Austrian citizenship For Members

Why is Austria so resistant towards relaxing dual citizenship rules?

The Local Austria
The Local Austria - [email protected]
Why is Austria so resistant towards relaxing dual citizenship rules?
Austrian Federal President, Alexander Van der Bellen, has joined the chorus calling for a relaxation in Austria;s laws on dual citizenship. Photo: AFP / Joe Klamar

With neighbouring Germany approving a relaxation of dual-citizenship laws, questions are being raised about Austria’s reluctance to allow Austrian citizens to hold another nationality.


Those who want to take up Austrian citizenship via naturalisation need 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. However, there are exceptions for those with citizenship of an EU or EEA country, those born in Austria, or married to an Austrian, for example.

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.

Only a few exceptions to the rule exist - one when the national interest may be served (for example, in re-granting Arnold Schwarzenegger Austrian citizenship following his American naturalisation), another for those descendants of Jews who fled Austria following the Nazi takeover in 1938. 

What may be behind this Austrian policy when other European nations begin taking a broader view of dual citizenship?  

Dr Hannes Wiesflecker, of Law Experts Rechtsanwälte-Attorneys, told The Local:  “From my point of view, the opposition to dual citizenship is mainly based on a more traditional picture of the relationship between citizen and state. 

“This is based on the fact that the citizen has to decide to which country, and therefore culture and society, he or she belongs. The Austrian state assumes that choosing one place will establish a deeper bond to a country.”


A turbulent history

Austria’s history may also play an important role in this attitude. While the Republic of Austria was only established in 1955, what now constitutes Austria has seen significant changes over recent centuries. 

Following the collapse of the reigning Holy Roman Empire in 1806, Austria endured as the Austrian Empire until 1867, when it joined with the Kingdom of Hungary to form the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

With the end of the First World War, the Austro-Hungarian Empire dissolved and was replaced with the First Austrian Republic. 

Seeking to emulate the glories of the Holy Roman Empire, Hitler subsumed Austria into ‘Greater Germany’ in the Anschluss of 1938. This endured until 1945 when the occupying Allies began forming the current Republic of Austria.

With significant changes in territory, governance and religious attitudes over less than a century, Austria’s ruling government values citizens holding a specific and resolute national identity without other ties. 

READ MORE: Could Austria ever relax its strict dual-citizenship laws?

A changing reality?

However, this ignores one important fact: Austria is a country of immigration. Statistik Austria has shown that one in four residents in the country has a 'migration background'. That meant around 2.24 million people.

The number is high, but it gets even more impressive when we understand what was considered a migration background: people whose parents were both born abroad. Persons with one parent born in Austria do not have a “migration background”, according to this definition.

The number of foreign citizens, meaning those without Austrian citizenship, is also high. At the start of 2022, around 1.6 million foreigners were living in Austria, according to data from Statista.

Figures from the City of Vienna showed 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.

Several voices in Austria have for years argued that this poses a threat not just to the integration of these people but to democracy itself

Georg Lauß, a Politics teacher from the Pedagogical University of Vienna, said: "One can be of the opinion that it is not a problem if 15 percent of the population are not allowed to vote. But what if it's 20 or 30 percent, so when is the point reached where we can no longer speak of democracy?"


Possibility for change?

A growing number have called for the Austrian government to reconsider its stance - including from Federal President Alexander Van der Bellen during his 2022 presidential campaign.

In an interview with local media, Van der Bellen said he believes the "hurdles" for citizenship are too high.

"Citizenship is a valuable asset. I think the hurdles for obtaining it are too high, " he repeated on numerous occasions.

At the time, some politicians, including the Greens, agreed.

"The Green position is very clear: We see it the same way as the Federal President," stated the Green Minister of Justice Alma Zadic in the ORF program ZiB2.

But there is still significant resistance to change. 

In response to Van Der Bellen’s comments, Federal Chancellor Karl Nehammer dismissed calls to ‘soften’ citizenship laws. This was echoed by statements issued by his coalition partners in the Green Party. 

Ultimately, it may take the results of Germany’s vaunted reforms to shift attitudes in Austria, with any real changes still several years away. 


Join the conversation in our comments section below. Share your own views and experience and if you have a question or suggestion for our journalists then email us at [email protected].
Please keep comments civil, constructive and on topic – and make sure to read our terms of use before getting involved.

Please log in to leave a comment.

James 2023/12/14 11:39
„While those people born to an Austrian citizen and a foreign parent can hold dual nationalities as a child, they’re generally asked to choose between them at age 18.“ This is untrue. This is never the case. The Austrian Nationality Act explicitly allows someone born with dual nationality to retain them forever.

See Also