Amendment to the Austrian Citizenship Law
What is the amendment to the Austrian citizenship law, based on which many Israelis may be entitled to citizenship? The Austrian Citizenship Law (StbG) was amended in 2019, greatly expanding the list of descendants of Holocaust survivors and victims of Nazi persecution who are entitled to Austrian citizenship and an Austrian passport. The law even significantly shortens and simplifies the process required to obtain Austrian citizenship among those who are entitled to it.
In this article, attorney Michael Decker, a partner in our firm and an expert in immigration law and Austrian citizenship, explains this amendment in detail.
If you are a child, grandchild or great-grandchild of people who lived in Austria during World War II or in the period leading up to it – it is very possible that you are entitled to Austrian citizenship and an Austrian passport. Recently, an amendment was made to the Austrian Citizenship Law, which eased the process than ever for many, and significantly expanded the group of those entitled to it. Holders of Austrian citizenship are automatically entitled to receive an Austrian passport, and can even pass this entitlement on to family members. Accordingly, it is important that those who may belong to the prestigious club of eligible people be familiar with the provisions of the law on the subject, and it is also recommended that they ascertain their eligibility. Below we will explain the background of the amendment, what the new law stipulates, what the process is for obtaining Austrian citizenship in practice and what benefits this citizenship provides those entitled to it.
Why was the Austrian Citizenship Law amended?
In the not so distant past, obtaining Austrian citizenship was only possible for a select few. This is because the law previously established a list of strict conditions for eligibility. Among these, the law included gender discrimination according to which citizenship passed between a father and his children, but not between a mother and her children. Also, the law set difficult requirements for those already included in the list of those eligible for citizenship, including a language test (in German) and a requirement for evidence of financial stability that allows living in Austria (even for those who were not interested in actually immigrating to Austria).
This situation changed in the last decade, when the ruling party in Austria initiated discussions in the Austrian parliament on changing the law. This is in light of the recognition of Austria’s responsibility towards the victims of the Holocaust and Nazi persecution who lived in the country during World War II and in the period preceding it. Following this, a proposal was submitted to amend the Austrian Citizenship law (StbG). Fortunately, the proposal was unanimously accepted in the Austrian parliament in 2019. Based on the new law, the Austrian government updated the citizenship regulations in 2022, which further expanded the group of people entitled to Austrian citizenship.
What does the amendment to the Austrian Citizenship Law stipulate?
The new law broadened the definition of the Nazi persecution victims entitled to Austrian citizenship. Now, those who were citizens of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire, or stateless people who lived within the borders of Austria and whose center of life was in Austria, may meet the criteria. The main condition is that these citizens or residents left Austrian territory before May 15, 1955, due to suffering or fearing persecution by the Nazis. Alternatively, descendants of Austrian citizens who were murdered in Austria or deported from it between January 30, 1933 and May 9, 1945, are also covered by the new law.
Eligibility for Austrian citizenship based on the amendment to the Austrian Citizenship Law passes to the descendants of Nazi persecution victims, whether they are women or men. Accordingly, children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of those who were persecuted by the Nazis may be eligible to apply for naturalization. It should be noted that there may be various restrictions that do not allow the submission of a citizenship application for descendants in individual cases. However, these limitations were also reduced following the amendment to the law. For example, in the past, career army service in another country (besides Austria) generally did not allow one to obtain citizenship. Today, this requirement has been loosened in such a way that it is possible for people who previously served in a foreign standing army and completed their service to submit a naturalization application. Other restrictions that have been canceled are the additional requirements, such as passing a language test or proving financial stability, as a condition for obtaining citizenship. Eliminating these requirements makes the process much faster and easier.
How does a person eligible for Austrian citizenship apply for it?
If you are interested in submitting a naturalization application following the change in the Austrian Citizenship Law, it is important to first ascertain your eligibility. For this purpose, it is necessary to find out whether you or your relatives meet the definition in the law, including whether your relatives lived in what is considered Austrian territory today. These areas covered places that are now under the sovereignty of many countries in the region, including Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Bosnia, Romania and more.
Often, it is difficult to obtain documents that serve as evidence of eligibility for citizenship. In these cases, it may be necessary to conduct a search in the Austrian archives in order to obtain unequivocal evidence of eligibility for citizenship. Our office provides this service as part of handling citizenship applications for our clients. Those who manage to overcome this initial hurdle and prove their eligibility can then submit an official application for Austrian citizenship. The time period for the processing of the application is between a year and a year and a half on average, and it is highly recommended to use the services of an attorney specializing in immigration law and Austrian citizenship in order to ensure efficient and optimal processing of the application. If the application is accepted, it is possible to apply for an Austrian passport through a simple and fast procedure.
What are the benefits of an Austrian passport?
An Austrian passport is among the most highly regarded passports in the world, being a passport of a nation belonging to the European Union. It grants entry to over 192 countries, including entry to the United States, without need for a visa. Moreover, it offers the possibility to stay without restriction in all EU countries, and even work and live in them. Austrian passport holders enjoy a variety of opportunities and benefits reserved for citizens of the European Union, including subsidized studies, tax benefits when purchasing real estate, and more. Also, in the near future, a requirement for a visa to Europe is expected to come into effect for Israeli tourists, which Austrian passport holders will be exempt from. As we mentioned above, in many cases the right to an Austrian passport can be passed on to other family members. These substantial benefits are only some of the significant rights granted by an Austrian passport, which hundreds of thousands of Jews in Israel and abroad may be eligible to enjoy now.
Amendment to the Austrian Citizenship Law – contact our Austrian citizenship experts
For any additional question or need for assistance regarding Austrian citizenship and naturalization applications in Austria, you can contact us and we will gladly be at your service. The attorneys from our office, in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, have extensive experience in handling Austrian citizenship applications and guiding clients through the process. To ascertain your eligibility and contact our office, click here.