Austrian citizenship – acquiring an Austrian passport
Over 200,000 Israelis are eligible for an Austrian passport under the new legislation. This article provides a clear summary of who is eligible and what categories are required for eligibility according to the legislation. In the past, Israelis have faced significant hurdles in obtaining Austrian citizenship, but with the new amendments, acquiring an Austrian passport no longer depends on fulfilling various obligations, as we explain in detail below.
Our office provides comprehensive service to descendants of Holocaust survivors who suffered under Third Reich rule over Austria. We are committed to taking on only cases based on adequate proof, and we have a high success rate in applications submitted for citizenship.
Eligibility for acquiring an Austrian passport
Under the revised legislation, descendants of Jews who suffered in Austria during the Third Reich are authorized to apply for Austrian citizenship. This applies to someone who was an Austrian citizen and left after 1933, and/or a resident who was not permitted to take out Austrian citizenship due to anti-Semitic policies.
During the 19th and 20th centuries, tens of thousands of Eastern European Jews resided in Vienna but were prevented from becoming naturalized as citizens. Today the Austrian parliament recognizes them and their descendants as victims of persecution, as long as they left the Austrian state between 1933 and 1955.
In fact we are talking about subjects who came to live in Vienna from Eastern European countries that were ruled until 1918 by the Austro-Hungarian empire. This includes many countries, among them Ukraine, the Czech Republic, Serbia, Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, and Romania. The large-scale immigration began in the 1860s, during the period when the Austrian empire changed its name to Austro-Hungary, and thus expanded its territory on the continent thanks to the political unification.
However, the wave of Jewish immigration from Eastern Europe continued after 1918, when the Austro-Hungarian empire disintegrated and tens of thousands more refugees made their way towards Vienna. This was because antisemitism was still legal in the eastern part of the continent.
From that year, the country of Austria as we know it was formed, with the borders we are familiar with. Therefore, when we talk about someone leaving Austria, we are referring only to the country, not the Austro-Hungarian empire which existed up to 1918.
Who is eligible to receive Austrian citizenship and who is not?
If one of your direct relatives emigrated to Austria from one of the countries mentioned above, and also left the country of Austria between the years 1933 and 1955, that means you are eligible. It is worth noting that the intention here is leaving because of fear of persecution by the Nazi party.
However, it is important to note one crucial point. If someone was indicted for severe financial crimes, severe violations of the law or taking part in any terrorist activity or attempt to bring down democracy in Austria, that person may not apply for citizenship.
Preliminary documents for submitting the application
Like any legal practice that takes several years (between one and two years on average), the process of naturalization requires going through stages which will eventually lead to the goal – receiving citizenship. To officially begin the process, the first thing required is indisputable proof. This means proof demonstrating your direct relative’s connection to the country of Austria between the years in question. This is some old official document demonstrating a legal tie to the country. For example: an old passport, identity card, academic diploma, etc. If you do not possess such a document, you can enlist the help of genealogists hired by our office. Of course, use of this service adds something to the cost of the process of obtaining citizenship.
However, in most cases we manage to locate the required documents. This is due to efficient preservation of population data by the Austrian authorities over many years. As a result, it is often possible to find out whether relatives were killed in the country and if so, when.
What does Austrian law say about IDF soldiers?
One of the questions most frequently asked about citizenship is “What is the rule regarding someone who serves in mandatory or career army service?”
Since serving in the IDF is mandatory for every Jewish citizen in Israel, the Austrian authorities understand that it would be unrealistic to reject candidates on the basis of mandatory army service. Therefore, for those who served in the IDF in mandatory service, this is no obstacle to obtaining citizenship. As noted, this is due to the law requiring such service in Israel.
However, the restriction is in force for those currently serving as career soldiers. To go a little more into detail – like a number of European countries, Austria does not permit Israeli citizens who are currently serving voluntarily to apply for citizenship. The reason cited is risks that could harm democracy in Austria and/or pose a risk to the public.
However, the last section has a qualification. Any candidate who served in the past in voluntary service, as a volunteer, student-soldier (Atuda’i) or as a career soldier, but is not currently serving, is legally eligible to submit an application.
The same applies for those who served in the past in a foreign army, on an educational track or in reserve duty (in this case, relevant for the present as well), these categories of service pose no obstacle, and under the new reform, such candidates are also eligible for Austrian citizenship.
What is the law regarding children of career soldiers?
In contrast to their parents, children and grandchildren of Israelis currently serving as career soldiers can apply for and receive citizenship under the law.
Acquiring an Austrian passport – a summary
We are talking about an extraordinary opportunity for hundreds of thousands to get a European passport under extremely convenient conditions. For your information, Jews with a family background from the time Nazi Germany took over the area are not required to renounce their current citizenship, live in Austria, take complicated tests, or undergo a complicated interview in German.
The truth is that the Austrian government is removing all existing obstacles and putting out a red carpet for those persecuted by the Nazi regime and their descendants, enabling them to receive European citizenship. This is part of a process of remedying an historic injustice. We recommend taking advantage of this window of opportunity and not delaying in submitting the application; given the tens of thousands of applications already waiting, the Austrians might decide to make things more difficult. It’s possible that in the near future they will initiate restrictions that will prevent you from getting an Austrian passport via the convenient process that is currently in place.
Get Austrian citizenship at the law offices for emigration to Austria, Decker, Pex, Levi, Rosenberg and Co. Our office has a diverse department of German speakers who are experts in obtaining German and/or Austrian citizenship. To check your eligibility, contact us and we will be happy to help you figure out if you are eligible or not.