised for its long waiting times and difficult accessibility. 

People looking for a first meeting on citizenship requirements usually have to wait about one year - and then from six months to another year to submit the documents. 

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

ÖVP and FPÖ react

In a statement, the Vienna centre-right ÖVP welcomed the announced personnel measures. However, its constitutional spokesman Patrick Gasselich questioned whether holding of initial information meetings in the form of group meetings was appropriate. 

He also took issue with the fact that Wiederkehr wanted to "once again shift responsibility to the federal government."

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READ ALSO: Could Austria change the rules around citizenship?

The far-right Freedom Party also criticised Wiederkehr for wanting to "soften" the citizenship law. 

"Citizenship is a valuable asset and must not be allowed to degenerate into a junk good due to incompetent bureaucratic processing," said Stefan Berger, a member of the Vienna FPÖ parliament. Wiederkehr should "do his homework and put the scandalous conditions in MA 35 in order", he added.

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